DCNR, DEP offering grants to plant trees along streams to improve water quality
The departments of Conservation and Natural Resources and Environmental Protection have announced that grants are being made available to assist landowners with planting trees along streams in Pennsylvania to improve water quality.
Pennsylvania has a goal of planting 95,000 acres of streamside buffers by 2025.
With newly treated stream buffer trees behind her, DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn addresses program supporters at a Crawford County farm.
“One of the best practices to improve the quality of our waterways is to plant trees along them to prevent sediments and nutrients from the land from entering them, and to provide shade to help keep water temperatures cooler for trout and other stream life,” DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said at an event at the Bridger Farm in Crawford County on July 27. “To assist landowners with plantings, DCNR is dedicating $500,000 to a pilot grant program this year and will give some priority to buffer plantings in our future grant rounds.”
The DCNR Community Conservation Partnership Program grant round led by the DCNR Bureau of Recreation and Conservation opened on Aug. 1 and will close Sept. 15 for this year. These new grants are in addition to DEP’s Growing Greener grants, which also include funding for forest buffer plantings.
To expand on the existing streamside buffer options for landowners, DCNR is piloting a multi-functional buffer option that is eligible for grant dollars to provide greater flexibility in landowner eligibility, buffer designs, widths, plant species, and offer the option of planting some income-producing crops in the buffer zone.
“Thousands of acres of buffers have been planted in Pennsylvania over the past 15 years,” Dunn said. “This new option is intended to expand the landowners who are eligible for grant assistance, and also offer farmers the option to continue to produce some income from the stream buffer zone by incorporating some crop plantings of specific trees and plant species.”
“Like all good solutions, streamside buffers offer multiple benefits and solve multiple problems at once,” said DEP Acting Secretary Patrick McDonnell at a meeting of the State Conservation Commission in State College late last month. “Streamside buffers improve local water quality and habitat, and improve the quality of the water downstream. This program will pay benefits far beyond just where the trees are planted.”
With assistance from the Crawford County Conservation District, the DCNR Bureau of Forestry, and local high school students, John and Amy Bridger planted about 2.5 acres of forest buffers along a tributary to French Creek next to the barnyard of their farm in Cambridge Springs.
“Planting stream buffers allowed us to reduce erosion and create a clear pathway for drainage along our hayfields and pastures, which is critical for overall health of the farm ecosystem,” Amy Bridger said. “We also were thrilled that local students were involved in the planting which raises awareness of the role of farming in food supply and conservation efforts as well as the wonderful life that farming can offer.”
Dunn noted that DCNR Bureau of Forestry service foresters located in each of the 20 forest districts statewide can assist landowners with information about planting forest buffers.
Forest buffers along stream banks provide critical barriers between polluting landscapes and receiving waterways. Properly planted and maintained, streamside tree and shrub plantings filter the runoff of sediments and the fertilizers that are applied to lawns and crops; control erosion; improve water quality; reduce flooding; cool stream temperatures; and improve fish habitat.
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