The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy is completing an undertaking that resulted in the planting of thousands of trees and shrubs along some of the region’s streams and creeks.
WPC’s Watershed Conservation Program celebrated the planting of 20,000 saplings in riparian zones, the land adjacent to creeks and streams. Healthy riparian zones improve water quality, create habitat for animals, reduce stream bank erosion and lead to other environmental improvements. To date, this project has improved more than 6 miles of creek-side public and private land in 17 watersheds throughout Western Pennsylvania.
Conservancy staff and volunteers participated in this special planting on Thursday on a private property in Rochester Mills, Indiana County. The group planted hundreds of saplings on the acre-and-a-half spot. WPC typically uses native trees and shrubs, such as white oak, river birch and witch-hazel, to enhance the buffers.
“The hope is that these riparian buffers will prevent stream bank erosion, create wildlife habitat and cool water temperatures for aquatic organisms,” explained Alysha Trexler, the project manager at the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, who led Thursday’s planting. “Stream banks that lack vegetative cover can erode excessively and contribute to excessive sedimentation in the creek.”
The Richard King Mellon Foundation provided financial support for the project.
In addition to this undertaking, watershed conservation staff members have been planting trees and shrubs on farmland, pastures, mowed land and other properties with stream banks since 2001. The locations are selected using geographic information system (GIS) analysis to identify watersheds heavily impacted by sedimentation from stream bank erosion. Riparian plantings will continue as part of the group’s ongoing work, as funding permits.
After the planting, visitors to some streams may see a number of tubes dotting a 75-foot-wide strip along the waterway. These tubes protect the tree saplings from harsh weather and animal grazing.
The Conservancy’s watershed conservation program, located in Indiana County, offers a full range of services to the community including watershed assessments, watershed conservation plans, stream bank restoration projects, aquatic species surveys, as well as technical assistance for landowners and local watershed organizations.
Article by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.