Riparian buffers, vegetative areas alongside waterways, provide critical protection to our stream systems. Buffers provide cooling shade, increased absorption of stormwater run-off, and vital habitat for wildlife. In the Schuylkill Highlands region, nearly 40 residents of Chester County participated in a spring Audubon PA Plants for Birds riparian enhancement planting project, funded by a William Penn Foundation grant for the Delaware River Watershed Initiative.
Over 200 native plants were added to residential landscapes in the Schuylkill Highlands region, primarily in the pilot townships of West Pikeland and West Vincent. Both townships participated in Return on Environment (ROE) studies that establish a monetary value for natural resources and the free services they provide to residents. ROEs for West Vincent and West Pikeland Townships show that nature provides at least $28 million and $22 million, respectively, in natural system services, such as stormwater management, outdoor recreation, and healthcare savings attributed to open space and exercise. Enhancement of riparian areas through programs like Audubon’s Plants for Birds is a key recommendation for protecting and preserving high quality waterways. Riparian buffers provide over $3 million worth of ecosystem services in West Pikeland and West Vincent Townships, totaling over $6 million in savings for residents. ROE studies were completed in four Schuylkill Highlands townships through a collaboration between Audubon PA, Keystone Conservation Trust, and Greener Planning.
Read more about the program and learn how to get involved here.