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Planting trees in Pa. aimed at helping Bay

October 12, 2003|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

WAYNECASTLE, Pa. - The Chesapeake Bay is the second-largest estuary in the world, and the most productive, said Rob Schnabel of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

"It's very shallow," he said. "Sunlight reaches the bottom. That helps the food web - the fish, oysters and crab - but the pollutants just sit there. They can't flush out."

While farming is the best use for land along the Chesapeake's watersheds, "We need to restore the natural filters," Schnabel said.

Some of those filters were restored Saturday at the Ronnie and Donna Rebuck farm on Fort Stouffer Road near Waynescastle. Volunteers planted 250 sycamore, green ash and river birch trees and 350 silky dogwood, red chokeberry and arrowwood viburnum shrubs.

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Volunteer Pat Heefner of Waynesboro said the foundation makes it easy to be a volunteer.

"They provide the trees and bring the post hole digger. The volunteers do the actual planting. It's very labor-intensive," said Heefner, a member of the Antietam Watershed Association.

Six students from George Washington University in Washington hiked six miles on the Appalachian Trail Friday and stayed overnight at Caledonia State Park to help plant trees and shrubs at the Rebuck farm Saturday. Sophomore Elliot Schottland of New Jersey said he and the five other students are members of the university's Outdoors Club.

Heefner said the program is for all landowners, not just for farmers.

"We planted 2,000 linear feet in this stream, and 1,000 linear feet last April on an adjacent farm," he said.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation put up the fencing earlier in the week.

To maintain the plantings and keep weeds down, Rebuck will mow the strip between the fence and the first row of trees. As the trees grow, invasive plants such as multiflora rose and Canadian thistle will be suppressed by shade.

Schnabel said the purpose of the program is to improve water quality in the Antietam watershed. He added that 79 percent of all streams lack forest buffers.

"All the land was forested many years ago," he said. "We try to get the farmer to put in buffers to filter run-off, hold the stream bank together and shade the stream."

Cooler temperatures cause the water to hold more oxygen, which results in more trout in the stream.

Fencing off the streams also results in better herd health, Schnabel said. Cows standing in water can contract mastitis and other diseases from upstream farms, and constant soaking in water softens their hooves.

Ronnie Rebuck, who has lived on the farm all his life, said he agreed to the program to keep the stream clean and to keep his cows healthier. He milks 70 Holsteins on the 108-acre farm. The fences and trees are put in at no cost to him.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has fenced 300 of the 500 miles of streams that are fenced in Pennsylvania.

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