(HARRISBURG, PA)—Restoration efforts by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) to plant forested and streamside buffers in Pennsylvania have earned it accolades from two conservation groups. Trees trap and filter nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment, the Keystone State's most problematic pollutants, before they can run off into rivers and streams.
CBF Pennsylvania's Buffer Bonus Program was awarded the Pennsylvania Resources Council's (PRC) "2015 Leadership in Conservation Award." The program encourages and accelerates the planting of streamside buffers, while helping to fund additional on-farm conservation work. The PRC saluted CBF "for its leadership in demonstrating that streamside buffers are essential tools in reducing water pollution from runoff of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment in Pennsylvania."
"Our 2015 awardees have advanced PRC's mission through their innovative and creative programs and leadership," PRC Executive Director Bob Jondreau said. The award was presented at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University in Philadelphia on Thursday.
"Restoring streamside forests is the key to clean and healthy rivers and streams," said Harry Campbell, CBF Pennsylvania executive director. "We're honored to receive this award recognizing the successful efforts of our restoration specialists and the thousands of landowners we've worked with."
In northern Pennsylvania, CBF and key partners in Bradford County received the Forest Champion Award from the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay in September, for having the "most on-the-ground impact," and working with farmers on planting forested buffers.
Pennsylvania is significantly behind in its commitments to reduce pollution and improve water quality in local rivers and streams, particularly by stemming the amount of harmful runoff from agriculture. Accelerating the number of buffers planted across the Commonwealth could help the Keystone State get back on track.
Clair Ryan, CBF watershed restoration program manager in Pennsylvania, said that buffers provide a myriad environmental benefits. "The roots of the trees prevent soil erosion and soak up nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizer and manure that run off from fields and pastures before they can reach the streams," Ryan said. "Reforestation also enhances wildlife habitat for a number of important species including our native cold water fish."
The ability of buffers to keep cattle out of streams also pays dividends. "This is good for the stream because it reduces pollution and erosion and good for the cows too," Ryan said. "Keeping cows out of water decreases the incidence of hoof-related diseases and injuries. It's a win-win."
In Bradford County, the partners planted over 3,000 acres of trees under the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), making the county a conservation leader in the Commonwealth. In two years, at least 36 farmers participated in the Buffer Bonus Program in Bradford County, implementing nearly 200 conservation practices.
The Buffer Bonus Program has also been successful in Lancaster County, where Amish and Mennonite farmers are reducing pollution by installing conservation projects and planting streamside forested buffers. In just two years, nearly 300 conservation practices were installed, bringing 41 farms into full compliance with state required conservation and manure management plans.
CBF's Buffer Bonus Program encourages farmers to couple CREP forest buffers with on-farm improvements. For each acre of forest buffer planted, CBF offers participating farmers a "best management practice voucher" to help with the costs of additional on-farm conservation work.
Improvements that qualify under the Buffer Bonus Program include rotational grazing practices, streambank fencing, and alternative watering systems. Other options include the installation of waste transfer lines for milk-house waste and silage leachate, stabilization of access roads, and the installation of roof gutters, all of which benefit water quality.
The Buffer Bonus Program also provides a new or updated Conservation and Nutrient Management Plan, at no cost to the farmer. Combining this plan with an engineer's evaluation of the farm (also provided) gives farmers the opportunity to apply for federal funding to assist with larger on-farm improvements such as manure storage facilities and concrete barnyards.