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Home > Protecting Our Lands & Waters > Conservation > Conservation Practices > Stream Habitat

Conservation Practices
Minnesota Conservation Funding Guide

Stream Habitat

Streamside vegetation shades a stream, enhancing aquatic habitat. Photo courtesy of USDA NRCS.
Streamside vegetation shades a stream, enhancing aquatic habitat. Photo courtesy of USDA NRCS.

Stream Habitat improvement is restoring or enhancing stream ecology to support desired fish and other aquatic species. It applies to streams, backwaters, riparian and floodplain areas and associated wetlands.

Fish and stream habitat improvement strategies vary depending on the goals. General riparian restoration efforts benefit all fish and aquatic species; it involves restoring natural flow cycles and meanders as well as reconnecting the stream to its floodplain. The latter involves restoring or protecting floodplains and associated riverine wetlands, including backwater and buffer areas.

Restoring or enhancing complex habitat elements for a specific fish species may involve strategies such as restoring riparian vegetation for overhead cover and shade, creating resting pools and installing in-stream structural elements such as boulders or woody debris.

In cold-water Minnesota streams, a common goal is to improve trout spawning and incubation areas. This may involve constructing riffles and gravel spawning beds or focusing on upland and streambank erosion control efforts to reduce sediment loading, which helps maintain clean gravel in riffles.

In warm-water Minnesota prairie streams (home to walleye, northern pike and smallmouth bass), the emphasis is on developing large, complex pools over 30 inches deep with well vegetated grassy banks.

Other common stream habitat improvement goals/strategies include enabling fish and other desirable aquatic species to move upstream and downstream and installing barriers to exclude aquatic nuisance species.

Similar & related practices

More information

Guidance from USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

Other resources

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources


    See contacts for specific programs that fund this practice in the side-by-side payment comparison or contact your local Soil and Water Conservation District