Installing a riparian forest buffer

Best practices and guidance for riparian buffer design, planting, maintenance, and monitoring

A team of riparian forest buffer practitioners is currently in the process of updating a summary guidance document for riparian forest buffer planting in Vermont and the surrounding region. In the meantime, here are the resources we suggest you use:

General/all topics

Vermont Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Riparian Forest Buffer Specification Guide Sheet - Technical but brief guide from NRCS describing the agency's specifications for riparian forest buffers, including zones, widths, vegetation, fish and wildlife habitat specifications, planting plan specs, and both natural regeneration and direct seeding guidelines.

Vermont Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Tree and Shrub Establishment Guide - NRCS technical guide to tree and shrub establishment, including information about site prep and weed control; planting timing; storage and handling of plant material; planting techniques; protection from browse; natural regeneration; and direct seeding.

Vermont Trees for Streams Resource Guide - This guide includes information about types of buffers; considering pollution source, land use history, and goals of the restoration project; site selection; planting plans; vegetation types; planting procedures; and sources of support and assistance.

Northwestern Vermont Riparian Planting Guide - This relatively brief guide outlines information on partner organizations in NW Vermont; funding opportunities; outreach to landowners; project design and implementation; and maintenance and monitoring. Although the guide is designed to be locally-specific to Northwestern Vermont, much of the information is applicable in the broader New England region.

Oregon State Extension Guide to Riparian Tree and Shrub Planting - This guide from Oregon State Extension describes six steps to help landowners, watershed organizations, agency staff, and others communicate about, plan, and implement successful riparian buffer plantings. The guide is designed for the Willamette Valley in Oregon, but much of it is applicable in Vermont/the Northeast, too. The authors describe selecting plant material, site preparation, planting, stewardship, and monitoring.

Maryland Forest Service Riparian Forest Buffer Design and Maintenance - This guide is meant to help match the specific circumstances of a planting project and site with suitable techniques designed to avoid or minimize some common problems. It includes guidance on the purpose of the buffer, site preparation steps, species selection, planting density, post-planting protection of the site, and maintenance.

Chesapeake Bay Riparian Handbook - This handbook was designed for the Mid-Atlantic region, but many sections are still useful to riparian forest practitioners in northern New England, including sections on designing buffer systems, buffer width, site evaluation/planning, and streamside stabilization.

Brandywine Conservancy (PA) Forested Riparian Buffer Planting Guide - Relatively brief riparian restoration guide from Brandywine, PA covering site preparation, selecting and sourcing planting materials, planning a planting, and ongoing maintenance and monitoring. The guide also includes appendices with a suggested plant list, contractors (likely not relevant for the Northeast region), and herbicide application resources.

Site preparation only

UTenn Extension Site Preparation and Competition Control Guidelines for Hardwood Tree Plantings - This publication from University of Tennessee Extension presents recommendations for key factors associated with hardwood planting success. The publication also provides competition control and site preparation alternatives for a number of common planting sites and conditions.

Planting procedures only

VTFWD Planting Guide for the Revegetation of Riparian Areas in Vermont - This brief guide from Vermont Fish & Wildlife provides basic information about planting densities, techniques, and species for riparian forest restoration projects in Vermont. Also included is a list of links to further technical assistance, and a list of common tree and shrub species used in restoration projects, showing their planting location and distribution.


Funding your forest buffer project

Below is a table showing some suggested options for funding a riparian buffer restoration project (mostly state and federal programs). You can download that spreadsheet here or click the image to enlarge. For a more comprehensive list of grants and programs that may be appropriate for funding a forest buffer project or projects, please see the spreadsheet linked from the WFP Resource Library.

Table of different riparian buffer funding options in Vermont


Didn't find what you were looking for? You can find more information about riparian forest buffers, including recent research, best practices, reports, and handbooks and guides in our resource library! Or, email Watershed Forestry Coordinator Shawn White at shawn.white [at] with specific questions.