From the Rocky Mountain Research Station:
For a land type that covers relatively little area, riparian areas and groundwater-dependent ecosystems are an extremely important component of healthy watersheds and ecological function. Yet over the past few centuries, many of these areas have been stressed by a wide range of land uses. Restoring them can be complex, expensive, and even unpopular.
In the Intermountain West, National Forests often provide more range than timber, making riparian areas and groundwater-dependent ecosystems both valuable and vulnerable. Additionally, more information on these systems is typically needed for planning because it is difficult to determine the natural state due to a history of heavy alteration in this area.