Bucknell University & Susquehanna University Plant Forest Buffer on Campuses to Slow Rainwater Runoff

Lewisburg and Selinsgrove, PA — Bucknell University and Susquehanna University recently planted forest buffers alongside streams on their campuses to slow rainwater runoff. These forest buffers will help trap nutrients and sediment before they flow to waterways, benefiting water quality and wildlife from central Pennsylvania and ultimately to the Chesapeake Bay. Streamside plantings installed on both campuses represent more than 4 acres of plantings. Chesapeake Conservancy, a nonprofit based in Annapolis, Maryland, with staff based in Pennsylvania, assisted in both efforts.

This weekend, the 16th Annual Susquehanna River Symposium will take place at Bucknell University. The theme is “Restoration to Resilience: Creating Partnerships to Improve Watershed Health from the Headwaters to the Bay.” Among the many varied partners working to restore the Susquehanna River are area universities.

Bucknell University

“Volunteers planted 100 trees in 100 minutes along along Smoketown Road on our campus to help improve water quality of Miller Run, which flows to the Susquehanna River and eventually to the Chesapeake Bay,” said Dr. Milton G. Newberry III, the sustainable technology director. “These plantings will improve the chances for stormwater management for the campus as well as beautifying campus and increasing the biodiversity of plants here with the inundation of both trees and shrubs in this area.”

“It was an honor to work with partners in planting the riparian buffer along Miller Run at Bucknell University,” said Ashley Spotts, restoration specialist with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) in Pennsylvania. “The Keystone 10 Million Trees Partnership, coordinated by CBF, supplied the native trees and shrubs as well as tree shelters, and the university arranged for students and faculty to help. We look forward to continuing this partnership with the Chesapeake Conservancy and Bucknell University to plant more trees on campus to improve water quality and enhance wildlife habitat.”

Susquehanna University

“Three acres along West Sassafras and Liberty Alley that was maintained as open lawn for years is getting a chance to recover with hundreds of trees and plugs in the ground and seeding to take place this fall. It also offers an opportunity for students to participate in every step of the restoration process from planning to implementation and maintenance.” said Matt Wilson, director of the Freshwater Research Institute. “This conversion to a wet meadow and riparian buffer will improve water infiltration and reduce flow rates, helping to mitigate flooding potential within the borough. The project has been a great learning and teaching experience with SU students and would not be possible without the collaborative effort from Chesapeake Conservancy and DCNR.”

“Streamside tree plantings, often referred to as forest buffers, are rows of trees, shrubs, and grasses planted along waterways. These plantings help to slow rainwater runoff as it approaches the streams, stabilize streambanks, and provide food for in-stream insects,” said Chesapeake Conservancy Senior Project Manager Adrienne Gemberling.

“In the future, we hope these plantings will help source a different method of tree planting called ‘live stakes.’ Live stakes are branches from wetland tree and shrub species with their branches removed that can be inserted directly into soft soil to grow an entirely new tree or shrub. Live staking allows Chesapeake Conservancy and partners to plant more shrubs and trees at a much lower cost while leveraging local volunteer capacity,” continued Gemberling.

Live Stake Cooperative (LSC)

Chesapeake Conservancy has convened a very strong partnership group known as the Live Stake Cooperative (LSC) that helps support this live stake planting technique. The LSC partners include Chesapeake Conservancy, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Merrill W. Linn Land and Waterways Conservancy, Susquehanna University, and Bucknell University. Each partner brings a different strength to the group, including volunteers, leadership skills, easement sites, training, education and more—all of which work together to make the LSC a success.

“The LSC is looking for more organizations to partner with, sites to collect from, and volunteers to collect stakes. Live staking is an affordable and easy restoration technique, which makes it a great choice for colleges, universities, small organizations, or volunteer groups. Students have an opportunity to be involved in something that has a great impact on the watershed and inspires them, while requiring minimal funding and training,” said Gemberling.

Chesapeake Conservancy’s Pennsylvania Team Grows

Strengthening its program work in Pennsylvania, Chesapeake Conservancy recently added three team members who will focus on installing more streamside trees in critical places to improve water quality.

Ryan Hill, project coordinator/geospatial analyst, helps identify where tree plantings have the greatest benefit to support our precision conservation efforts. Precision conservation means doing projects at the right place, the right scale, the right size, and the right time. This movement is redefining how landscape conservation is approached, using the latest high-resolution datasets to conduct geospatial analysis that allow for better planning and implementation of on-the-ground restoration and conservation best management practices.

Frank Rohrer, restoration project advisor, serves as Chesapeake Conservancy’s on-the-ground person in central and north central Pennsylvania, connecting with partners and landowners to implement agricultural restoration projects. His work is focused on restoring streams and making progress toward the rapid stream de-listing of specific impaired waters in the region. Rohrer has more than 20 years of experience of working with landowners and partners to restore streams in Pennsylvania.

Shannon Thomas, a Chesapeake Conservation Corps member, joined the team as our new live stake coordinator. She is responsible for coordinating volunteer events to collect tree and shrub cuttings to plant more streamside acres with vegetation.

Persons interested in getting involved with this innovative restoration technique should contact Live Stake Coordinator Shannon Thomas at sthomas@chesapeakeconservancy.org.

CBF Selects Next President & CEO

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Board of Trustees has selected Hilary Harp Falk to be CBF’s next President and CEO. She will succeed William C. Baker, who began working for CBF as an intern in 1976 and has led the organization since 1981.

Falk comes to CBF from the National Wildlife Federation, where she was chief program officer, leading and integrating national and regional programs while serving as strategic adviser to the CEO. Previously, Falk was the federation’s vice president for regional conservation, responsible for leading the organization’s seven regional offices.

Partnership Has Lofty Goal for 2022

The Keystone 10 Million Trees Partnership, along with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Natural Resource & Conservation Service, and Pennsylvania Game Commission collectively added more than three million trees along local streams and in urban settings since 2018.

Efforts will accelerate in 2022, when the goal is to plant 800,000 trees in the spring season. Additional landowners and locations will be needed to get 450,000 trees, ordered by the partnership, into the ground.

In addition to helping to address climate change, trees are among the most cost-effective tools for cleaning and protecting waterways by filtering and absorbing polluted runoff, stabilizing streambanks, improving soil quality and sequestering carbon.