Hi, I know this is an old thread gone cold, but I'm new here and found it by accident. It seems to me that one point hasn't been made in this matter (though it is late here and I haven't read all the posts thoroughly). And that is the fact that dams and big companies pumping huge amounts of water out of springs have not been taken into account as far as damage goes to natural waterways. Not saying that (over)grazing in riparian areas isn't problematic, but it seems to me that any government is always willing to "try" to improve nature by setting strict limits for farmers and get the focus on what a great thing they've done in doing so. The farmer always ends up looking like the bad guy who needs to be controlled by law. Granted for some where I come from this is true, I'll come back to this later. But what about the hydro dams that are just masters of destruction for nature and millions of people, or the big drink companies, who are pumping up water like there's no tomorrow and leaving streams to dry out and in extreme cases left people to suddenly live in drought and thereby hunger, while still pumping water. Watch the documentary "Flow" on this, though a few years old I think it is still very valid.
Yes, most often grazing in riparian areas is problematic, maybe it is better to leave it alone, or if already destroyed to help nature in speeding things along somewhat and then to let it be, and look to other alternatives. There are so many ways of water harvesting, why not let these areas be? But why is there no real significant spotlight on the big companies? I guess big companies make big money and have lots of lawyers...
On a side track, I'm European, we have some big farmers, but not as big as in the US. Here what I'm seeing is either the farmer is driven by money and is more of a CEO type than a farmer (and still struggling), or a farmer wanting to turn a profit or just break even, having a huge loan, prices going up and being forced by banks to go bigger in order to survive. Education is based on consumer's wishes, which is low prices on "traditional" food, as in dairy, meat, grain products. Diversity is what is missing from the culinary aspect, so education is based on mono culture cropping. My point here: don't just blame the farmer, most people are not educated at all or misinformed at best as for what is really going on and what is good for your body as far as that goes (don't even get me started on the food pyramid, whether or not fat is good, the power of advertisements and the media). With the things we do and the way we think, we won't see a change in general society in our lifetime, however we might be part of a foundation that will lead to a change in a future society. History always leaves an impact on society, whether good or bad. It's up to us which one we choose.
Also I think discussion is often a source of education, as it reminds us that there are all sorts of points of view. On a train of thoughts here, maybe that's what's missing in society and perhaps our education system specifically. Discussion. I once had a geography teacher who at the beginning of the school year told us that he would like to run through the curriculum a bit faster, so we would have time for practicing discussion, because he thought that was equally important if not more. I guess I am just now starting to truly see where he was coming from, coincidentally (or perhaps not) I am truly starting to understand permaculture and how it works or could work on so many levels.