Forest landowner Peter Brown stands next to Blue Lick, a headwater stream of the Savage River.

Forests are the best land use for reducing excessive sediment and nutrient inputs into the creeks, streams, and rivers that flow into the Chesapeake Bay. Trees prevent severe soil erosion, they trap and take up nutrient pollution before it reaches waterways, and through their shade and inputs of leaves, stems, and other biomass, trees help to regulate healthy aquatic ecosystems. It’s for these reasons that the most pristine streams in the Chesapeake Bay watershed are also the ones most heavily forested.

However, not all forests are made the same. Their individual capacity to provide the environmental benefits we rely on depend on the health of the forest itself. Poor timber management, limited road erosion control, and invasive pests can reduce forest health significantly, lowering their capacity to trap nutrients and sediment. Sound forest management is crucial for maintaining this public benefit.

In Garrett County, Maryland along the Savage River and Blue Lick tributary, private landowner, Peter Brown, manages the forests around one of Maryland’s few remaining unfragmented brook trout catchments. When Brown purchased the property in the late 2000s, he inherited an unhealthy forest. In 2011, Brown protected 105.45 acres of forest under conservation easement. Since then, he has made significant strides to improve the forest health, including planting riparian forest buffers and other forest management practices.

Assessing the floodplain on Peter Brown’s property along the Savage River in Maryland.

In recent years, the integrity of Peter Brown’s efforts are at risk due to a poorly stabilized, rapidly eroding forest road running alongside the Savage River on the property. A series of severe storms in the summer of 2013 damaged the road, and challenges finding financial support prevented the landowner from making the necessary road repairs.Sedimentation is one of the greatest threats to brook trout development, and poorly stabilized roads are considered to be the major source of erosion and sediment within forested areas. Most eroded soil ends up in streams, where it diminishes all aquatic habitat, especially brook trout.

Thanks to a recent grant from Patagonia’s World Trout Grant Council, the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay will stabilize 3,400 feet of this forest road along the Savage River in Spring 2016 as part of the Chesapeake Forest Fund. The Alliance directs Chesapeake Forest Fund contributions into forest restoration actions using rigorous methodologies that produce measurable outcomes. These outcomes improve the overall health and economic well-being of local communities through the Chesapeake region. This road stabilization project will reduce sediment loads into the Savage River by an estimated 12,240 lbs per year.