A special Riparian Forest Buffer Panel will begin meeting in April to develop recommendations and set goals for a new Bay Program policy aimed at restoring streamside forests in the watershed.

Streamside, or "riparian," forests are seen as a potentially important long-term tool to improve water quality and habitat along the tens of thousands of miles of rivers and streams that supply water to the Bay.

Riparian forests protect water quality by stabilizing river banks and reducing nutrient runoff. They also provide food and shelter for many forms of aquatic life. Forests are the natural streamside environment for almost all of the Bay's drainage basin, as they once covered more than 95 percent of the Chesapeake watershed. Today, about 60 percent of the watershed is forested.

The Bay Program Executive Council - made up of the governors of Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania, the mayor of the District of Columbia, the EPA administrator, and the chairman of the Chesapeake Bay Commission which represents the Bay state legislatures - called for such a policy at its meeting last October.

Recommendations from the panel are to be completed in time for the council's 1996 meeting.

Aided by a technical team of scientists and others with expertise in related issues, the panel will gather information about the current status of streamside conditions throughout the watershed and examine trends in streamside land use.

It will also try to define what constitutes an effective buffer - including how wide it should be - in different settings. It will target research priorities and develop quantifiable goals for streamside forest restoration.

The panel will examine ways to promote streamside forest restoration, such as incentives, financing mechanisms and other tools.

It will also review how a riparian forest policy may be integrated with the tributary nutrient reduction strategies being developed by the states; with non-tidal wetland policies; with local land use planning efforts; and with state and federal land use and resource protection policies.

At least two meetings with "stakeholders" in each of the Bay states is planned to gather input from farmers, developers and other landowners who would be affected by a riparian forest policy.

The panel meetings, stakeholder meetings and coordination with the technical team will be handled by the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay.

Panel members represent each of the Bay jurisdictions, federal agencies, Bay Program committees and subcommittees, local governments and the Chesapeake Bay Commission.

Members include:

  • Maryland:

    Eric Schwaab, Director,
    Maryland Forest Service

    Thomas W. Simpson, Coordinator,
    Chesapeake Bay Agricultural Programs,
    Department of Agriculture.

  • Virginia:

    James Garner
    State Forester

    H. Kirby Burch, Director,
    Department of Conservation and Recreation

    Kathleen W. Lawrence, Executive Director,
    Chesapeake Bay Local Assistance Department.

  • Pennsylvania:

    James Grace, Director
    Bureau of Forestry

    Mike Krempasky, Director,
    Bureau of Land and Water Conservation,
    Department of Environmental Resources;

  • District of Columbia:

    Sylvia D. Whitworth, Watershed Coordinator,
    Environmental Regulation Administration,
    Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs;

  • Federal agencies:

    Michael T. Rains, Director,
    State and Private Forestry, Northeast Area,
    U.S. Forest Service

    Jeri Berc, State Conservationist,
    Natural Resources Conservation Service,
    U.S. Department of Agriculture

    Robert Pennington, Chesapeake Bay Field Office,
    U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

  • Bay Program Subcommittees:

    • Living Resources Subcommittee

      Verna Harrison, Director,
      Chesapeake Bay Program Office

    • Maryland Department of Natural Resources; Land, Growth and Stewardship Subcommittee

      Mike Thomas, Secretary of Administration,
      Virginia Office of the Governor

    • Monitoring Subcommittee

      Paul Schwartz, Executive Director,
      Susquehanna River Basin Commission

    • Nutrient Subcommittee

      Royden N. Powell, Assistant Secretary,
      Maryland Department of Agriculture.

    • Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee:

      Ian Hardie, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics,
      University of Maryland,

      Louis "Sandy" Sage, Academy of Natural Sciences of Pennsylvania,
      Center for Environmental Research.

    • Citizens Advisory Committee:

      David Brubaker,
      Pennsylvania Agricultural Industries Association.

    • Local Government:

      Marsha Hanson, Office of the Board of Supervisors,
      Fairfax County, Va.

      James Wheeler,
      Pennsylvania Association of Township Supervisors.

    • Chesapeake Bay Commission:

      Ann Pesiri Swanson,
      Executive Director.