National, state, and local partners gathered on a Lancaster County farm on April 24, 2018 for the announcement of one of Pennsylvania‘s most ambitious, collaborative, and challenging efforts to restore and protect its rivers and streams – the planting of 10 million trees by the end of 2025.
In April, the Keystone 10 Million Trees Partnership planted over 31,000 trees at over 50 locations throughout the Commonwealth. The Partnership is a collaborative effort, coordinated by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), of national, regional, state, and local agencies, conservation organizations, watershed groups, conservancies, outdoors enthusiasts, businesses, and individuals.
“The old proverb, ‘it takes a village,’ is certainly true for restoring Pennsylvania’s rivers and streams,” said CBF President William C. Baker. “The Commonwealth is significantly behind in meeting its pollution-reduction commitments and the Keystone 10 Million Tree Partnership will accelerate efforts to close that gap.”
About 100 conservationists, including three state cabinet secretaries and the Region III Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), met on the Garber Farm in Manheim for the official launch of the Partnership and a tree-planting in a streamside buffer along Little Chiques Creek.
“EPA applauds the efforts beginning here today by our partners in retaining and expanding forests throughout the watershed,” said EPA Regional Administrator Cosmo Servidio. “It’s appropriate that this kickoff occurs between Earth Day and Arbor Day since this effort will help to keep our local waterways and the Chesapeake Bay clean. From filtering out pollutants to absorbing stormwater and preventing erosion, planting a tree is one of the most impactful conservation practices anyone can do.”
“When we look at solutions for some of our conservation challenges such as managing stormwater from very heavy rain events, having clean drinking water, and providing habitat for fish and wildlife, it turns out that trees are the answer,” DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said. “We are excited to work with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and many other partners on this movement to plant trees along streams and in communities across Pennsylvania.”
Roughly 19,000 miles of Pennsylvania’s rivers and streams are impaired by polluted runoff and the legacy of coal mining. Trees are the most cost-effective tools for cleaning and protecting waterways by filtering and absorbing polluted runoff, stabilizing streambanks, and improving soil quality.
The Commonwealth’s Clean Water Blueprint calls for about 95,000 acres of forested buffers to be planted in Pennsylvania’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Adding 10 million new trees alongside streams, streets, and other priority landscapes would accelerate the Keystone State toward its clean water goals, achieving as much as two-thirds of the 95,000-acre goal.
“A farm is the perfect place to kick off this initiative,” Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said. “Prosperous farms and a safe, abundant food supply depend on clean water, and a clean water supply depends on strategic farm management practices like forested buffers. Pennsylvania’s farmers are key to clean water for our region and we are pleased to support them as stewards of our resources.”
By 2025, the Keystone State is to have all practices in place to restore local rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay. It missed its goal of having 60 percent in place by 2017.
The Partnership is placing special emphasis on plantings in five counties in southcentral Pennsylvania because of large contributions of nitrogen, and that local stream impairment and overall loss of trees along streams and streets, is where greatest need meets greatest opportunity. The Partnership can jumpstart the Commonwealth’s efforts with concentrated plantings in those counties.
Trees placed in parks, municipal properties and other urban and suburban settings absorb and clean stormwater, reduce flooding, and help restore abandoned mine land.
“Trees, especially when alongside streams and streets, are one of the most cost-effective ways to restore and protect stream health, help keep nutrients and soils on the land, and cleanse drinking water sources,” said Harry Campbell, CBF Executive Director in Pennsylvania. “More trees benefit our farmers, our communities, and our health and welfare.”
Campbell expressed confidence in the Partnership’s effort and noted that its success will be influenced by how it evolves. “Many hands make light work. Together with partners new and old, we can plant 10 million trees,” he said. “We encourage organizations, business, schools, and anyone else concerned about restoring and protecting Pennsylvania’s waters, to sign up as partners. All that’s necessary is a commitment to reducing pollution and to planting trees as a solution to making that happen.”
Current members of the Partnership include:
Adams County Watershed Alliance; Antietam Watershed Association; Arbor Day Foundation; Central Pennsylvania Conservancy; Chesapeake Bay Foundation; City of Lancaster; ClearWater Conservancy; Conodoguinet Creek Watershed Association; Derry Township; Doc Fritchey Trout Unlimited; Donegal Experiential Education Program; Donegal Trout Unlimited; East Pennsboro Township; Halifax Middle School; Huntingdon County Conservation District; Juniata County Conservation District; Juniata Watershed Alliance; Lancaster Conservancy; Lebanon Rotary; Lebanon Valley Conservancy; Luzerne Conservation District; Manada Conservancy; Master Watershed Stewards; Musser Forests, Inc.; North Branch Land Trust; Octoraro Native Plant Nursery; Partners for Fish and Wildlife; Penn State Agriculture and Environment Center; Penn State Cooperative Extension; Penns Valley Conservation Association; Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture; Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources; Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection; Pennsylvania Environmental Council; Pennsylvania Landscape & Nursery Association; Schuylkill Trout Unlimited; Silver Mine Park/Pequea Township; Silver Spring Township; Spring Creek Trout Unlimited; Stroud Water Research Center; Tiadaghton Trout Unlimited; U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service; York County Conservation District.
Photo of Chesapeake Bay via Adobe Stock.