From July 2011 to June 2012, about 285 miles of forest buffers were planted along the Bay watershed’s streams and rivers. A total of 7,764 miles have been planted watershed-wide since 1996*.
*Prior to 2010, the Chesapeake Bay Program tracked riparian forest buffer planting in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia. In 2010, CBP began including planting data from New York, West Virginia and Delaware
Date created: Apr 02 2013 / Download
This map shows the locations of riparian forest buffer restoration projects throughout the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Project locations were provided by Forestry Workgroup representatives from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the Virginia Department of Forestry, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the West Virginia Division of Forestry, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and the Upper Susquehanna Coalition.
Healthy forests clean our air and water, support industries and economies, and provide us with a place to relax. Craig Highfield, Forestry for the Bay Program Manager, explains how a healthy forest works and why they are so important to the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Produced by Matt Rath
Music: “A Moment of Jazz” by Ancelin
Forest buffers are trees and other plants that line the banks of waterways. Forest buffers are important because they:
Well-maintained forest buffers also absorb pollution, which helps improve the health of neighboring streams and rivers as well as the water downstream.
Bay Program partners are planting forest buffers along thousands of miles of streams, creeks and rivers throughout the Bay watershed.
Bay Program partners achieved the original 2010 forest buffer restoration goal of 2,010 miles in 2002. In 2003, they set a new, long-term goal to conserve and restore forests along at least 70 percent of all streams and shoreline in the Bay watershed. They also set a near-term goal of restoring at least 10,000 miles of forest buffers in the Bay watershed portions of Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the District of Columbia by 2010.
In 2007, the Chesapeake Executive Council committed to continue progress toward the 2003 goal of restoring at least 900 miles of forest buffers per year (2007 Response to Forest Directive 06-1). West Virginia, Delaware and New York also signed on to this 2007 commitment.
This provided the foundation for the Forest Buffer Outcome established in the 2010 Executive Order Strategy for Protecting and Restoring the Chesapeake Bay. The forest buffer outcome states: “Restore riparian forest buffers to 63 percent, or 181,440 miles, of the total riparian miles (stream bank and shoreline miles) in the Bay watershed by 2025” (Executive Order Strategy, p. 51). Currently, 58 percent of the 288,000 total riparian miles in the Bay watershed has forest buffers in place.
Achieving this outcome requires that 14,400 new miles of forest buffers are restored between 2010 and 2025. This translates to a rate of 900 miles per year.
Note: Prior to 2010, the Chesapeake Bay Program tracked riparian forest buffer planting in MD, PA and VA. In 2010, CBP began including planting data from NY, WV and DE.
Amount completed since 1996 (baseline year)
Amount completed since 2010
Amount completed in 2012
Between July 2011 and June 2012, 284.8 miles of forest buffers were reported being planted, achieving 30 percent of the annual target to restore 900 miles oer year. This is a decrease in forest buffer restoration rates compared to 2007 through 2010. The state-by-state breakdown was:
These numbers represent a slight increase in forest buffer planting from the previous year, when 240 miles were planted and a significant decrease from the 2002-2010 average of around 670 miles planted per year. Between 2011 and 2012, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia planted more forest buffers than during the previous year, Maryland planted fewer, and Delaware stayed the same.
As in past years, Pennsylvania contributed the majority of miles in 2012. Since 2000, Pennsylvania has restored 58% of the riparian forest miles in the watershed.
This indicator includes stream bank and shoreline miles in the Bay watershed that are buffered by at least a 35-foot-wide area of vegetation.
This indicator tracks documented plantings of forest buffers along the Bay watershed’s streams and rivers. However, the gains do not necessarily represent a “net resource gain.” Based on the most recent assessment available, approximately 58 percent of the riparian area in the Bay watershed is forested. When this indicator is updated in the future, it could potentially be used to determine a net resource gain or loss.
Progress Restoring Forest Buffers
Reasons for the continuing slow progress in planting forest buffers include:
All of these issues have been the focus of efforts to improve forest buffer implementation:
Directive to Protect Chesapeake Forests
In 2006, Bay Program partners produced a report entitled The State of Chesapeake Forests, which was the impetus for an Executive Council directive, Protecting the Forests of the Chesapeake Watershed. The directive seeks to protect riparian forest buffers and other forests important to water quality.