Thursday, May 23, 2019

Trees, Streams & Volunteers: Penn State Greening The Lower Susquehanna Program

Pennsylvania, or Penn’s Woods, was historically forested. However, changes to the land to allow for agriculture and urban development means don’t have as many forests today. The result is that many Pennsylvania streams and rivers are polluted, regularly flood, and provide poor habitat for aquatic life.
Planting trees along streams can help to fix these problems and provide many benefits. Trees cool the water making it more desirable for fish, absorb pollutants (fertilizer, manure, chemicals) that are flowing over the landscape, prevent streambanks from eroding, provide habitat for birds and other wildlife, and much more.
By simply planting trees, we can improve water quality for fishing, swimming, and drinking.
Environmental groups have been working for several decades to encourage landowners to plant these streamside trees, or “riparian buffers.” But projects have often struggled with a lack of resources.
Today, some of those challenges are disappearing due to efforts like the Keystone 10 Million Tree Partnership, led by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation-PA.
This partnership has a goal of planting 10 million trees in Pennsylvania before the year 2025. That’s a lot of trees!
The Partnership can provide trees and planting supplies to conservation groups across the state. This can reduce the funding needed to implement these projects.
Grants, like those provided by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources are also helping to increase the number of trees planted in the state.
The Penn State Greening the Lower Susquehanna Program, an effort of Penn State Extension and the Penn State Agriculture and Environment Center, has been working hard since 2012 to connect volunteers with opportunities to plant trees, maintain rain gardens, clean-up litter, and more.
Almost 600 volunteers are signed up to learn about “green” volunteer opportunities in Lancaster, Dauphin, and Lebanon Counties.
In the last year alone, over 5,500 trees have been planted by these enthusiastic volunteers! About half of those trees were provided by the Keystone 10 Million Trees Partnership.
In addition, Penn State Master Watershed Stewards have also been able to take advantage of the Keystone 10 Million Tree Partnership’s resources to plant riparian buffers across the state.
As an example, the York County Master Watershed Stewards planted 400 trees in 2018.
If you are a landowner with a stream on your property, now is a great time to consider planting trees to protect your water resources.
To learn about the resources available in your area or to learn about local volunteer opportunities, contact your local watershed group, Master Watershed Steward Program, Penn State Extension, or County Conservation District.
Clean water grows on trees and we can all play a part in getting 10 million trees planted in Pennsylvania!
For more information on the Lower Susquehanna Initiative, visit the Penn State Greening the Lower Susquehanna Program webpage.   Questions should be directed to Kristen Kyler, Project Coordinator, Lower Susquehanna Initiative, 717-948-6609 or send email to:
(Photo: Volunteers planted 350 trees with a homeowner’s association near Mount Joy, PA on a Saturday morning in April.)

(Reprinted from the May 23 Penn State Extension Watershed Winds newsletter. Click Here to subscribe to Extension information.)

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