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Environmental Science and Policy
For many years now riparian zones have been recognized as protected zones under conservation policy because of their ecological significance. Riparian zones refer to the land adjacent to rivers or streams which is subjected to seasonal flooding (USDA, 1996). Currently, many farms in Massachusetts find themselves with agricultural land that overlaps with these riparian zones. Under the Massachusetts Wetland Protection Act, activities in riparian zones tend to be regulated by local conservation commissions and the state’s Department of Environmental Protection, which can present a problem for farmers who want to utilize their full plot extent for traditional agriculture, as well as community farms with a goal to sustain their community. Riparian zones present various bureaucratic hurdles for farmers trying to manage them, often resulting in important river buffers going largely unmanaged. If riparian zones surrounding agricultural land are not managed they can become hot spots for invasive species (Vicente et al. 2013). Due to the issues presented above, our team has identified the problem statement as: “How can Massachusetts farmers, policymakers, and policy influencers view riparian zones not as a problem, but rather an opportunity to synthesize the needs of the environment, farmers, and the greater community?”
In order to better understand the scope of this problem, we explored it through both a regional and local context. At the regional level of Massachusetts we conducted an exploratory GIS analysis of agricultural land within riparian zones throughout the state. To familiarize ourselves with the socio-ecological context, we conducted a literature review of riparian ecology, riparian management schemes, and Massachusetts conservation and agricultural policy. We also interviewed experts in fields relevant to our research, including agricultural policy, agroforestry, and permaculture experts.
© 2022; Krystal Bagnaschi, Rosa D’Ambrosio, and Denisse Manzo Gonzalez
Bagnaschi, Krystal; D’Ambrosio, Rosa; and Gonzalez, Denisse Manzo, "A “New” Perspective on Productive Conservation: Exploring Socio-Ecological Tensions in Riparian Zone Management on Massachusetts Farms" (2022). Capstone, Smith College, Northampton, MA.
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