In recent years, the Blair County Conservation District has increased our emphasis on the creation, enhancement, protection and education related to Riparian Buffers. There are two primary types of Buffers – Riparian Buffer and Riparian Forest Buffer. Buffers may occur naturally in undisturbed areas or can be created to protect and enhance areas near streams and waterbodies.
- A riparian buffer is a best management practice (BMP) that is an area of permanent vegetation along perennial or intermittent streams, rivers, lakes, ponds and reservoirs that is left undisturbed to allow for natural succession of native vegetation. A riparian buffer may consist of grasses and forbs, or a combination of vegetation types to include grasses, forbs, shrubs and trees.
- A riparian forest buffer is a specialized type of riparian buffer consisting of permanent vegetation that is predominantly native trees and shrubs that provide at least 60% uniform canopy cover. It is located along perennial or intermittent streams, rivers, lakes, ponds and reservoirs and is maintained in a natural state or sustainably managed to protect and enhance water quality, stabilize stream channels and banks, and separate land use activities from surface waters. Riparian forest buffers can be in place as newly established or existing, where protection is critical.
Blair County has approximately 6,500 miles of stream running through our landscapes (forested, urban and agricultural). Riparian buffers are crucial to the protection and enhancement of the water resources in Blair County and across Pennsylvania. Buffers aid in stabilizing eroded banks, serve as a barrier to prevent most pollutants from entering aquatic environments and will provide wildlife habitat while reducing in stream temperature (a preference of our local trout).
The District, along with local landowners and partners, created an informational DVD entitled "Trees Beside the Water" to use to increase public awareness about buffers. Contact the District to request the presentation of the DVD for public events and meetings.
Riparian Buffer Program
The Blair County Conservation District is also offering grants up to $15,000 to Blair County landowners interested in establishing riparian buffers. As described above, riparian buffers can be a combination of grasses, plants, trees, and shrubs which are planted as permanent vegetation along a stream, river, pond or lake. Grant awards will follow the District's Wetland Mitigation Account Policy with each site evaluated on the District's Riparian Buffer Program Application Procedures and Evaluation.
For more information, we have provided resources through the attached quick links. Should you have any questions related to buffers or for specific information regarding the District's Riparian Buffer Program contact the District's Watershed Specialist.
As with our Riparian Buffer Program the District always promotes the use of Native Plants in any planting project. Native species are species that naturally occur in a community as a result of natural processes of dispersal and range expansion. This term is generally referred to those species found before the period of European contact. Use of Native plants including trees, shrubs, flowers and grasses in your projects limit the spread of invasive species while minimizing planting preparation and future maintenance. Native plants are already acclimated to our local soils, so little soil amendments if any are needed; they're adapted to our local ecosystem including temperature and rainfall; they are more resilient to disease and pests and provide habit (food and shelter) to our native fauna. For information on choosing the right Pennsylvania natives for your needs visit iConserve - Plant Smart.