Gov. Tom Wolf and the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) recently announced a $70 million initiative to fund recreation and natural conservation plans throughout the state. About $80,000 were designated for two projects that are likely to impact Huntingdon County.
A total of $37,000 was designated to the Western PA Conservancy to create a new Juniata River Conservation Plan. That funding will be used to update the plan that was originally created in 2000 by the Juniata Clean Water Partnership. According to Western PA Conservancy Chesapeake Bay watershed manager Jennifer Farabaugh, that group no longer exists so the conservancy decided it would update the plan to assess the work that’s been done, and set set goals for the future.
“Since the last plan has been done, 20 years ago, a lot of work’s been done in the watershed. A lot of conservation projects, some things have changed. I mean obviously all of the stuff going on with the Chesapeake Bay, and trying to reduce nutrients and sediment. We’re just going to try and gather all of that information, and projects that have been done already, and see what kind of recommendations we can make for the future,” said Farabaugh.
Farabaugh says they plan to work with the county conservation districts, municipal authorities, planning commissions and other partner agencies throughout the Juniata River Watershed to design the new plan. They’ll also be holding open door planning meetings to allow for public input as well.
She said having this plan will also allow for more funding opportunities through DCNR.
“By having a plan, it can make any entity that applies to DCNR for implementation funding, if it’s in the plan, eligible for funding to do projects,” said Farabaugh.
She said it will likely take two to three years for the plan to be finalized.
Another $50,000 was also issued to the Chesapeake Conservancy to fund riparian buffer plantings throughout the Susquehanna River Watershed to prevent nutrients and sediment from making their way to the Chesapeake.
That funding will go towards the planting of roughly seven acres of buffers throughout Huntingdon, Centre, Clinton, Lycoming, Union and Snyder counties.
Chesapeake Conservancy senior project manager Carly Dean said this is the fourth DCNR grant of this kind that they have received in recent years. The funding is issued to any conservation agency that is capable of planting the buffers on a first come first serve basis. She said similar funding has already been put to use by the Huntingdon County Conservation District to fund the development of seven acres of buffers in Huntingdon County in the last year.
Dean said that much of this initiative is focused on addressing pollution due to agricultural production. Much of this funding will be targeted at planting buffers along streams that run through or alongside fields and pastures in the area. She says that they have experience on these projects, and enjoys working with the farmers.
“We have some who kind of do all of this themselves. They tell us what tree species they want, and as long as they’re on the approved list of native stuff, we’ll give them exactly what they want, and if they want to plant it, they can do that,” said Dean.
She said some have also used the buffers as an opportunity to increase their harvest. Certain fruit or nut trees can be planted as buffers and later be harvested. Dean said one farmer recently requested a buffer of sugar maple trees that they’ll use to make maple syrup in the future.
Haldan can be reached at email@example.com.