Trees planted to help improve Chesapeake Bay watershed

TIMBERVILLE, Va. (AP) — Steve and Rose Harvey brought their kids, Geneveive, 6, and Oliver, 3, from Front Royal to plant trees at a farm in Timberville Saturday (Dec. 7) as part of an effort to have healthier livestock and streams and rivers.

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But to the Harveys, it was also about teaching their children the importance of being environmentally conscious.

“It takes an effort to keep our environment safe and healthy — we can’t be passive about it,” Steve Harvey said. “We are aware of this need and decided we wanted to help.”

He said the No. 1 thing people can do to slow down and reverse the damage that is being done is to plant trees.

More than 300 trees were planted Saturday at Nico and Barbara Sutmoller’s farm through a project spearheaded by the Shenandoah Valley Soil and Water Conservation District and the Natural Resources Conservation Service, with support from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

The agencies have worked together on projects like the one at the Sutmollers’ property as part of an ongoing effort to help clean up the Chesapeake Bay watershed, which includes Rockingham County.

According to an Environmental Protection Agency study, around 27% of the phosphorus and 60% of the nitrogen entering the Chesapeake Bay originates from cropland.

The project has been funded by the National Water Quality Initiative under the Natural Resources Conservation Service and Virginia’s Agricultural Cost-Share Program, which is administered by the Shenandoah Valley Soil and Water Conservation District.

According to Cory Guilliams, district conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, around 75% of the project was funded by the conservation district.

According to the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, through the cost-share program, some people are paid a flat rate or straight per-acre rate. Others are cost-shared on a percentage basis up to 100%.

The cost-share program’s practices can often be funded by a combination of state and federal funds, reducing the landowner’s expense to less than 30% of the total cost.

Agricultural producers with a conservation plan approved by their soil and water conservation district can take a credit against state income tax of 25% of the first $100,000 of actual out-of-pocket expenses for agricultural best management practices. The amount of the tax credit may not exceed $17,500 or the total state income tax obligation.

There will be more than 500 trees planted on the farm in the future.

Jala Tyler, a senior biology major with a focus on environmental science at James Madison University, helped plant the trees at the farm.

“I made this type of stuff a part of my major. So, I really care a lot about the environment and keeping it clean,” she said.

She said it’s important to make the world a better place.

“We can make the little changes in our daily lives to help the planet,” she said. “Seeing people come out to be a part of this effort just warmed my heart.”

More than 30 people helped plant trees.

The trees act as a buffer to help filter polluted runoff from entering the stream, as well as the cattle and horses having access to the stream and depositing bacteria into it.

As part of the project, the livestock will be fenced in and an automatic water foundation will be put in for the animals.

The planted trees along the stream will also give shade to the water, which will keep it cool.

During autumn when the leaves fall, they will land in the river, providing a source of food.

Guilliams said many people don’t do the project because it’s expensive to put in a new water system.

“This is just such an important project to take on because it really is going to help our environment and help these rivers and streams that eventually dump off into the Chesapeake Bay,” he said.