Summary In this paper we discuss the findings of research exploring landholder adoption of practices expected to improve the management of river frontages. This research was part of a larger project undertaken by the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority (GBCMA) to assess the impacts of grazing on the condition of riparian zones in the GBCMA region. Our research employed a postal survey to a random selection of all river frontage owners in the GBCMA. Research findings highlighted the limited adoption of most current recommended practices (CRP) such as watering stock off-stream and fencing to manage stock access to river frontages. Higher adoption of CRP (in particular fencing) was correlated with greater knowledge of river frontage function and factors affecting river frontage condition; higher importance attached to the environmental, social and economic values of frontages; non-farming occupations; and higher confidence in the efficacy of CRP. These findings have important implications for managers and scientists. There has been a large investment in community education in the GBCMA and survey findings suggest this has been an effective strategy. At the same time, there should be changes in the approach to community education. It seems there is much to be done to improve the acceptability of fencing frontages along large rivers. Appeals to adopt CRP also need to move beyond a narrow focus on farmers and the benefits of increased agricultural production and embrace the range of landholders and the different values they attach to their frontages. Most respondents had no on-property profit and survey data indicated that financial constraints were an important factor limiting the adoption of CRP, particularly among farmers. There was considerable interest in taking up a grant scheme that would provide a higher level of support than is usually offered by government. These findings highlight the important role of economic incentives in assisting private landholders undertake conservation work along river frontages.