The Virginia Office of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has presented the Chesapeake Bay Foundation with its Earth Team Partner Award. CBF's Virginia Office was cited for its recent work in recruiting and engaging farmers, students, and local volunteers in activities to improve and protect water quality in the Muddy Creek watershed of Virginia's Shenandoah Valley.
In nominating CBF for the award, NRCS said:
"One of the most effective uses of volunteers in the state of Virginia is by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), a non-profit organization devoted to the restoration and protection of the Chesapeake Bay. While their area of interest may seem limited, it is impossible to protect the Bay without protecting its massive watershed. In Virginia, 60 percent of the state's rivers and streams flow into the Chesapeake Bay . . .
"Partnerships with agencies such as NRCS are vital, but the use of volunteers is critical. Their participation in restoration projects such as tree buffer plantings meld well with the mission of NRCS and are beneficial to all. Farmers, most of whom want to be good stewards of the land by fixing eroding stream banks and cattle access to headwaters and streams, typically cannot afford installing a tree buffer without the assistance of the CBF volunteers and conservation agencies. In turn, CBF invites farmers to meet the volunteers working on their land and to plant alongside them. In this way, volunteers are able to put a face on production agriculture and to understand the impact of their conservation assistance.
"As an example, this past year, a team of energetic and hard-working volunteers participated in CBF's tree buffer program at the headwaters of Muddy Creek in Rockingham County. Libby Norris, a Virginia Watershed Restoration Scientist with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, spearheaded and helped coordinate the large-scale community project to create a streamside buffer and install livestock exclusion fencing on the Twin Maples Farm.
"After working with local vendors to purchase trees, tubing, and fencing materials, and install the fencing, she recruited about 70 volunteers to plant trees. Over the course of two weekends in November 2011, volunteers, primarily from James Madison University, planted 1,200 trees on six acres of land. Altogether they helped protect about 3,000 feet of stream. Additionally, a group of the same volunteers returned to dig out patches of thistle and broadcast seed on the banks. The CBF volunteers' labor helped create a natural filter in the headwaters of Muddy Creek. The trees they planted absorb a multitude of nutrients in the buffer before any water runs off the pasture and into the stream.
"One of the many positive outcomes of this project has been the interest generated among other farmers with similar conservation concerns. The success of the Muddy Creek project and the work performed by the volunteers has led to numerous ongoing projects that will ultimately improve the quality of the Chesapeake Bay. CBF and its volunteers are truly making a difference in Virginia and the Chesapeake Bay."
Ann Jennings, CBF Virginia Executive Director, accepted the award from NRCS State Conservationist Jack Bricker Dec. 3 at the Virginia Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts' annual meeting in Roanoke, Va.
Photo: CBF's Ann Jennings with NRCS State Conservationist Jack Bricker. Photo by Pat Paul.