by Doug Pifer
The old farmhouse we bought sits on 5.67 beautiful acres. A spring fed stream crosses one corner near our barn and then runs parallel to and just outside of the property line to where it flows into Rocky Marsh Run.
For many years I’ve talked about how stream banks need protection from erosion and livestock in order to remain clean and provide healthy habitat for wildlife. It comes down to being a good neighbor. Everybody downstream will appreciate your efforts to protect your part of the watershed.
Now my wife and I can practice what we preach. When we fenced the property we made sure we had a 35-foot buffer between fence and stream bank.
Landowners have been able to get financial assistance for fencing off streams and to get funding for riparian buffers on their land through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service for many years. Once enrolled in a cost-share program, a landowner can get free technical assistance from the state Department of Forestry, which may include the planting of native trees and shrubs.
In West Virginia and Virginia, the Conservation Reserve Program (CREP) provides financial assistance for the fence as well as for planting trees in the 35-foot wide strip of land between the stream and the fence. The farm bill that was signed last year combined two programs, the Wildife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQUIP) for wildife habitat assistance.
Tim Canfield, district conservationist with the Natural Resource Conservation Service, told me last spring that West Virginia also has several non-farm-bill programs that provide assistance for landowners who want to protect their streamside land and create wildlife habitat. Tim put me in contact with state forester Herb Peddicord from the West Virginia Division of Forestry who routinely does buffer plantings for sites like mine.
Last week Herb came and took a look at our streamside buffer area. After looking around he assured me I certainly qualify for assistance. This fall, forestry volunteers will plant native trees of several species on our property.
Some wonderful native trees already grow in and along our streamside. They include a number of young paw paw trees, a black walnut, Kentucky coffee trees of various ages, an enormous hackberry and several large sycamores.
Our place already has excellent wildlife habitat. The stream is wooded along its banks where it adjoins pastureland. Such forest edge habitat hosts deer, wild turkeys, woodchucks, skunks and tree squirrels. We’ve already seen great blue herons, rough winged, barn and tree swallows, eastern phoebes, red-tailed, red-shouldered and Cooper’s hawks, kingfishers, and a barred owl.
To get started with your own streamside buffer in Jefferson County, WV, contact Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) District Conservationist Tim Canfield at 304-263-7547 X 123 or at Tim.Canfield@wvusda.gov. Herb Peddicord, Chesapeake Bay Watershed Forester at the WV Division of Forestry can be reached at 304-229-2665 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My wife and I hope to plant some wildife-attracting wildflowers in our buffer like bee-balm, turtle-head and jewelweed. And we’ll put up a nest box for wood ducks. We’re excited about the possibilities!