(HARRISBURG, PA)—The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) issued the following statement from Pennsylvania Executive Director Harry Campbell, after Senator Robert P. Casey Jr., (D-Pa.) introduced a bill to provide greater federal assistance to farmers so they can plant more forested riparian buffers in Pennsylvania.
The Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) Improvement Act allocates more acreage to CREP so more farmers can participate, and ensures that cost share that farmers provide is based on local prices for practices like installing stream fencing, stream crossing and alternative water sources on marginal pastureland.
The bill also provides more resources to farmers for care and maintenance of buffers and requires greater accountability for federal contributions to CREP and for progress of CREP agreements.
Forested riparian buffers are the most-cost effective tools for reducing polluted runoff of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment into local waters and the Bay. Buffers also improve herd health, soil quality, habitat for wildlife, and reduce nuisance flooding. But new enrollments in the CREP have declined in Pennsylvania in recent years.
Mr. Campbell said:
"CBF thanks Senator Casey for this bill that can support and accelerate the planting of streamside buffers within Pennsylvania and advance the Keystone State toward its clean water goals. It is a win-win for farmers, wildlife, those who enjoy the outdoors, and healthy communities. This has been an issue of great importance to CBF for many years.
"CREP has made a difference for participating farmers who saw the win-win scenario and put more trees and streamside buffers onto our landscape. CREP is an important program that can keep family farms operating and enhance profitability. Senator Casey's bill seeks to re-energize CREP as an attractive option for PA farmers.
"On the state level, Pennsylvania legislators may soon have the opportunity to invest in more trees and streamside buffers by passing a Keystone Tree Fund, which is a voluntary check-off for driver's license applicants and vehicle registrations to donate to the state Forest Buffer and Treevitalize programs.
"Greater investments like these at the federal and state levels are essential to the success of the new statewide Keystone 10 Million Trees Partnership's goal of planting 95,000 acres of forested buffers before the end of 2025.
"Adding 10 million new trees alongside streams, streets, and other priority landscapes would boost the Commonwealth toward its clean water goals, achieving as much as two-thirds of the 95,000-acre goal.
"CBF looks forward to working with legislators at the state and federal levels to restore and protect Pennsylvania's rivers and streams. It is a legacy worth leaving for future generations."