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DCNR leading statewide forest buffer planting effort to help improve water quality
Close your eyes and listen for a babbling brook. In your mind’s eye, does it have trees along it, making the picture cool and green?

Not only are trees along streams beautiful, they also help provide a filter between polluting landscapes and receiving waters.

In the past, location near water made our farms, cities and towns grow. As we grew, we altered the stream banks, replacing trees with buildings, lawns and crop lands.

Restoring trees and shrubs along waterways can help provide a “buffer” between the non-point source pollution that comes from the general drainage of the land—one of the greatest threats to our water quality.

Many partners at local levels using federal, state and private funding already have planted tens of thousands of acres of buffers during the past 15 years that are providing significant water quality benefits.

DCNR’s Bureau of Forestry is now leading a rejuvenated effort to work with numerous agencies, partners and landowners to expand forest buffers along waterways in the commonwealth.

“Water is a significant part of our work at DCNR, including protecting aquatic habitats and water resources on state forest and park lands; providing and promoting water-based recreation; grant support for green infrastructure and rivers conversation; and groundwater knowledge,” DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said.

“With our service foresters already providing private landowners with advice on forest buffers and how to manage their forested lands and metropolitan trees, it makes sense for us to lead this work as part of the department’s strategic effort focused on water resources.”

A goal under DCNR’s water initiative is to plant 95,000 acres of buffers along waterways in Pennsylvania by 2025.

Trees and shrubs along streams—technically known as riparian forest buffers—help filter the runoff of sediments and the fertilizers we apply to our lawns and provide the canopy and shade needed to keep the water cool, which is important for certain fish species like the brook trout.

Volunteers help to plant trees along the lake at Yellow Creek State Park.
They also help improve the recreational opportunities that make our communities better places to live.

Secretary Dunn noted the importance of this best management practice for improving water quality, and recently joined about 40 volunteers from the Senior Environmental Corps and Friends of Yellow Creek State Park on April 14 planting about 400 trees along the lake at the park in Indiana County.

The department is at work creating a plan that will look to complement existing programs and provide greater flexibility in landowner eligibility, buffer designs, widths, plant species and innovative maintenance practices. A 40-member advisory committee met last month and will gather again in early summer.

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April 27, 2016

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