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A 10-year riparian grazing study was conducted on a cold, mountain meadow riparian system in central Idaho in response to cattle grazing-salmonid fisheries conflicts. Six pastures were established along Stanley Creek to study the effects on riparian habitat of no grazing, light grazing (20-25% utilization), and medium grazing (35-50%) during late June. Stream channels narrowed, stream width-depth ratios were reduced, and channel bottom embeddedness decreased under all 3 grazing treatments as the area responded to changes from heavier historic grazing use. Streambank stability increased and streamside willow communities (Salix spp. L.) increased in both height and cover under all 3 treatments. Plant species richness increased on both streamside and dry meadow areas during the years of grazing and moderate drought. The numbers of species receded to near original levels in the ungrazed and light grazed pastures in 1996, a wet post-grazing year, primarily due to a decrease in forb species. Streamside graminoid height growth was similar among treatments after 1 year of rest. Most measurements of streamside variables moved closer to those beneficial for salmonid fisheries when pastures were grazed to 10 cm of graminoid stubble height; virtually all measurements improved when pastures were grazed to 14 cm stubble height, or when pastures were not grazed. Many improvements were similar under all 3 treatments indicating these riparian habitats are compatible with light to medium late spring use by cattle.


open access article