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.

Interactive Chart

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.

Management Strategy

To achieve this outcome, Chesapeake Bay Program partners have committed to:

  • Facilitating connections between federal, state and local leaders and the U.S. Department of Agriculture;
  • Aligning forest buffer programs with related projects and funding sources (e.g., land conservation, stream restoration and stormwater programs and funding);
  • Improving existing forest buffer programs (e.g., amending state Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program agreements, increasing and improving technical assistance, and conducting outreach and education) to make them more appealing to landowners; and
  • Using science and technology (e.g., high-resolution satellite imagery and geographic prioritization tools) to improve the forest buffer practice.

Monitoring and assessing progress toward the outcome will occur through data related to the miles of forest buffers planted each year, as collected through annual progress reports. High-resolution satellite imagery will confirm these buffers are there and represent a net gain for that part of the watershed.

As part of the Chesapeake Bay Program’s partnership-wide implementation of adaptive management, progress toward this outcome was reviewed and discussed by the Management Board in May of 2018.

Work Plan

Chesapeake Bay Program partners have committed to taking a series of specific actions that will support the management approaches listed above.

Participating Partners

The Forestry Workgroup, which is part of the Water Quality Goal Implementation Team, leads the effort to achieve this outcome. It works in partnership with the Vital Habitats and Healthy Watersheds goal implementation teams.

Participating partners include:

  • State of Delaware
  • State of Maryland
  • State of New York
  • Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
  • Commonwealth of Virginia
  • State of West Virginia
  • Chesapeake Bay Commission
  • Farm Service Agency (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
  • National Park Service
  • Natural Resources Conservation Service (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
  • U.S. Department of Defense
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • U.S. Forest Service
  • U.S. Geological Survey
  • Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay
  • Baltimore Greenspace
  • Cacapon Institute
  • Casey Trees
  • Chesapeake Bay Foundation
  • Delaware Center for Horticulture
  • Ducks Unlimited
  • Maryland Farm Bureau Federation
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • Parks and People Foundation
  • Pennsylvania Conservation Districts
  • Pheasants Forever
  • Potomac Conservancy
  • Smithsonian Institution
  • Stroud Water Research Center
  • TreeBaltimore
  • Trout Unlimited
  • Virginia Agribusiness Council
  • Virginia Cattlemen’s Association
  • Virginia Dairymen’s Association
  • Virginia Farm Bureau
  • Virginia Grain Producers