(HARRISBURG, PA)—The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), our partners, and 41farmers in northern Pennsylvania today celebrate a significant clean water achievement: 36 miles of forest buffers have been planted along streams in Bradford, Susquehanna, Sullivan, Wyoming, and Lycoming Counties. These buffers will improve local and downstream water quality, improve farm viability, provide habitat for fish and other wildlife, and count toward Pennsylvania's Clean Water Blueprint requirements.
The four-year project was funded by a USDA Conservation Innovation Grant, PA DEP Growing Greener, and by CBF's Buffer Bonus program, and yielded impressive results. In addition to the 36 newly established streamside forested buffers (a total of 430 acres), farmers also installed 219 different on-farm conservation practices for a healthier environment. State-compliant soil conservation and manure management plans were developed for each of the farms, with twenty-eight also receiving Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans.
"These improvements all have positive effects on local water quality, while at the same time help to improve the overall productivity of the farm, said Stephanie Eisenbise, CBF's Pennsylvania Watershed Manager.
"Streams in this northern region of the state are very important because they are the headwaters to the Susquehanna River. So this work not only helps improve water quality here at home, but also nearly 400 miles away in the Chesapeake Bay."
For Bill Houseknecht of Bradford County, and one of the 41 farmers, working with Buffer Bonus meant a new streamside buffer and a much-needed manure storage facility that enables him to store roughly seven months worth of manure.
"We used to have to spread two loads a day throughout the year. Now we store it until we need it, spreading it primarily in the spring and summer, and maybe a little bit in the fall if we've got something growing," Bill said. "It's been a tremendous labor savings for us, especially in the winter when you don't have to worry about spreading it on the snow."
Manure storage facilities are one of several Buffer Bonus supported improvements that can deliver direct water quality benefits. The program focuses first on the pollution-reduction capabilities of forested streamside buffers. In return for establishing a buffer of at least 35 feet in width, participating farmers receive a voucher to help pay for other on-farm conservation practices. This win-win program improves both farm productivity and water quality.
"The Clean Water Blueprint outlines Pennsylvania's goals for meeting pollution reductions from farming," said Eisenbise. "And farm-by-farm those goals are being met. But there's more work to do. That's why we are working with farmers to implement clean water conservation practices that have local and downstream benefits."
Practices supported through the Buffer Bonus program include:
- Planting streamside forested buffers;
- Livestock stream fencing and crossings;
- Constructing manure storage facilities;
- Controlling run-off from barnyards, pastures, & rooftops;
- Constructing containment facilities for milkhouse wastes;
- Improving barnyard areas and livestock lanes;
- And many others.
Additional funding provided by: USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, USDA-Farm Service Agency, Pennsylvania's REAP, PA Growing Greener, the Bradford County Conservation District, and by other generous donors.
Project Partners: Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Bradford County Conservation District, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, Pheasants Forever, USDA-Farm Service Agency, Red Barn, Inc., TeamAg, Inc., and the Towanda Creek Watershed Association.
To read about the many farming success stories happening in Pennsylvania and throughout the watershed, visit cbf.org/farmsuccess. To learn more about the Pennsylvania Clean Water Blueprint visit CBF.org.