Northeast US: Chesapeake Bay’s Forestry for the Bay

Since the 1980s, the Bay watershed has lost an average of 100 acres of
forest land per day to development. This month marks the completion of
my first year coordinating the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay’s
Forestry for the Bay, an education and outreach program that promotes
sustainable forest management to private landowners. Although I have
been steeped in Bay issues for many years, 2008 has given me the
opportunity to delve into an area that I believe has not received
enough recognition or resource allocation within restoration efforts:
the conservation and management of private forestland.

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There is little debate as to the crucial function our forests provide
for the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay. Our forests prevent more
than 180 million pounds of nitrogen from reaching the Chesapeake Bay
each year. That’s more than three times the annual nitrogen reductions
from all sources over the last 20 years. In addition, forests provide
other vital services such as cleaning the air and filtering drinking
water, reducing stormwater flow, providing habitat, providing
recreation and contributing to the economy. Forests also sequester
large amounts of carbon from the atmosphere.

According to modeling
conducted at the Chesapeake Bay Program, these forests reduce the
amount of nitrogen from the watershed more than all conventional
nonpoint source best management practices. The remaining forests are
becoming more fragmented and face new pressures like invasive flora
and fauna, overbrowsing by deer, high-grade harvesting (cut the best
and leave the rest) and air pollution. All of these inhibit forests
from providing their vital ecosystem services. Forest conservation and
management has not been without its advocates. There has been a legion
of landowners, nongovernmental organizations, educational
institutions, government agencies and others who have been working
tirelessly for these ideas for years. Although the Chesapeake Bay may
not be in the forefront of their minds-or in their minds at all-their
effort to practice and promote stewardship of the land and its
resources are crucial in the restoration of our failing estuary.

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