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Saving our Soil, Wildlife + Waterways with Riparian Forest Buffers

DCNR Grant Funded + Looking for More Land!

This month, the LadyBugs joined forces with Earthbound Artisan to plant over a thousand trees at the Lancaster Farm Sanctuary in Mt. Joy, PA. This Multi-Functional Riparian Forest Buffer designed by Ironwood Forestry is installed on the banks of the Little Chiques Creek, a tributary of the Chiques Creek, which flows south and empties into the Chesapeake Bay. Crew members and volunteers travel slowly through the dreamy fields that provide safe shelter for rescued farm animals. Cows and goats graze together, ducks and chickens peck in the grass, a black cat sleeps on a bale of hay, and Lillith the horse perks up to see who’s walking by. The new Riparian Buffer will extend the Sanctuary’s mission to Love, Respect + Protect, to the pollinators, waterways and wildlife that call this tributary home.

Photo credit :: LadyBug EarthCare

After a few years of stewardship and intentional land management, this buffer zone will be transformed from fallow fields into a vibrant mix of native trees, shrubs and perennials. Animals will graze under the trees, in practice of a type of agroforestry called silvopasture. Native pollinators and essential wildlife will thrive. Humans will be invited to enjoy the forest buffer too! The outer edge is a “Pick Your Own” section full of chestnuts, hazelnuts and elderberries to harvest and enjoy, as well as floral trees and shrubs for cut flowers and wildcrafting. All the while, deep roots will be holding soil in place to slow erosion, rich biomass will act as a carbon sink and sequester nutrients, and pollutants from agricultural runoff and other human land use will be filtered and kept out of the waterways. In an ongoing effort to protect and improve the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, the DCNR has funded grants to install 95,000 acres of riparian buffers along our rivers, creeks and ponds, just like this one. Keep reading to find out how you can get involved in this important work!

What Is a Riparian Buffer?

A riparian buffer is a mix of trees, shrubs and perennials planted near the edges of rivers, streams and ponds. Several conservation goals are met by planting buffers near waterways.

  • Deep roots help stabilize soil and prevent erosion.

  • Buffers filter out pollution from surrounding development, agriculture, roadways, etc. before it reaches the water.

  • Shade from tall trees keep the waterways cooler to create better habitat for aquatic species.

  • Plants take carbon out of the atmosphere and sink it back into the ground.

  • Forest buffers provide essential habitat for native wildlife that is disappearing.

  • Mixed use buffers that include fruits, nuts and woody florals offer an opportunity to grow and harvest native foods for people and animals to enjoy.

Where Are Buffers Planted?

Riparian Buffers are a versatile and valuable tool that can be used along the edges and liminal spaces between many habitats. We’re focusing specifically on the areas next to our waterways, because these are some of the areas most heavily impacted by pollution and degradation, and these buffers make a huge impact. The DCNR has made it a goal to fund riparian buffer projects with grants, as part of a larger mission to clean our watershed, and to restore and protect the Chesapeake Bay, which is the piece of Earth’s water system that we’re all collectively responsible for. This is one of the many ways that we can do our part.

“Pennsylvania has more than 86,000 miles of rivers and streams. Maintaining and restoring buffers is a key strategy for improving water quality and aquatic habitat in Pennsylvania. The commonwealth has a goal of planting 95,000 acres of riparian forest buffers statewide by 2025 to improve waterways in Pennsylvania and the Chesapeake Bay.” -DCNR

The Pennvest Grant provided by the DCNR has a few requirements for buffer designs and where a buffer can be planted:

  • Pennvest Grants focus specifically on Multi-Functional Riparian Forest Buffers, which include edible products for people, forage for livestock, and trees and shrubs, with the goal of integrating economic opportunities on the land.

  • Buffers must be within 300 feet of an established river, stream or pond that is fed by another waterway.

  • Creeks or streams must be well defined with visible beds and banks to qualify.

  • Buffer Zone must be at least 1 acre, and up to 9 acres.

There is ZERO cost to the landowner, and up to three years of professional + intentional management by Earthbound Artisan is included!

Photo credit :: Earthbound Artisan

How Can I Get Involved?

LadyBug EarthCare and Earthbound Artisan are looking for more riparian buffer land to complete the grant that is already funded. We have enough funding to create 9 more acres of Riparian Forest Buffer around Harrisburg, York and Lancaster. Here’s how you can help us use this resource to build habitat and protect our water:

  • If you’re a land owner, or if you know someone who has land that meets the qualifications, get in touch! We’ll schedule a consultation to assess the land, make sure it meets the requirements, and talk about how your needs and goals for your land can intersect with a healthy and vibrant riparian buffer zone. Send us an email or connect on Facebook.

  • Volunteer with us to get your hands dirty and plant some trees! Learn valuable skills, get a full body workout, and enjoy knowing that you had a part in planting a brand new forest. Join our mailing list to hear about volunteer opportunities!

  • Share this post to help us spread the word!

Written by Morgan Laubach. Reviewed by Kendra Hoffman + Earthbound Artisan.


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