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Northeastern Area

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Chesapeake Bay Watershed Forestry Program
Potomac Watershed Partnership
New York City Watershed
Upper Mississippi River Forest Partnership
White River Partnership
The Highlands

Photo of river resourcesOverview

The Forest Service has recognized that solutions to watershed issues require working collectively across mixed ownerships with multiple landowners, jurisdictions, and interests within a watershed. By collaborating with other Federal and State agencies, local communities, private landowners, and organizations, the Forest Service can contribute to the restoration of large watersheds to healthy and sustainable conditions. A watershed approach to implementation can also build greater local ownership and demonstrate measurable environmental change.

The Northeastern Area provides support for a variety of large-scale watershed efforts addressing a wide diversity of ecological and socioeconomic issues over the long-term. For some projects, NA provides full-time coordinators or "Liaisons" to enhance the effectiveness of our interaction with other governments and private partners working within a broad watershed context. Forests are a part of future solutions to watershed problems in these areas. Through these efforts, the Northeastern Area Watershed Program is demonstrating how the conservation, restoration and stewardship of forests maintains and improves water quality and watershed health.

Map of large scale watershed partnershipsWorking at the large watershed scale:

  • Focuses on solutions that link across public and private ownerships
  • Integrates Federal and State agency programs
  • Creates opportunities for new partners
  • Fosters projects and approaches that cross spatial scales – site to watershed
  • Provides a better way to measure and communicate results
  • Creates opportunities and innovative solutions

NA Watershed Partnerships

Chesapeake Bay Watershed Program logo.Chesapeake Bay Watershed Forestry Program

Photo of Chesapeake Bay shoreline.The Chesapeake Bay is America’s largest and most biologically diverse estuary and is home to more than 3,600 species of plants, fish and shellfish and over 16 million people. The United States Congress calls it “a national treasure and a resource of worldwide significance.” The Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP) is a federal-state-local partnership which has been coordinating and managing restoration efforts since 1983. The Northeastern Area has provided leadership for Forest Service involvement in the CBP since 1990 and this remains the largest and most comprehensive watershed effort underway in the Area. Guided by a strategic action plan (hot link this to plan document) , NA coordinates cooperative forestry activities with State Foresters in Pennsylvania, Maryland , Virginia and the District of Columbia and builds policy, programs, and partnerships focused on the role of trees and forests in future restoration of the Bay. Through the provision of technical information, conservation education, policy development, demonstration projects, and active collaboration with public and private groups, NA has made major contributions to a variety of watershed issues. These include: stream and wetland restoration, riparian forest conservation, urban forestry, options for reducing forest loss and fragmentation due to urban growth, and fostering citizen-based efforts. NA provides staffing to the Bay Program and supports the work of a multi-state Forestry Work Group.

As part of the Buffer Environmental Education Series, or BEES, NA has been supporting a series of webinars on the importance of riparian buffer zones to restoring the health of the Bay. Recordings of the webinars held so far are here.

Chesapeake forests, both rural and urban, are crucial to maintaining the water quality of the Bay and its tributaries. They also safeguard wildlife habitat, contribute billions of dollars annually to local economies, protect public health, reduce stormwater runoff, assimilate air pollution, provide recreation opportunities, and enhance the quality of life for the watershed's 15 million residents.  Despite these benefits, forests in the Chesapeake Bay watershed are at risk. In the Bay watershed alone, some 750,000 acres, equivalent to 20 Washington, DCs, have been converted to development since the 1980s. Over roughly the same time period, the Bay watershed has experienced a net loss of forestland at the rate of 100 acres each day. It is projected that over 5.5 million acres of the watershed's most valuable forests will experience increased development by 2030. In addition, there is a critical need for regionally coordinated forestland conservation, restoration, and stewardship plans, and actions by private landowners, conservation groups and governments to improve the health and sustainability of forests and fight threats from invasive species.

To better understand and address these challenges, The Conservation Fund and the USDA Forest Service recently completed a comprehensive report on the State of Chesapeake Forests. This first-of-its-kind report synthesizes more than a decade's worth of data from public and private sources, highlights current forest conditions, forecasts future trends, and outlines key goals and strategies necessary to conserve and restore the forests of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

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Potomac Watershed Partnership logo.Potomac Watershed Partnership

Photo of Potomac River.Begun in 2000 as part of the national community-based Watershed Partnerships Initiative, the Potomac partnership has remained a targeted effort within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. The Cacapon Institute coordinates much of the Partnership’s activities The Virginia Department of Forestry, Maryland Department of Natural Resources Forest Service, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, West Virginia Division of Forestry, George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, and the Northeastern Area State and Private Forestry, and Potomac Conservancy are the primary partners. These agencies and groups have joined forces to implement a comprehensive effort to promote restoration and conservation work from headwaters to the mouth of the “Nation’s River.”

To better respond to areas of greatest need, the PWP targets action in four key subwatersheds, the Monocacy, Antietam , and Catoctin Watersheds in Maryland (469,000 acres) and the Shenandoah Watershed in Virginia (1.4 million acres). Work will gradually expand to other portions of the Potomac River Basin. Click here for more information.

