The health of the Chesapeake Bay starts with the water that flows off the land and into tributaries of the Bay. There are 288,000 miles of riparian waterways that form the Chesapeake watershed. Many of these tributaries lack sufficient riparian forest buffers—a critical component of the system. Riparian forest buffers function as filters to reduce sedimentation and nutrient loads in the watershed, improving the conditions of the immediate streams and all water heading downstream to the Bay. Restoring riparian forest buffers is one of the most sought-after practices for the Bay States to reduce these pollutants, which often come from farm lands. The goal is to have a minimum of 70 percent of the riparian area in the watershed forested. Based on the number of streams in the Bay watershed, and an estimation of 55 percent of the land being forested, a target of 900 new miles of riparian forest buffers every year through 2036 is needed to reach the 70 percent threshold. To address this problem, a group of leaders from around the Chesapeake initiated the Riparian Forest Buffer Initiative. The initiative included a process whereby Bay States could look at how this practice has been delivered and how it could be improved. One need addressed by all of the States was for training to improve delivery and performance.
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