Despite Progress, Chesapeake Bay Streamside Forests Not Meeting Goals

Despite recent progress, efforts to restore and conserve trees along rivers and streams in the Chesapeake Bay watershed are not meeting goals, according to a press release issued today by the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program.  

Forested buffers are made up of healthy trees and shrubs that border stream and river banks. These forests absorb and filter runoff from heavy rains that would otherwise wash pollution into waterways. Restoring and conserving forested buffers along farms and developed land is one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce runoff polluting the Chesapeake Bay.  

In the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Watershed agreement, state and federal partners set goals for forested buffers. They include restoring 900 miles of streamside trees per year while conserving existing buffers until 70 percent of riparian areas in the watershed are forested.  

In 2023, 640.5 miles of forested buffers were planted, the highest since 2016, according to numbers released by the Bay Program this week. The Bay Program said in its release that this is due to increased state and federal investment in recent years, as well as more flexible programs to support planting buffers.  

The Chesapeake Bay Program, managed by the EPA, is a regional partnership that includes federal agencies, states in the Bay watershed, and local partners. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) is the largest independent conservation organization dedicated solely to saving the Bay. CBF’s work includes conserving and restoring forested buffers along waterways in Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.   

CBF Vice President for Environmental Protection and Restoration Alison Prost issued the following statement.   

“Even though we’ve long known that protecting and restoring trees along waterways is one of the most efficient ways to prevent pollution to the Chesapeake Bay, these efforts are still falling short. Our region is losing more forested buffers to development and other causes than it is gaining through planting. It’s time to take a hard look at protecting and planting forested buffers.   

“Unlike other pollution reduction practices that need to be renewed every year, forests are a long-term natural solution with rewards that grow over time. Trees also stabilize eroding streambanks, create habitat and food for wildlife, shade streams to reduce temperatures for trout and other aquatic life, and help address climate change.  

“Developing programs and policies that increase state and federal support dedicated to planting, maintaining, and conserving forested buffers is key to success. The Farm Bill currently being considered by Congress is a golden opportunity to boost investment in forested buffers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.”  

Kenny Fletcher 90x110

Kenny Fletcher

Director of Communications and Media Relations, CBF

[email protected]

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