Under a new initiative, landowners in parts of Augusta, Alleghany, Bath, Botetourt, Craig, Highland, and Rockbridge counties can now receive full funding to plant trees along rivers and streams that eventually flow into the James River.
The James River Buffer Program is expanding its reach to landowners in the river’s headwaters, which includes waterways such as the Jackson, Cowpasture, Calfpasture, Maury, Catawba, and other smaller streams. There will be no out-of-pocket cost to the property owner to plant these forested buffers. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) is now accepting applications from landowners for funding and technical assistance.
“For me, it’s really important to first listen to a landowner and find out what their specific needs are,” said CBF Virginia Agricultural Field Technician Sarah Coffey. “Then we can work together to make a plan that both supports their goals while reaping the many benefits of forested buffers.”
Forested buffers along waterways absorb and filter pollution, stabilize eroding stream banks, reduce the threat of flooding, shade and cool streams so native fish like brook trout can thrive, and create habitat and food for wildlife. Some of the projects will encourage the recovery of the golden-winged warbler, a bird whose population has declined by roughly two-thirds in the past 50 years.
This new focus on the Upper James region expands on successful ongoing work in the Middle James under the James River Buffer Program, launched by the James River Association in 2019. The Upper James work is supported by a $1.1 million grant from the Virginia Environmental Endowment’s James River Water Quality Improvement Program. It will prevent nearly 200,000 pounds of sediment pollution from entering the Chesapeake Bay each year, and substantially reduce nitrogen and phosphorus pollution.
The Upper James program has a goal of installing 200 acres of streamside forests over the next three years. The program directly pays for all project costs, including design, site preparation, materials, installation, and three years of establishment support. Visiting the James River Buffer Program website allows landowners to apply and schedule site visits with technical experts. Landowners interested in installing a forested buffer on their property can also contact Sarah Coffey directly by email at [email protected] or phone at 860-449-3830.
Other partners in the effort include the James River Association, local Soil and Water Conservation Districts, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Virginia Commonwealth University’s Center for Environmental Studies..