South Carolina Scenic Rivers Program

Recommended Best Management Practices for River-Bordering Lands

Recognizing that activities on river-bordering land can have a direct and immediate impact on river resources, the S.C. Scenic Rivers Program encourages riparian landowners to practice wise land and water use management through voluntary implementation of best management practices (BMPs) and participation in the Scenic Rivers Stewardship Program. The recommended BMPs are designed to serve as guidelines for conserving or enhancing water quality, wildlife habitats, and the scenic character of state-designated scenic river corridors. The BMPs serve as the foundation for land management agreements between riparian landowners and the S.C. Scenic Rivers Program.

To protect and improve water quality, scenic values, and wildlife habitat, the Scenic Rivers Program has developed BMPs to address several land uses including timber management; row crop production; livestock and poultry production; and urban development. Based on his/her land use objectives, the landowner selects and implements the appropriate land management measures. The landowner may choose to manage for water quality, scenic values, wildlife, or a combination of resource values.

By signing a land management agreement with the Scenic Rivers Program, the landowner agrees to manage his/her river-bordering land for the protection of water quality at a minimum. The landowner may choose to implement additional and more stringent BMPs for the protection of scenic values and/or wildlife. Different sections of a parcel may be managed for different purposes. For example, a landowner may choose to manage one area for timber, one area for pasture, and another for wildlife. When a landowner has questions or misgivings about a particular best management practice, the program will work with the landowner to negotiate a mutually satisfactory agreement.

The single-most important BMP for the protection of river resources is establishment and/or maintenance of a riparian buffer. This buffer should be characterized by native vegetation. The recommended width of the buffer depends on the management goal. For protection of water quality, a minimum buffer width of 40 to 80 feet (dependent on slope) on both sides of the stream is recommended. To protect aesthetic/scenic values, the buffer should be extended to a minimum of 100 feet on both sides of the stream with the first 50 feet remaining undisturbed. Vegetated riparian buffers play an important role in providing natural strips to aid in the movement of wildlife along a river corridor. To conserve and enhance wildlife diversity, the riparian buffer should ideally include the natural floodplain and adjacent bluff; however, this is not always possible. For the protection of wildlife values, a vegetated buffer measuring at least 100 to 300 feet from the ordinary high water mark is recommended. The wider the buffer, the greater the benefits for wildlife. (Note: The ordinary high water mark is defined as the natural or clear line impressed on the shore or bank representing the ordinary height of the water. It may be determined by bank shelving, changes in the character of the soil, destruction or absence of terrestrial vegetation, the presence of litter or debris, or a combination of the above.)

The S.C. Scenic Rivers Program strongly advocates a minimum buffer of at least 100 feet on both sides of the river to protect water quality, scenic values, and wildlife habitat.