by Alicia Pimental
November 16, 2010
The Potomac Conservancy has released its fourth annual State of the Nation’s River report, naming development a primary source of stress on farms, forests and the health of the water in the Potomac River region.
The report highlights changes in the way land is being used in the Potomac River region. Forests and working farmland, both economically and ecologically valuable features, are being lost as the area continues to grow. This ultimately affects the health of the river, which is a source of drinking water for Washington, D.C., and other communities.
The report also explores the potential of “green infrastructure” as a way to accommodate growth while also supporting the health of the river and the environment.
“We invest so much in our man-made infrastructure, like roads … Our green infrastructure deserves the same investment,” said Aimee Weldon, Potomac Conservancy’s senior director of restoration and land, about the need for a new system of connected forests, farms and river. “That investment in natural networks of connected lands will strongly support wildlife and provide benefits to human populations.”
The report illustrates many examples of good and bad land use practices in the Potomac region. One recent example took place in Loudoun County, Virginia, where more than 450 trees along 1.5 miles of the river were cut down to clear a view. According to the Potomac Conservancy, this action was legal under county rules, showing that codes and ordinances need to be updated to reflect the current nature of development.
“Through sufficient funding and thoughtful codes and ordinances, county, state and federal agencies can work with local partners and communities to build a strong network of lands and streams, which will maximize and protect public and private investments in land conservation and restoration,” said Hedrick Belin, president of the Potomac Conservancy.
A companion document, called the 2010 Potomac Agenda, recommends several actions to preserve forests and better manage farmland:
- Protecting forests so there is no net loss
- Placing land under conservation easements to protect it from development
- Expanding farmland conservation plans to help farmers determine which conservation practices best fit their farm and optimize the land’s value
- Reducing polluted runoff to a level that local streams can handle without becoming impaired
- Improving state and federal inspections and compliance on factory farms
- Funding the Farm Bill to support farmers as they are expected to do more
- Researching the human health effects of pesticides, insecticides and antibiotics used on farms
- Providing incentives to small lot forests land owners to increase and enhance their land
- Promote green infrastructure and wise land management throughout the Potomac River watershed
For more information about the State of the Nation's River, visit the Potomac Conservancy's website.