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Conservation districts protecting rivers

WAITSFIELD, — This spring, Vermont’s Natural Resources Conservation Districts (NRCDs) have planted trees on over 20 acres of buffers on stream banks and shorelines throughout the state to help protect water quality.
Over the past four years, over 60 acres of riparian buffers have been installed throughout Vermont through the Trees for Streams program, planting over 22,000 trees on nine miles of riverbanks and shorelines.
Buffers give rivers and streams the critically needed space to maintain their natural, dynamic condition. They provide protected forested zones designed to increase shade, restore stream habitat, and trap and remove nutrients, sediment, pesticides, and other chemicals from surface water runoff, including phosphorus, which scientists believe is responsible for the toxic algae blooms in Lake Champlain and elsewhere in the Vermont.
Due to their water quality benefits, the establishment and maintenance of buffers on farms is one of Vermont’s Required Agricultural Practices. The Trees for Streams program provides landowners and communities with a low-cost option to install riparian buffers on their land, including farms, private residences, schools, recreation areas and river corridors damaged by Tropical Storm Irene.
The connectivity and quality of riparian buffers is a key priority for conservations districts around the state. Conservation district staff work closely with private and public landowners to ensure the integrity and continuity of projects through careful planning, training, design, and coordination. Buffers are planted on stable stream banks, and tree species are carefully selected to be consistent with each local ecosystem.
Plantings are carried out by both paid crews and volunteers, including students, landowners and community members interested in protecting and improving water quality, flood resilience, wildlife habitats and the Vermont landscape.
The funding, totaling $390,511 awarded to the Vermont Association of Conservation District (VACD), provided by the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) for the Trees for Streams program has been supplemented by thousands of hours of volunteer labor from community members, the support of technical specialists, and financial contributions made by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Vermont Department of Forests Parks and Recreation, and other contributors for stream bank restoration programs.
Over the past four years, conservation districts have leveraged over $115,000 in partner contributions to match DEC’s investment.
Conservation districts were created throughout the United States after the Dust Bowl era of the 1930’s and 40’s to help landowners and communities enhance soil health, protect water quality, and support the viability of the working landscape. Vermont’s conservation districts promote clean water through education and agriculture, forestry, watershed protection, and urban conservation programs. VACD is the state-wide association of Vermont’s 14 Natural Resources Conservation Districts.

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