Local streambank owners can help save the bay; conservation workshop set

Stephanie Eisenbise, Pennsylvania Restoration Outreach Coordinator, will conduct a stream buffer workshop for area landowners on Feb. 22 at Kauffman Community Center. The program ties in with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation efforts to clean up waterways. Participants can receive funding to cover their costs in planting trees.

Forget about cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay directly. The task to restore the bay has been underway since the early 1980s, with six states trying to meet EPA pollution limits by 2025. Pennsylvania has a specific plan to reduce its pollutants with actions by farmers, sewage treatment plants, municipalities and citizens.

The mandate may seem overwhelming, since the watershed covers 64,000 square miles and is home to over 17 million people. But one environmental enthusiast knows that one by one, people will make a difference in water quality and can receive personal benefits as well.

Stephanie Eisenbise is one of seven specialists employed by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to meet with citizens about what they can do locally. She serves Franklin and Cumberland counties, occasionally using an office on Franklin Farm Lane in Chambersburg.

She will conduct a stream buffer workshop in Kauffman on Feb. 22 to introduce a voluntary program that pays landowners to plant trees along streams. The Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program is under the umbrella of the USDA Farm Service Agency. CREP has been in Pennsylvania since 2000.

“It’s to improve water quality and wildlife habitat,” said Eisenbise.

Qualified participants will plant six varieties of trees on their land, which will reduce pollutants and sediment reaching streams, prevent bank erosion, reduce flooding, increase a stream’s ability to heal itself, and create conditions amenable to wildlife. Bugs, fish, birds, terrestrial animals and small game benefit.

“That the biggest thing that surprises farmers,” she said. “They get a kick out of what animals come in.”

CREP is open to anyone who owns land along a stream, even a seasonal one, as long as it has banks. And farmers are actually in the minority. The property owners are reimbursed 90 to 140 percent of their costs in setting up a forested buffer, and receive rental payments for the life of the contract, 10 or 15 years.

“It’s a generous program,” Eisenbise declared.

The long-range ideal is clean water that will eventually enter the Chesapeake Bay.

“Forested buffers are the most economical way to clean it, versus upgrading sewage treatment plants,” she continued. “And small streams are best for tree planting.”

The meeting will be held from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 22 at the Kauffman Community Center. Lunch will be provided. Anyone interested may call Eisenbise at 717-234-5550 to reserve a seat.