Future legislation could protect the green around Utah’s rivers

Oct 13, 2023, 12:00 PM

The Virgin River flows through through Zion National Park....

The Virgin River flows through through Zion National Park. (Ravell Call/Deseret News)

(Ravell Call/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Economy, community and environment. Those are three elements at the core of a discussion surrounding riparian zones, the lush, green areas around Utah’s rivers.

And these areas are a lot more important than we think. According to Salt Lake County Watershed Planning and Restoration, riparian areas represent less than 1% of Utah land. But while you may have never heard the word riparian before, these areas are the most important and heavily used wildlife habitat in Utah.

“Our drinking water comes from these watersheds, and the trees along them, and other vegetation, really help keep that water clean,” said Jennifer Follstad Shah, an environmental professor at the University of Utah.

Riparian zones also help to absorb water, like the snowpack. Shah said it then releases the water more slowly over time, which is good for Utah’s water supply. These zones keep the water cleaner as well.

“Another big reason is a lot of people love wildlife, like bird-watching. I mean riparian areas are incredible for that,” Shah said.

Wildlife use these zones for habitat and migration corridors. Riparian areas also protect people from certain risks, like flood hazards.

“If you build really close to, or in a riparian zone, then there’s a good chance that you might suffer property damage as a result,” Shah said.

Thus comes the importance of protecting these areas

Legislation to protect riparian zones

Simon Sorensen, executive director of the Jordan Rivers Commission, said Cottonwood Heights Rep. Gay Lynn Bennion was told during a Utah Water Task Force meeting to investigate riparian zones and bring back a proposal. 

“So she asked myself and a couple others to help identify people who were knowledgeable and have expertise in riparian corridors, and we put together some recommendations for a group of about 20 to 25,” Sorensen said.

Both Shah and Sorensen have been working closely with Bennion to draft future legislation to protect these areas. That legislation will be discussed in next year’s legislative session.

Ultimately, these environmentalists want Utahns to care. To pay attention to something that may seem boring, but is actually quite important.

“People do love these areas,” Shah said. “I think everybody has been in a riparian area and has valued it, but didn’t really understand what it is and what kinds of benefits it provides.”

Related: Great Salt Lake trust offers millions for wetland protection

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.


Smog settles over Salt Lake City during an inversion on Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022. With Utah's winte...

Allessandra Harris & Devin Oldroyd

Inversion may worsen this week, NWS says

With Utah's wintery temperatures this week, there will also be some inversion patterns and low air quality in the valleys.

8 hours ago

Lehi City is starting a new winter tradition and has converted a baseball field into a temporary ic...

Eric Cabrera

Lehi City builds temporary ice rink at Sports Complex

Lehi City is starting a new winter tradition and has converted a baseball field into a temporary ice rink. It will be open until Jan. 26.

12 hours ago

A woman pushes a stroller on the sidewalk near the Christmas Lights at The Church of Jesus Christ o...


Where will Temple Square Christmas lights be located this year?

The lights will be turned on from 3:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. every evening and from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. every morning between through New Year's Day.

3 days ago

One budget-friendly option for participating in sustainable fashion is to thrift for clothes that a...

Amaya McDonald and Taylor Nicioli, CNN

What is fast fashion, and why is it so controversial?

Fast fashion is a business model that focuses on the production of garments in bulk, and as quickly as possible, in response to current trends.

4 days ago

Fresh snow falls on skiers at Alta Ski Area on Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021....

Mariah Maynes

Alta Ski Area to open November 25, but recommends skiing for “experts only”

Alta Ski Area announced that it will open for the 2023/24 season on Saturday, November 25.

5 days ago

snow on a mountain...

Adam Small

Snow is on its ways to northern Utah valleys, could impact Thanksgiving travel

KSL Meteorologist Matt Johnson said the Wasatch Front will see a mix of rain and snow Thursday afternoon, but it'll turn to mostly snow in the nighttime.

6 days ago

Sponsored Articles

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

Human hand holding a protest banner stop vaping message over a crowded street background....

Prosperous Utah Communities

Utah’s Battle to Protect Youth from Vaping Epidemic Faces New Threat as Proposed Rule Threatens Progress

Utah's strict standards of nicotine levels in vaping products are at risk, increasing health hazards associated with use. Read more about how you can advocate for a better future for Utah's youth.

Aerial photo of Bear Lake shoreline with canopies and people camped out on the beach...

Visit Bear Lake

Last-Minute Summer Vacation Planning? Check Out Bear Lake!

Bear Lake is the perfect getaway if you are last-minute summer vacation planning. Enjoy activities with your whole family at this iconic lake.

Future legislation could protect the green around Utah’s rivers