Partnership Proves Clean Water Grows on Trees
"We can't plant enough trees," Larry Herr says as a cool, spring-fed creek babbles around his feet. "We have enough asphalt." Not far away, a small grove of trees less than a few years old forms a streamside buffer protecting Silver Creek.
The farm on 76 acres of rolling, forested hills in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, has been in Herr's family since the early 19th century. Herr received an additional 50 to 75 trees to improve and protect the creek when Lebanon Valley Conservancy volunteers planted 400 of them for seven easement owners at the end of April.
The conservancy is among about 30 partner groups throughout the Pennsylvania portion of the Bay watershed that have joined the Keystone 10 Million Trees Partnership coordinated by CBF.
The partnership is a growing collaboration of conservation, hunting and fishing, and volunteer groups, determined to plant 10 million new trees by the end of 2025. The partnership slogan is Clean Water Grows on Trees.
Success has been deeply rooted in partnerships from the beginning. In April, partners planted about 31,000 trees on 50 sites, covering about 75 acres.
"I know that we need a lot of partnerships to be built around us," said Laurie Crawford, Executive Director of the Lebanon Valley Conservancy. "So, I like to use the partnership to protect the streams that are on our easement properties. I'd also like to nurture relationships with property owners, and then build relationships with volunteers in my community."
Forested streamside buffers play a significant role in reducing the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution that can flow from farmland and harm local waterways. Trees are the most cost-effective tools for filtering and absorbing polluted runoff, stabilizing streambanks, and improving soil quality.
Larry Herr, a "redneck conservationist" according to his business card, wants more trees for their abilities to improve the creek itself. An active member of Trout Unlimited, Herr cares about local wildlife and improving habitat for critters, like brook trout, that depend on Silver Creek.
"The hemlocks dying will have a devastating effect on all the coldwater streams," Herr said. "The buffer shades the creek…and produces all kinds of wildlife habitat. There are more and more native trout all the time. I want to protect them."
Native trees support natural ecosystems by providing habitat and food for birds, mammals, insects, and macro-invertebrates.
Like other members of the Keystone 10 Million Trees Partnership, Lebanon Valley Conservancy executive Laurie Crawford knows that planting many trees will require many hands. "Because it's an ongoing, forever relationship, this is an amazing way to support easement owners like Larry (Herr)," Crawford said. "All of our properties are on a creek. So, we can see immediate gratification of planting next to the streams."
Pennsylvania Executive Director
Chesapeake Bay Foundation