by Sarah Hagan, Virginia Department of Forestry
When you picture a riparian forest buffer what pops into your head? Neatly mowed rows of trees protected by Tubex tree tubes? We’ve been planting those types of forest buffers for so long it’s hard to conceptualize anything else. But what if you could establish a buffer for a fraction of the cost without having to plant a single tree? Natural forest succession happens when we leave a site undisturbed – grass and weeds turn to shrubs, shrubs turn to trees, and eventually we have a forest. A forester’s job is to help manipulate that natural cycle and speed the process along.
It’s fairly common to think that all plants growing are good, but taking a closer look you may find intruders within your native forest. Non-native plants are unfortunately becoming commonplace for most landscapes and without management can wreak havoc on our natural landscapes and ecosystems.
Do you want to grow forests for clean water?!
The James River Association (JRA) and the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) are here to help landowners across the Middle James watershed to restore forest buffers along local waterways. A forest buffer is an area of trees and shrubs between a stream and open land that filters soil, nutrients, and pollution before they reach the stream.
This spring, we worked with Conservation Services Inc. and their dedicated tree planting crew to install 1,300 seedlings with tree shelters on a farm in Albemarle County. This 4-acre site was the first riparian buffer project funded through the Virginia Environmental Endowment grant which is supporting the new James River Buffer Program
What have we been doing at the James River Association? Planting trees, trees, and more trees! Our staff, along with several loyal volunteers, got their hands dirty this spring installing forested buffers in the middle James River watershed. These projects headed up by our new Middle James Restoration Manager, Anne Marie Roberts, would not have been possible without tremendous volunteer efforts and willing landowners who allowed us to install buffers along creeks and streams on their property.
Anne Marie Roberts, Middle James Restoration Manager, James River Association
Prior to joining JRA she worked for the Robert E. Lee Soil & Water Conservation District coordinating the Amherst Watershed Protection Program since 2004. She developed and managed the Amherst Tree Buffer Program for over 10 years, earning her the Chesapeake Bay’s Forest Champion Award in 2016.