Riparian Rangers

Help Forest Buffers Take Root!

Riparian Rangers is a long-term volunteer project for Pennsylvania residents who want to ensure riparian forest buffers successfully take root! An Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay “Riparian Ranger” will visit a newly established site monthly during the growing season (March-November) for up to 3 years and in some cases, even longer!

Active Riparian Rangers: click here to access the Riparian Rangers Resources Page

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Riparian Rangers is an Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay project started in 2019 with the goal of providing much-needed maintenance support on newly planted riparian forest buffers. Many traditional riparian forest buffer programs do not provide much follow-up after the initial planting, which often results in the sites struggling due to invasive species pressure, flood damage, animal browsing, and low tree survivorship.

There is growing awareness that tree plantings need regular maintenance if they are going to be successful, but the work can take too much time or expertise for landowners to do it all themselves. It can also be too much work for the organization that facilitated the planting to do on their own. That is where Riparian Rangers step in!

Our Riparian Rangers volunteers provide maintenance support to riparian forest buffer tree planting efforts within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. The goal of the Riparian Rangers project is to boost collective capacity and success by monitoring and tending to forest plantings monthly during their growing season. This extra care yields a higher tree survival rate and more effective restoration efforts. The Chesapeake Bay Watershed is in desperate need of more streamside forest cover, and Riparian Rangers are here to help.

Branching Out

When Riparian Rangers first started, it only addressed sites that the Alliance planted. However, there are numerous other organizations within the watershed that plant riparian buffers, and these buffers are also in need of maintenance support. In 2021, the Alliance began expanding the Riparian Rangers project to support sites of other buffer planting organizations.

The new structure adds “Branches” (pun absolutely intended) of Riparian Rangers which creates regional groups that are run by a locally-based Branch Leader.

Together, volunteer organizations, buffer planting organizations, Branch Leaders, and the Alliance work to create buffer sites and assign Riparian Rangers to help tend to these sites. The end goal of this program is to ensure all riparian buffers within the Chesapeake Bay have access to regular monitoring and maintenance for the first 3 years after their planting.

Juniata County Branch

  • Branch Leader: Mindy Musser, Juniata County Conservation District,
  • Number of sites covered: 6
  • Number of members: 8

York County Branch

  • Branch Leader: Emily Neideigh, York County Conservation District,
  • Number of sites covered: 18
  • Number of members: 27

Cumberland County Branch

  • Branch Leader: Shawn Fabian, HRG and Yellow Breeches Watershed Association,
  • Number of sites covered: 9
  • Number of members: 16

Dauphin County Branch

  • Branch Leader: Kristen Koch, Penn State Extension,, and Jen Fetter, Penn State Extension,
  • Number of sites covered: 10
  • Number of members: 15

Union County Branch

Mifflin County Branch:

  • Branch Leader: Bailey Coder, Mifflin County Conservation District,
  • Number of sites covered: 1
  • Number of members: 1

Maryland Riparian Ranger branch information coming soon!

What do Riparian Rangers do exactly?

Riparian Rangers visit riparian forest buffer plantings monthly over the growing season, from March-October. During these monthly checks, they analyze their site for any concerns to report back to the Alliance while completing hands-on maintenance. This maintenance includes removing bird nets, fixing fallen stakes, ensuring tree shelters are on properly, removing and reporting invasive plants, and making sure the trees are not being smothered by weeds.

Removing bird nets, fixing tree shelters, and removing tree shelters (shown left to right) are all tasks Riparian Rangers complete to ensure healthier forest plantings.

Well-maintained sites, like the plantings at the park (left) and farm (right) pictured above, will be much more successful in the long run. Riparian Rangers help to address issues early on and the Alliance has already seen dramatic improvements in the health of our tree plantings.

Riparian Rangers’ Impact

Want to get involved?

Are you passionate about environmental restoration, trees, and being outdoors? If so, the Alliance would love to have you join our Riparian Ranger team! Every spring and fall, the Alliance plants additional acres of trees and we need your help to take care of them. Riparian areas are in critical need of reforestation and you can assist in this process through the Riparian Rangers project.

Fill out the form below and a forest team member from the Alliance will reach out to you!

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How far are you willing to travel to a maintenance site?*
Are you willing to visit a maintenance site each month?*
Which of the following sites are you comfortable working on? (select all that apply)*
How much physical activity are you comfortable with? (select one)*
Are you willing to visit a maintenance site each month?*
Are you willing to regularly communicate via email and fill out online reporting forms?*
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