A signature initiative of the Potomac Watershed Partnership is Growing Native. This year-round program helps people make the important connection between healthy forested lands and clean water. It raises public awareness of the impacts of daily choices on land and water resources and empowers individuals to take local action. Volunteers collect acorns and seeds from native trees, which are then provided to state nurseries and gown into seedlings for restoration projects in the same area. So far, Growing Native has energized over 20,000 volunteers who have collected over 25 tons of native hardwood seeds that have been grown into nearly five million tree seedlings. From Scouts to military bases, day care centers to senior citizens and community groups, “get nuts for clean water” every year.

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Watershed Forestry Program logoNew York City Watershed

Photo of Lake Valhalla Hemlock GlenA critical component of the New York City water supply system (link to graphic below) is the forested watersheds of the Catskills and Delaware River in New York. These watersheds produce more than a billion gallons of water daily for the 9 million consumers in the New York metropolitan region. While providing a dependable, clean water supply, these forests also provide wildlife habitat, recreation, scenic beauty, and timber --a working landscape that has supported a forest-based economy for local communities for decades. Watersheds residents and New York City officials recognize the link between water quality protection and the needed to maintain healthy towns and communities that depend on traditional open space forest uses.

The Northeastern Area has been assisting partners in the New York City Watershed since 1996. We have helped state and non-profit groups develop and implement strategies to ensure that forest lands continue to produce clean high quality water while supporting local forest industries.

The Watershed Agricultural Council (WAC) is a non-profit organization funded by New York City, USDA Forest Service and other federal and foundation sources, to coordinate grass-roots efforts in the watershed.

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Upper Mississippi River Forest Program logoUpper Mississippi River Forest Partnership

Photo of Mississippi RiverThe Upper Mississippi River Basin drains over 189,000 square miles of land in the upper Midwest. Prior to European settlement, water and associated nutrients and sediment were delivered to the Upper Mississippi River in two ways: 1) by tributaries bordered by riparian forest and prairie, and 2) by forests, wetlands, and prairies that stored water during wet periods and slowly released it during dry ones. This resilient landscape buffered water flows, and delivered nutrients evenly during the year. Today, more than 80 percent of the watershed has been altered.

The State Foresters from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin and the Forest Service’s Northeastern Area have recognized the role that trees and forests can play in solving ecological problems in the Upper Mississippi River Watershed. They also realize that individually they could not effectively impact the watershed’s problems. Therefore, they have joined together to form the Upper Mississippi River Forest Partnership. The Mission is to provide solutions to environmental problems in the Upper Mississippi River Watershed through targeted efforts in tree and forest restoration, protection, and sustainable forest management. An Action Plan has been developed to focus activity of the partner over the next few years.

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White River Partnership logoWhite River Partnership

The White River Partnership (WRP) is a collaborative effort of the Forest Service (Northeastern Area and the Green Mountain National Forest), other federal and state agencies, George Aiken Resource Conservation and Development Council (RC&D), and local towns and landowners. The White River has experienced significant bank erosion, instability, and degraded habitat for the Atlantic Salmon and other aquatic species. Much of the floodplain has been cleared of its bottomland forests.

The Northeastern Area has been assisting the WRP since 2000 in its efforts to restore the stability and habitat of a scenic river corridor in central Vermont. Goals include restoring wild trout fishery, protecting cropland from accelerated erosion, establishing riparian forests for habitat as well as river stability, and making the river an economic asset to the area. Public participation is a cornerstone of the WRP. Activities underway include watershed assessment, establishment of citizen-based volunteer “Stream Teams” in each tributary of the river, completing restoration projects, outreach to local towns and businesses, and working with local schools to involve students and teachers in restoration and river monitoring.

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Map of Highlands RegionThe Highlands

Photo of New York City skyline taken from RamaposThe more than two-million acre Highlands region provides a green buffer to the sprawling New York City, Philadelphia and Hartford metropolitan areas, providing clean drinking water, vital open spaces and abundant outdoor recreation opportunities to some 25 million people who live within a one hour drive of this environmentally significant and threatened area. Highlands forests supply and protect clean drinking water for over 15 million people, including over half of New Jersey's population, and protect major water supply watersheds for New York City. Although the Highlands have been recognized as "a landscape of national significance," by the US Forest Service, and as a "Special Resource Area" by the State of New Jersey, vital open spaces in the Highlands are increasingly being lost to suburban sprawl, including over 5,000 acres annually in the NY-NJ Highlands alone.

In 1992, the Northeastern Area completed a major study of the Highlands Region including portions of the Passaic, Wallkill, Raritan, Delaware, and Hudson River watersheds. This unique and economically important area provides clean drinking water to over 4 million people in New York and New Jersey communities. As part of this regional effort, NA has supported demonstration projects that have improved forest and watershed information, developed stream corridor protection strategies, protected critical forest lands, and expanded community planning efforts. In 2003, the Forest Service completed an update and expansion of the original study and made recommendations to Congress for needed conservation initiatives to address urban growth, water supply protection, biological diversity, recreation , and forest fragmentation. These recommendations resulted in passage of the Highlands Conservation Act.

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