Between 2015 and 2016, about 677 miles of forest buffers were planted along rivers and streams in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. While this marks progress toward the outcome, it is 223 miles below the 900-mile-per-year target.
Forest Buffers Planted (2010-2016)
Since 2010, the average length of forest buffers planted each year has reached just 32 percent of the restoration target that will help us reach our clean water goals. Of the forest buffers reported in 2016, about 10 miles were reported in West Virginia, 26 miles were reported in Maryland, 28 miles were reported in Virginia, 34 miles were reported in New York and 579 miles were reported in Pennsylvania. The spike in forest buffers across the Keystone State does not indicate an increase in buffer restoration. Instead, it is due to a new data collecting technique that captured previously planted but unreported buffers.
An estimated 70 percent of the watershed’s 288,000 miles of stream banks and shorelines currently have forest buffers in place. An aerial assessment of riparian land across the watershed revealed 1.4 million acres that could be converted from crops, pasture or turf to streamside trees and shrubs.
Forest buffers are critical to the health of the Chesapeake Bay: they stabilize stream banks, prevent pollution from entering waterways, provide food and habitat to wildlife, and keep streams cool during hot weather. Because of these benefits, forest buffers are considered one of the most cost-effective best management practices to benefit the Bay.