Cumberland Times-News


April 10, 2014

New policies will grow better streamside buffers

Well-functioning forest buffers along streams are perhaps the most effective and least costly best management practice we have to restore the Chesapeake Bay.

The largest riparian forest program in U.S. history is the USDA’s Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP). It’s the agency’s flagship program, but since the last Farm Bill expired in 2012, the sign-up for CREP has been spotty.

President Barack Obama signed the new Farm Bill on Feb. 7, but sign-up for CREP will not begin until the “rule-making” and appropriations processes are completed. So, the biggest and best riparian forest buffer program in the United States has been in and out of “dry dock” for two years.

CREP began almost 20 years ago and all six bay states have their own CREP program combining federal, state and private resources. Many CREP contracts are due to expire on Sept. 31, and certainly, many producers will be tempted to convert poorly functioning buffers back to cropland or pasture. To avert this shipwreck and entice people to renew their contracts, we need a new and better policy. What we need is an incentive package to uplift expiring CREP contracts to ensure the buffers are well-functioning forests. I also believe we need to revisit the incentive package for CREP as a whole.

Maryland was the first state in the bay watershed to offer CREP in 1997. Delaware followed in 1999; Pennsylvania in 2000 and Virginia in 2001. Thousands of acres of pasture and cropland have been enrolled and planted to trees.

There were successes and failures. We have learned a lot since 1997 and CREP procedures have evolved to improve performance. Unfortunately, the U.S. Department of Agriculture did not put enough emphasis on managing the buffer once it was planted. We planted it and walked away, trusting nature to take care of things.

In my opinion, more than half of the CREP areas, at least in Virginia, are not functioning as riparian forest buffers because they don’t have enough trees. Many riparian forest buffers were planted, but 10 to 15 years later there is no forest.

Under the old Farm Bill, mid-contract management couldn’t start until year five of a 10-year CREP contract. The cost-share rate for management practices was 50 percent. To greatly improve success, management needs to start the second year of the contract and the cost-share rate needs to be higher. The first three years of a new forest are the most critical for success, so why wait until the contract is half over?

I’d like to see a different kind of incentive, one that lets the participants figure out the details. For example, create a huge incentive payment for achieving 70 percent tree canopy closure in 10 years.

For CREP as a whole, the incentive package needs some tweaking. The rental rates, cost-shares, practice incentive payments and signing bonus are spot on. But the USDA needs to drop the $5 per acre maintenance payment.

We have never addressed the farmer’s biggest objection to putting in fences to exclude livestock from the buffer. “Who’s going to pay to put the fence back up when a flood takes it out?” We have talked about it a lot but no one has come up with a good answer yet. Here’s a suggestion: Offer a flood incentive payment equal to 100 percent of the average cost of the fence subject to flooding.

In other words, give the farmer the replacement cost up front to rebuild the fence. It’s simple and it removes the largest objection to streamside fencing.

Robert Whitescarver

president of Whitescarver Natural Resources Management LLC

CREP technical coordinator for Virginia

Text Only
  • It might not be a problem, but a possibility

    God certainly orchestrates circumstances that cause us to marvel. The recent flood In Cresaptown that Calvary Baptist Church/School endured is proving to be yet another miracle birthed out of devastation.

    July 24, 2014

  • Look to the Jubilee solution to resolve our economic woes

    Following the Lehman banking debacle of 2008, the government sponsored bailout of the banking sector to boost the economy created an illusion of recovery.

    July 24, 2014

  • Common Core curriculum is bad news for West Virginians

    If something is not done soon, the vast majority of American K-12 school children will be taught using dubious, federally backed national education “standards” that have come under fire from across the political spectrum.

    July 24, 2014

  • Please return valuable items taken from woman’s parked van

    On July 8 at 2:33 p.m. my 16-year-old granddaughter Caitlyn Cook and I arrived at Children’s Medical Group for a 3 p.m. appointment.

    July 23, 2014

  • Legion honor guard available to honor veterans at their funerals

    We in the honor guard of Fort Cumberland Post 13, American Legion, performed 196 veterans service in 2013.

    July 22, 2014

  • Remember, we’re not immune to extinction

    I’d like to pose a theoretical scenario to Cal Thomas.

    If a medical specialist said, “Cal, you’ve got a serious physical problem. Do nothing and you’ll die soon. Follow my prescription, which involves certain life-style changes, and there’s a good probability you’ll live, even if your life may be a bit more constrained than now.”

    July 21, 2014

  • America has three branches of government for good reasons

    “Mikulski Calls for Continued Action to Protect Women's Health Following Dangerous Supreme Court Decision” is the heading you will find on Sen. Barbara Mikulski’s website.

    July 21, 2014

  • Tell legislators to do what is right for America’s vets

    Without our veterans and those who made the ultimate sacrifice, where would America be today? It is anyone’s guess, however certainly not the Freedom and Liberty we enjoy.

    July 18, 2014

  • Move over Move over

    Have you noticed, in your travels, that the front end of a police cruiser usually protrudes a bit more than you would expect when the officer has it parked behind another vehicle on the side of the road?

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Use local workers in building new Baltimore Pike travel stop

    As a delegate to the Maryland General Assembly representing Allegany County, and specifically the City of Cumberland, I welcome you to our community as you prepare to construct a Love’s Travel Stop at the above referenced location (on Baltimore Pike).

    July 17, 2014

Latest news
Must Read
House Ads