(HARRISBURG, PA)—Despite frigid temperatures and a looming snowstorm, 85 farmers, state and federal conservation professionals, and others converged in Wysox, Bradford County to attend "Clean Water, Healthy Lands," a workshop and awards ceremony hosted by the Pennsylvania Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) restoration staff.
While the presentations and programs provided technical information about on-farm techniques to improve water quality, the "Golden Tree" and "Golden Cow" awards ceremony was an opportunity to celebrate and recognize the tremendous clean water achievements of local partners.
"The on-farm conservation improvements happening in this region have benefits to local waterways and to the Chesapeake Bay, while also helping our farming community remain viable," said Stephanie Eisenbise, CBF's Pennsylvania Watershed Restoration Manager. "We wanted to pay tribute to those efforts and to the staff who make it happen."
Golden Tree awards were given to US Department of Agriculture's Farms Service Agency (FSA) and Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) county offices in recognition of the thousands of acres of streamside forested buffers that they have helped to establish. Golden Cow awards were given to partners in the Buffer Bonus Program for establishing nearly 40 miles of new forested buffers and vast improvements in farm management.
The Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) provides funding for many of the on-farm improvements like streamside forested buffers. Through CREP Pennsylvania farmers and landowners have successfully reforested thousands of miles of Pennsylvania streams, which improves local and downstream water quality.
Jennifer Johns, one of two CBF Stream Buffer Specialists working in northern Pennsylvania, works one-on-one with farmers and FSA and NRCS staff to install conservation practices like forested streamside buffers, streamside fencings, and cattle crossings.
"I grew up on a beef and veal farm here in Bradford County, and have been working with farmers on conservation efforts for nearly 15 years," said Johns. "My work focuses mainly on forested riparian buffers, and I have the privilege of working with exceptional partners in this region. This workshop was a great opportunity to not only honor those partnerships, but to also provide all 85 attendees with educational tools that validate how critical this work is."
In 2009, CBF received grant funding for our Buffer Bonus Program for Bradford and 4 other northern counties. Farmers benefited from this program by installing CREP forested buffers, which then earned them vouchers to be used towards paying for additional on-farm improvements that benefit water quality. In total the grant served over 40 farms, established 430 acres or 36 miles of forested riparian buffers, and helped with 219 on farm water quality improvement projects.
Steve Smith rounds out CBF's northern Pennsylvania Buffer Specialist team and along with Jennifer Johns works one-on-one with farmers and FSA and NRCS staff. Together, they are instrumental in the success of CBF's restoration program.
Steve grew up on a dairy farm in Tioga County, and has been working in the farming conservation field for 26 years.
"It was a privilege to honor our partners for their dedication and hard work," Smith said. "I think the "Clean Water, Healthy Lands" workshop was a great way to spread the word about why CBF and our partners are doing this very important work throughout the watershed."
Presentations at "Clean Water, Healthy Lands" focused on forested streamside buffers, soil health, manure management, and invasive plant control.
The keynote speaker, Dr. Bernard W. Sweeney, Director, President, and Senior Research Scientist at the Stroud Water Research Center, leads the Center in the study of bringing polluted, degraded streams back to life.
"Dr. Sweeney and the other speakers presented their messages in a practical, "can't argue with that" approach and that goes a long way toward bridging gaps," Smith continued. "Their research is critical to our work here in restoring NE Pennsylvania streams."
The Golden Tree Award was presented to the following partners:
- The Bradford & Sullivan County NRCS and FSA offices. Together, along with partners, and farmers, they have established 3,652 acres of streamside forested buffers in Bradford & Sullivan Counties.
- The Lycoming County NRCS and FSA offices. Together, along with partners and farmers, they have established 903 acres of streamside forested buffers.
- The Susquehanna County NRCS and FSA offices. Together, with partners, and farmers, they have established 1,609 acres of streamside forested buffers.
- The Tioga County NRCS and FSA offices. Together, along with partners, and farmers they have established 1,850 acres of streamside forested buffers in Tioga County.
- The Wyoming County NRCS and FSA offices. Together, along with partners and farmers, they have established 292 acres of streamside forested buffers.
The Golden Cow Award was presented to the following partners in the Buffer Bonus Program:
- The Bradford & Sullivan County NRCS Office
- The Bradford County Conservation District
- The Lycoming County NRCS Office
- Pheasants Forever
- The Susquehanna County NRCS Office
- The Wyoming County NRCS Office
- Ed Zygmunt, retired Conservation Consultant
Workshop presenters included: Dr. Bernard W. Sweeney, President, and Senior Research Scientist at the Stroud Water Research Center, Art Gover, Research Support Associate with the Wildland Weed Management program in the Department of Plant Science at the Penn State University, Mike Hanawalt, Supervisory District Conservationist in Wyoming County for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Kevin Brown, Agricultural Resource Specialist with the Conservation District and works with nutrient management, no-till, and other farm related topics, and Miranda Neville, Chesapeake Bay Technician/Ag Resource Specialist at the Bradford County Conservation District.
CBF would like to thank the following partners: the Bradford County Conservation District, PA Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, Endless Mountains Resource Conservation & Development Council, Bradford Sullivan Forest Landowners Association, USDA Farm Service Agency, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Pheasants Forever, the Sullivan County Conservation District, and Tiadaghton Trout Unlimited.