The Executive Council approved a new goal of restoring 10,000 miles of forest buffers along streams throughout the watershed by 2010.

The new goal counts the 2,870 miles of forest buffer planted since 1996, which means another 7,130 miles must be planted by the end of the decade. That amounts to an average of about 900 miles in each of the next seven years, or roughly the pace set in 2002, when 936 miles were planted.

The new goal also calls for long-term conservation and restoration efforts to establish forest buffers along at least 70 percent of all streams and shorelines in the watershed. That translates into 26,000 additional miles of buffers. (A mile on one side of a stream counts as a buffer mile; a mile on two sides counts as two miles.)

The action updates a goal originally set in 1996, which had called for 2,010 miles of streamside buffers by 2010. But plantings took place at a faster place than anticipated. and the Chesapeake 2000 agreement had called for a new goal by the end of 2003.

Streamside forests are considered important to the health of the watershed because they reduce polluted runoff and improve habitat both within the streams and along the streambanks.

In addition, the new goal calls for improved monitoring of planted buffers to ensure they survive and for the permanent protection of forest buffer strips.

Moving beyond streamside buffers, the goal calls for promoting expanded tree cover in urban areas, which can help intercept and slow falling rain and reduce runoff and erosion in urban waterways. The directive calls for the Bay Program to work with at least five communities in each state by 2010 to assess their urban forests and adopt local goals to increase urban tree canopy cover.

In other actions:

  •  The council directed the Bay program to establish a Chesapeake Bay Watershed Blue Ribbon Panel to consider funding sources to help reduce nutrient pollution to the Bay and make recommendations. The panel is to convene its first meeting by the end of January, and provide a detailed report by October.
  • Approved a new Blue Crab Fishery Management Plan, which officially adopts new harvest targets and thresholds that had been adopted by the Bi-State Blue Crab Advisory Committee three years ago.
  • Formally adopted a new submerged aquatic vegetation restoration strategy which was completed early last year. The strategy aims to restore 185,000 acres of underwater grass beds in the Bay, more than double the current amount.
  • Pennsylvania officials announced they would make $3.85 million available to build a fish passage for the inflatable dam at Shikellamy State Park, reopening 270 miles of the upper reaches of the Susquehanna River to American shad during their spring spawning runs.
  • Virginia Gov. Mark Warner announced that all of the money donated through an income tax checkoff to the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund will be dedicated to reducing agricultural nutrient runoff.
  • Warner was selected to serve for a second year as the Council’s chair.