Restoring forests along streams in the Chesapeake drainage through voluntary means will require new educational and incentive programs. Many of the tools that could promote riparian forest buffers exist but need to be streamlined and better focused, the draft report of the Riparian Forest Buffer Panel said.
To reach its goal, the panel's report outlined a series of key objectives - increasing public involvement, enhancing existing public programs, providing incentives, encouraging private partnerships and supporting science and research - and suggested a number of potential actions for each.
Proposals to increase public involvement
- Publish state directories for riparian forest buffer and stream protection and restoration assistance programs for use by landowners, citizens and local governments.
- Develop educational materials, such as videos, fact sheets and brochures, for a basin-wide outreach and education program about the benefits of healthy streams and riparian areas.
- Initiate a training program for resource professionals and decision makers about the importance of riparian forest buffers and stream corridor management, including protection and establishment methods and watershed assessments.
- Establish targeted outreach programs for developers, loggers, forest industry, consultants, citizen groups and others.
- Federal agencies that provide landowner assistance should work with the states to implement a strategy for enhanced outreach, technical assistance and education related to stream restoration and riparian forest buffers on private and public lands.
- Establish and publicize riparian forest buffer and stream corridor management demonstration sites in each jurisdiction. Sites will represent all physiographic regions and land uses.
- Work with departments of education to incorporate riparian forest information into environmental education programs.
Proposals to enhance existing public programs
- Use federal, state or other funding sources - such as Chesapeake Bay Program grant funds - to establish additional watershed foresters or similar positions in each jurisdiction to specialize in landowner outreach and local program assistance for riparian forest buffer design, establishment and management.
- Public land managers should review existing activities and develop plans and goals for stream corridor protection and restoration.
- Conduct statewide audits of existing regulatory, incentive and assistance programs so they can be simplified and streamlined.
- Implement audit results and modify existing cost-share and assistance programs to ensure they support stream corridor management practices that include planting trees and shrubs, maintaining those plantings until successfully established, the use of temporary fencing, and off-stream water development.
- Create opportunities for cross- training natural resource professionals and environmental specialists through job swaps, interagency liaisons and other methods.
Proposals for incentives
- Compile a list of existing federal and state tax relief programs that can encourage riparian forest buffer restoration and retention, and market those tools to landowners.
- Deliver to Congress a proposal to amend the inheritance tax law to change provisions that may unintentionally result in conversion of forest and agricultural land to other uses.
- Create flexible state income tax incentives (such as tax credits for tree planting, retention, or easement expenses in buffers) to promote riparian forest buffers.
- Amend legislation where necessary so local governments may offer preferential property tax strategies, and encourage local governments to promote such programs.
- Conduct an annual assessment of federal and state cost-share programs and ensure that adequate resources and cost-share rates are available to meet the demands of riparian forest buffer and stream protection activities.
- Implement mechanisms within existing state land trusts or conservation easement programs that emphasize riparian forest buffers and stream corridors.
- Develop a targeted package of incentives that consolidates existing programs, incentives and funding mechanisms for conservation, establishment or enhancement of riparian forest buffers.
- The Bay Program's Local Government Advisory Committee will develop strategies and tools to promote local implementation of flexible land development practices that enhance riparian forest buffer retention, such as density compensations, pollution removal credits for riparian forests in stormwater management plans and calculations, more flexible use of buffer resources, and off-site mitigation or buffer trading within existing regulatory programs.
- Freeze existing regulatory requirements related to management practices and other compatible uses that apply to lands upon which riparian forest buffers are created, so that only those requirements that applied to the pre-existing land will apply thereafter.
Encourage Private Partnerships
- Establish a program in each state to recognize developers, farmers and forest landowners for riparian forest buffer accomplishments.
- Establish demonstration projects to encourage industrial/corporate land owners to establish riparian forest buffer restoration and retention on their lands.
- Convene a workshop to explore ways to encourage land trusts to increase the conservation of riparian forests and stream corridors; include provisions in existing easement agreements for riparian forest buffer establishment and stream enhancement activities; and track lands protected by permanent easements.
- Establish grants through public/private endowments that support efforts by nonprofit and private groups in landowner outreach, education and buffer restoration.
- Ensure an adequate and inexpensive supply of native riparian planting materials.
- Continuously work to involve citizen groups and volunteers in riparian forest buffer planting and management efforts in rural and urban areas and build a cadre of private individuals who can assist government agencies to design, organize and implement stream improvement and riparian restoration projects.
Support science and research
- Update state and federal technical assistance handbooks, manuals and specifications, and provide a field handbook with guidance on the benefits, functions, design, establishment and management of riparian forest buffers.
- Develop a research agenda that addresses information needs regarding riparian forest buffers, such as landowner concerns, economic analysis of costs and benefits, and ecological and physical relationships.
- Use the Chesapeake Bay Program Watershed Model to analyze riparian forest buffer effectiveness and target areas for nutrient reduction.