Last fall, over 3000 native trees were planted on a 12-acre dairy farm in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, through the Alliance’s Sustainable Dairy PA initiative. And on Thursday, July 8th, the Alliance’s agricultural and forestry teams performed routine buffer maintenance on the site. We removed weeds from the tree tubes, checked the stability of the stakes holding the tree tubes up, and used mallets to push them further into the ground if they were loose. If the tree leaves were poking through or were close to the top of the tubes, we removed the bird nets so the tree could grow out of the tube. This maintenance ensures the trees grow straight and the buffer matures appropriately. We hope this buffer will improve the health of the Conowingo Creek, a vital stream flowing into the Susquehanna River. Due to the price of land in Lancaster County, installing a buffer of this size is very costly, but the farm agreed to install it because they felt it was worth protecting the stream and ultimately, the bay. 

Jim Kauffman and Rebecca Lauver of the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay help perform maintenance on a riparian forest buffer that had been planted at Keystone Dairy Ventures LLC in Peach Bottom, Pa., on July 7, 2022. The crew straightened the tubes protecting the young trees and fixed stakes that had become loose or broken. “Tree maintenance isn’t just important, it’s critical,” said Jim Kauffman, Pennsylvania Forests Project Coordinator for the Alliance. “Ninety percent of trees planted would die without maintenance.” (Photo by Caroline Grass/Chesapeake Bay Program)


Staff member Cathleen Anthony straightened the tree tubes to help protect the trees.  (Photo by Caroline Grass/Chesapeake Bay Program)

Why are riparian buffers important? Riparian buffers are important because they reduce erosion, runoff, and emissions and create habitats for native species. The roots of the trees hold the soil together and filter out contaminants in runoff before they reach the water. And the leaves absorb emissions and provide shade which keeps the water cool and oxygen-rich. For those that like to fish, high levels of oxygen and nutrients are required for a body of water to support aquatic life. Vegetation in riparian buffers also attracts birds, insects, and bats which eat mosquitos and other pesky insects. 

(Photo by Caroline Grass/Chesapeake Bay Program)

This blog was written by Sean O’Connor, our LGAC and Communications Summer Intern. He is a current Environmental Studies Major at Franklin & Marshall College. Learn more about Sean here!