by Alicia Pimental
December 01, 2006
There are approximately 990,000 private forest landowners in the Bay watershed - a number that decreases each day, as more forested land is bought by developers for strip malls, subdivisions and conference centers.
Beginning next year, a voluntary program called Forestry for the Bay will provide forest land owners with a wide range of information for implementing sustainable forestry practices on their land.
By becoming a Forestry for the Bay member, land owners will receive a free resource map of their land and be coached through a web-based planning process that will outline a forest management plan for their property. In addition, members will receive discounts on tree seedlings and many other benefits to help them manage and protect the forested areas on their property.
Forests perform crucial functions that benefit the plants and animals throughout the Bay watershed by:
- Protecting water quality. Forests act as “sponges” by capturing rainfall, reducing runoff, maintaining the flow of streams, filtering nutrients and sediment and stabilizing soils.
- Providing food, shelter, nesting sites and safe migration paths for the Bay's aquatic and land animals.
- Improving air quality by absorbing and trapping nitrogen, carbon, particulates and other pollutants in the atmosphere.
- Encouraging recreation, such as fishing, hiking, camping and cross-country.
- Contributing $22 billion to the Bay watershed's economy by providing wood for paper, building materials, fabrics such as rayon, and even food and medicines.
While forests are natural systems, they need to be properly managed to maximize their health and productivity. Management is driven by a land owner's goals and objectives for their land, such as enhancing recreation, providing wildlife habitat or harvesting forest products. Management is even more relevant today, as forest fragmentation has resulted in an increase of forest edge, which opens the forest up to invasive plants that decrease forest health and have negative impacts on native flora and fauna.
The vast majority of forest land owners in the watershed are not under any form of management plan. This leaves them open to potentially bad management practices, such as high grading timber harvests, that could negatively impact the long-term health and productivity of their forest.
Forestry for the Bay is a collaborative effort among the Chesapeake Bay Program, the USDA Forest Service and the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay. For more information on the program, visit www.forestryforthebay.org/.