Forest buffers help waterways

April 10, 2010|By CELESTE MAIORANA / Special to The Herald-Mail
  • Our waterways all start with just a trickle of water that eventually leads to larger bodies of water. Planting trees and shrubs help water to sink into the soil and to be filtered and purified.
By Celeste Maiorana,

On the west flank of South Mountain, water emerges from beneath the roots of a gnarly old sycamore tree.

Later joined by other springs, it runs glistening over stones and fallen trees, into a cow pasture, crop fields and two backyards. It is a small stream and falters a little under the hot sun. It meets a road and runs beside it. Here it joins another stream.

Strengthened, the water flows out into the valley. The path meanders through pastures, fields and yards. New streams join along the way. It flows into the Little Antietam, Antietam Creek, the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay, where it mingles with streams and rivers of six states and water from the Atlantic Ocean.

Once, this land was forested. By the late 1800s, it had been largely cleared for agriculture. As the region became more urbanized, abandoned fields sometimes returned to forest, making the patchwork of forest and field we see now. During this time of reestablishment we have learned much about the importance of forests. They are essential for clean air and water. And there are too few of them.


There is a solution: Plant trees.

Our waterways should have forest buffers as they make their ways through the land. Trees and shrubs help water to sink into the soil to be filtered and purified, and they prevent debris and rubbish from entering the water. April is a very good month to plant trees.

Many acres of buffer have been planted through the combined efforts of landowners, local, state and federal agencies, and the Chesapeake Bay Trust.

Much remains to be done.

All of us can be part of the solution.

If you like to walk, pick up trash along your favorites paths. Left on the ground, it may make its way into our waterways.

If you are a landowner, consider how you might improve your land's water-buffering qualities. Establish a rain garden to collect water runoff. Plant more shrubs to intercept water sheeting over lawns and paved surfaces after heavy rains. Allow some areas to go natural.

If your land has or is adjacent to a waterway or body, think about establishing a buffer of trees and shrubs beside it, or simply allow it to re-vegetate naturally. There are programs to help you plant buffers.

Communities can help, too. Local parks, schools and other public lands can be improved with tree planting, rain gardens and natural areas.

Celeste Maiorana is a member of the Washington County Forest Conservancy District Board, which promotes forest conservation in Washington County. Please visit online at .

More info

Marylanders Plant Trees: http://www.trees.mary

Maryland Deptartment of Natural Resources, Forestry: http://www.dnr

Maryland Department Natural Resources, Forestry (local office, Buffer in a Bag Program). Call 301-791-4733

Chesapeake Bay Trust:

Washington County Soils Conservation Service: http://www.conservation

United States Department of Agriculture (for farms and larger parcels.) Hagerstown Service Center, 1260 Maryland Ave., Hagerstown, MD 21740-2912. Call 301-797-0500

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