The Riparian Forest Buffer Initiative of the Chesapeake Bay Program
The Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP) has been working to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay and its tributary rivers for nearly 15 years. This unique intergovernmental partnership has been repeatedly studied as an international model for ecosystem management on a large watershed scale. As part of its continuing efforts, the CBP has recognized the important role of natural systems like forests and wetlands as critical parts of its pollution control strategies. In 1994, the CBP Executive Council, composed of the EPA Administrator, Governors of the States of Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, the Mayor of Washington, DC and the Chair of the Chesapeake Bay Commission - a tri-state legislative body, called for anew focus on riparian forests and other buffers and eventually launched in 1996, a major watershed-wide Riparian Forest Buffer Initiative. In the eastern US, Riparian forests provide a critical link between land and water - upland and aquatic ecosystems. Long valued for their provision of shade, food supply, habitat, and stable banks to streams and shorelines, scientific research of the last decade has brought water quality buffering and flood reduction benefits into prominence as well. For these reasons the CBP and its member jurisdictions have begun work to accomplish some of the most aggressive buffer goals in the country. The Riparian Forest Buffer Initiative calls for actions to promote all types of buffers and to ensure that riparian forests in particular, are conserved in the watershed through land use planning and protection efforts. The Initiative will also result in restoration of riparian forests along 2010 miles of the Bay watershed's streams and shoreline. Planning is underway and implementation has already begun to increase education, land use planning, incentives, public/private partnerships, and the planting projects needed to accomplish these goals. The history and status of this initiative will be reviewed along with examples of innovative approaches and actions being pursued by state, local communities, and federal agencies.