Wednesday, July 27, 2016

DCNR, DEP Offering $500K In Grants To Plant Trees Along Streams To Improve Water Quality

The departments of Conservation and Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Wednesday announced funding is being made available under a new DCNR Riparian Forest Buffer Grant Program to assist landowners with planting trees along streams in Pennsylvania to improve water quality. (formal notice)
The forest buffer program solicitation will be part of DCNR’s Community Conservation Partnership Program grant round led by the DCNR Bureau of Recreation and Conservation will open on August 1 and close September 15 for this year.
Eligible applicants include local governments, nonprofit groups and educational organizations. A 50-50 match is required and there is a minimum grant award of $50,000, meaning up to 10 grants will be awarded statewide.
Eligible activities covered by these grants include landowner outreach, buffer design, site preparation and buffer installation, plant materials and tree shelters, and short term maintenance (approximately 3 years).
These new grants are in addition to DEP’s Growing Greener grants, which also include funding for forest buffer plantings. In May, DEP awarded $25.1 million in Growing Greener grants for 2016.  No new grant round has been announced.
Pennsylvania has a goal of planting 95,000 acres of streamside buffers by 2025.
“One of the best practices to improve the quality of our waterways is to plant trees along them to prevent sediments and nutrients from the land from entering them, and to provide shade to help keep water temperatures cooler for trout and other stream life,” DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said at an event at the Bridger Farm in Crawford County today. “To assist landowners with plantings, DCNR is dedicating $500,000 to a pilot grant program this year and will give some priority to buffer plantings in our future grant rounds.”
To expand on the existing streamside buffer options for landowners, DCNR is piloting a multi-functional buffer option that is eligible for grant dollars to provide greater flexibility in landowner eligibility, buffer designs, widths, plant species and offer the option of planting some income- producing crops in the buffer zone.
“Thousands of acres of buffers have been planted in Pennsylvania over the past 15 years,” Dunn said. “This new option is intended to expand the landowners who are eligible for grant assistance, and also offer farmers the option to continue to produce some income from the stream buffer zone by incorporating some crop plantings of specific trees and plant species.”
“Like all good solutions, streamside buffers offer multiple benefits and solve multiple problems at once,” said DEP Acting Secretary Patrick McDonnell at a meeting of the State Conservation Commission in State College today. “Streamside buffers improve local water quality and habitat, and improve the quality of the water downstream. This program will pay benefits far beyond just where the trees are planted.”
With assistance from the Crawford County Conservation District, the DCNR Bureau of Forestry, and local high school students, John and Amy Bridger planted about 2.5 acres of forest buffers along a tributary to French Creek next to the barnyard of their farm in Cambridge Springs.
“Planting stream buffers allowed us to reduce erosion and create a clear pathway for drainage along our hayfields and pastures, which is critical for overall health of the farm ecosystem,” Amy Bridger said. “We also were thrilled that local students were involved in the planting which raises awareness of the role of farming in food supply and conservation efforts as well as the wonderful life that farming can offer.”
Dunn noted that DCNR Bureau of Forestry service foresters located in each of the 20 forest districts statewide can assist landowners with information about planting forest buffers.
Forest buffers along stream banks provide critical barriers between polluting landscapes and receiving waterways.
Properly planted and maintained, streamside tree and shrub plantings filter the runoff of sediments and the fertilizers that are applied to lawns and crops; control erosion; improve water quality; reduce flooding; cool stream temperatures; and improve fish habitat.
For more information and instructions on how to apply, visit DCNR’s Riparian Forest Buffer Grant Program webpage. Questions should be directed to Kelly Rossiter at 717-772-3319.
Related Stories:
DCNR Begins Accepting Community Conservation Partnership Grant Applications Aug. 1

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