CBF Plants More Than 2,000 New Trees and Shrubs Along Potomac River Tributary
Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) staff and more than 200 volunteers planted about 2,100 shrubs and trees on 10 acres of farmland next to Broad Run, a headwaters stream of the Potomac River, on Friday and Saturday.
The trees will help reduce polluted runoff from the farm and improve water quality downstream. The effort is part of CBF's Farm Stewardship Program and broader work to encourage riparian buffer plantings on farmland. These buffers are among the most cost-effective ways to reduce polluted agricultural runoff because the trees and shrubs soak up Bay pollutants such as nitrogen and phosphorus before the runoff enters a stream. The riparian buffers also reduce erosion by stabilizing the streambanks, provide shade to cool the stream, create new wildlife habitat, and lessen the impacts of climate change.
"It felt great to get all these new trees in the ground this week and we couldn't have done it without the landowner and community's support," said Rob Schnabel, CBF's Maryland Restoration Biologist. "Large-scale tree plantings like this one have so many long-term benefits. As the trees grow their ability to reduce polluted runoff and sequester carbon will increase. These trees will also restore the soil's 'sponge', reducing flooding during storm events and providing baseflow to streams during times of drought. Taken together the trees will help improve Maryland's environment and water quality in the Chesapeake Bay."
CBF has encouraged Maryland to invest more in riparian buffer plantings and help farmers add them to their properties. Doing so would help Maryland in its struggle to reduce agricultural pollution as part of ongoing work to meet the requirements of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.
The large-scale planting took place at Mountainscape Angus Farm in Jefferson, Maryland, which is owned by the Pelan family. Tree species that were planted include American sycamore, river birch, maples, and mixed oaks in the overstory as well as redbuds, serviceberry, and other smaller varieties to fill in the gaps in the understory.
Funding for the planting was provided by Maryland Department of Agriculture, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and partnerships with WGL Energy and Sterling Planet. These companies provide funding through their carbon offset programs. WGL Energy has been offering carbon offsets as part of residential natural gas purchases for over ten years.
"Today marks an important milestone for WGL Energy —12 years of partnering with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to plant trees and help farmers add conservation improvements throughout Maryland. This partnership underscores our ongoing commitment to sustainability and championing environmental stewardship," said Clint Zediak, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, WGL Energy.
"It has also been a shared passion for our staff to be able to work with CBF to preserve a precious natural resource in such a hands-on way. We look forward to continuing with future investments to help get more new trees in the ground at locations where they’re needed the most in Maryland."
12-Year Partnership, A Look Back at the Results
Since partnering with CBF on the Carbon Reduction Fund in 2000, WGL Energy and Sterling Planet have supported agricultural tree plantings and farm conservation improvements in Maryland by investing $1.3 million. This support has enabled CBF to match grant funding from the state and federal government to help farmers transition more than 1,600 acres to rotationally grazed pasture—a regenerative agriculture best practice that enables farmers to build soil health, use less fertilizer and generally feed livestock with grass. The investments have also enabled CBF to plant more than 62,000 trees across 294 acres of land, mostly as new riparian buffers.
In the 12 years of the partnership, CBF estimates these new conservation measures have reduced about 38,000 pounds of nitrogen—a primary Chesapeake Bay pollutant—per year as well as sequester about 88,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide throughout the lifetime of the trees and new pastures. That amount of carbon sequestration is equivalent to taking about 18,961 cars off the road for one year, according to EPA’s emissions equivalence calculator.