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Improving Streams and Rivers in PA, an Acre at a Time

Forested buffers installed on farmland can help reduce stream pollution and increase farm productivity. Photo courtesy of
Forested buffers installed on farmland can help reduce stream pollution and increase farm productivity. Photo courtesy of
December 19, 2013

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Nearly 40 miles of streams in the northern part of the state are cleaner, thanks to farmers and a concern about the health of their land and the streams and rivers around them.

Stephanie Eisenbise, Pennsylvania Watershed manager for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), says farmers in five northern counties have planted native trees, bushes and other plants along 36 miles of streamside farmland, creating forested buffers that will help to reduce pollution, among other things.

"It provides shade on the stream, which is good for the critters living in the stream, from the insects to also the fish that live in there,” she explains. “But it also helps clean the water, prevents pollution from getting into the stream and also helps the stream function as a whole to provide water quality for all of us."

Eisenbise says the impact isn't just local – that the forested buffers established on these headwaters to the Susquehanna River have an effect on Chesapeake Bay, some 400 miles away.

Eisenbise adds the work is funded by a USDA Conservation Innovation Grant and through CBF’s Buffer Bonus Program.

"Farmers who choose to install a 35-foot forested buffer get an incentive payment, essentially a bonus for doing their conservation work that they can then put back into the farm to invest in other conservation practices to help their farming operations," she explains.

Eisenbise says the work helps farmers meet pollution-reduction goals laid out in the state's Clean Water Blueprint, while at the same time improving farm productivity.

"Farmers are really the ultimate stewards of our land,” she says. “They want to see the soil staying on their farms, they want to see the manure being put to good use. So as much as they can do that in an economical way, and that's what this program helps them do, it's a huge benefit."

Tom Joseph, Public News Service - PA