Chesapeake Conservancy Releases Tool for Precision Conservation in Pennsylvania

Annapolis, MD – The Chesapeake Conservancy, working in partnership with Bloomsburg University, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and Susquehanna University, will release its newest conservation tool at the Centre County Grange Fair, Aug. 18-26. The Restoration Report tool shows landowners information about possible restoration projects on their property that will help improve the health of their land and the nature it supports. Partnership members and local conservation partners will be at the fair demonstrating the tool to local landowners and providing expertise on potential restoration projects.

Using state-of-the art data analysis, the Restoration Reports tool generates a customized report for a property that includes: the watershed it is a part of; the wildlife species that may already or could potentially live in the area; and the proximity of the property to a designated trout stream. Landowners can select management priorities, for example, supporting agricultural land uses or improving hunting and fishing, to hear more about opportunities on their parcel. The tool will generate a confidential report that includes contact information for specific restoration specialists that serve the area and fit the landowner’s interest.

The tool was designed as part of a three-year project funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for a major restoration and conservation initiative in the Susquehanna River watershed. The project aims to pilot new approaches to conservation with local partners in Pennsylvania’s Centre and Clinton counties to reduce nutrient and sediment pollution from nonpoint sources to improve water quality and scenic beauty.

“We are thrilled to be able to offer this tool to landowners in Clinton and Centre Counties and help them improve water quality on their property. We hope the success of this project will serve as a model for watershed-wide and eventually nationwide restoration,” Chesapeake Conservancy President Joel Dunn said.

Last week Maryland Governor Larry Hogan committed to reducing sediment buildup on the Susquehanna River behind Conowingo Dam. Dunn noted that this commitment to the Susquehanna fits well with the release of the Restoration Reporting tool and the Chesapeake Conservancy’s work in the Susquehanna River watershed.

“Governor Hogan’s pledge to support restoration efforts upstream of Conowingo Dam demonstrates a need to focus on reducing future pollution from coming down the river, otherwise our children will be dealing with this same issue,” Dunn said. “Using this technology, the Chesapeake Conservancy and our partners are providing the best data to these landowners to make informed decisions about how to improve the health of their land, the Susquehanna River, and the Chesapeake Bay. We are combining community-driven conservation with this new data to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of restoration.”

Chip Brown is a landowner on Elk Creek in Centre County. Brown has previously installed a streamside buffer and other management practices on his property. Currently, Brown and his across the stream neighbor are installing additional restoration practices to improve water quality. As a part of the precision conservation initiative, Chesapeake Conservancy partners have been monitoring the water quality before and after the project to record possible changes in nutrient load, sediment, invertebrates and fish populations over time. So far, Brown said he has been happy with the preliminary results he has seen in this early stage of the monitoring process. Brown said the stream work has already improved the flow in the stream on his property, making the water visibly clearer.

Restoration Reports is a great opportunity for a landowner to learn about potential projects on their property, species they can benefit, and more about how their land connects to the watershed where they live. Knowing opportunities exist on their land and having contact information for conservation professionals immediately available is a great way to empower landowners to take action,” Brown said. “The Precision Conservation Project outreach helps landowners grasp where they fit into the bigger picture. The bigger picture is what happens in one part of the watershed affects other landowners from the local level all the way to the Chesapeake Bay. Making the connection to not only the Chesapeake Bay but also to upstream and downstream neighbors is an important part of this project that the Chesapeake Conservancy and their local partners have conveyed to our community. I have already spoken to other neighboring streamside landowners who have started to enroll their land in the project. Having a tool that can instantly tell about projects they could be doing on their land is a great way to engage the broader public in conservation, whether their interests lie in agriculture or fishing on Elk Creek.”

The Restoration Reporting tool and the partnership’s restoration efforts in Centre and Clinton Counties are part of the larger Envision the Susquehanna initiative, led by the Chesapeake Conservancy in partnership with the National Park Service, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Susquehanna River Heartland Coalition for Environmental Studies, the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership, and the Wildlife Management Institute.

In April of 2017, The Chesapeake released Envision the Susquehanna: A Vision for the Susquehanna Watershed. This “Vision Document” maps out the recommendations of the Envision the Susquehanna (ETS) initiative, a coalition among many partners across the watershed to identify local conservation priorities and develop locally supported recommendations for future action.

“There are many reasons to want to plant trees along water – to be a good steward and improve water quality; so your kids can fish for trout; to help pollinators; or even to plant certain crops such as nuts and willows that can generate income,” DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said. “This is a great new tool that lets landowners explore the why and the how for restoration projects, and connects them with specialists who can help. DCNR is excited to see how it will work on the ground.”

The Restoration Reports tool can be viewed at The Chesapeake Conservancy and Envision the Susquehanna partners will demonstrate the tool at the Emporium Building at the Grange Fair Aug.18-26.