A top priority of the Natural Lands Project is improving water quality. We have specifically chosen two of the most highly ranked Best Management Practices (BMPs) – wetland and native warm season grass buffer installation – to help tackle failing Chesapeake Bay (and its tributaries) health. According to the Chesapeake Bay Program, “The Chesapeake Bay ecosystem remains in poor health and the Bay continues to have polluted water, degraded habitats and low populations of many fish and shellfish species”. The entire Chester River and its tributaries scored a less than satisfactory grade of “C+” on the 2013 Chesapeake Bay Habitat Health Report Card.
We hope to add to the efforts already underway in the Chester River watershed to help improve our score on future report cards.
Strategically adding native warm season grasses between agricultural land and creeks, rivers, wetlands, or wet woods will prevent excess nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus from flowing into our waterways. These grass buffers will also stop sediment runoff from entering the streams, creeks and rivers. New wetlands will replace areas of marginal agricultural land and hold nutrients and sediment keeping it on the land. These new habitats will be designed to maximize water quality capabilities while providing much needed habitat for grassland birds, native pollinators and waterfowl.
Isabel Junkin Hardesty, the Deputy Director of our partner organization ShoreRivers says, “The Natural Lands Project balances the interests of water quality, wildlife, and farming in a way that improves the quality of life for everyone in the area. At the Chester River Association (ShoreRivers), we are ecstatic to see the level of interest in agricultural practices that will help restore both the Chester and a popular game bird.”
Some of the Benefits of Native Warm Season Grass Buffers:
- Slow water runoff
- Remove up to 85% or more of nutrients and pesticides
- Remove up to 75% or more of sediments
- Serve as a source of food, nesting cover and shelter for wildlife
- Stabilize stream banks
- Provide setbacks from agriculture fields
- Reduce downstream flooding