Audubon PA Supports Streamside Habitat Legislation
New Tool Will Help Create Streamside Habitats
By Lamonte Garber, Senior Agricultural Consultant, Chesapeake Bay Foundation
The needs of birds aren’t much different from our own. Food and water are the absolute basics, but shelter from the weather and a safe place to raise a family are also essential. Forested stream buffers provide these fundamental elements for birds and other wildlife; however, pollution is placing this rich habitat in danger. A new tool is being proposed in the Pennsylvania General Assembly to offer incentives to farmers and other landowners who create and protect these critical riparian habitats.
Audubon Pennsylvania is pleased to be part of a coalition of farm, environmental and business groups that recognize establishing stream buffers and installing best management practices improves water quality and wildlife habitat. As a result, Audubon Pennsylvania has joined the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, PA Farm Bureau, PA Association of Conservation Districts, Lancaster Chamber of Commerce, Pennsylvania Environmental Council, Project Grass, the State Grange, PA Municipal Authorities Association, Juniata Clean Water Partnership, and others in supporting the Resource Enhancement and Protection Act (REAP).
The goal of REAP is to provide transferable business or personal state tax credits to landowners. These tax credits must be used to help cover the cost of implementing management practices that will reduce nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution entering local rivers, streams, and stream buffers. Tax credits worth up to 75 percent of project costs, with a maximum of $150,000 per taxpayer, would be provided for waterway protection projects such as planting forested buffers or installing stream bank fencing.
REAP would allow the tax credits to be sold and transferred to others or rolled ahead for up to 15 years. The program also includes a sponsorship program that enables businesses to finance projects and receive a tax credit for their investment. This bipartisan proposal was introduced last year in the House by Representative Stern (R-Blair), Rep. Daley (D-Washington) and Rep. Hershey (R-Chester) as House Bill 2878. Senator Wenger (R-Lancaster, now retired), Sen. O’Pake (D-Berks) and Sen. Waugh (R-York) sponsored the same legislation in the Senate as Senate Bill 1286. Lawmakers expect to reintroduce both bills early this year.
Programs like Growing Greener, Growing Greener II, and the initiatives of local watershed groups and the agricultural community are making a difference in reducing pollution in our rivers and streams. But the task is enormous. The REAP Program offers a valuable new tool for addressing serious water quality problems and encouraging the creation of critical streamside habitat. To learn more, visit www.cbf.org/reap.