An Environmental Journey

By: Erin Tate
By: Erin Tate

The Shenandoah Sojourn continues for a group of local conservations. They're rafting down the South Fork of the Shenandoah River, stopping along the way to meet others, like them, who are concerned about the Valley's watershed.

"In the past, the environmentalists used to be against industries or agriculture or whomever, but I think we need to work together. It's all tied together," says Steve Reeser of the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

That sort of connected community makes for a cleaner community. In an effort to keep nitrates, phosphates, sediment and sewage out of the Chesapeake Bay, farmers in the Valley are leading the state in river-smart practices.

The vegetation visible along the river is called a riparian buffer. It's a strip of trees and plants that will help create a healthy wildlife habitat, help prevent erosion and help keep too many nutrients from getting into the river. And creating those sort of buffer zones is becoming more and more popular among riverside landowners and farmers.

"We have to take care of the land and water or we won't be in business anymore because land and water is what farming is all about," says Richard Morris, a farmer on Six Oaks Farms just south of Elkton.

A recently-passed farm bill is helping him fence livestock from streams and grow trees to filter crop and pasture run-off. The water that passes through his farm will be cleaner when it reaches the river.

A little further downstream sits a farm owned by the Merck Pharmaceutical company. It's spending $10,000 to install a riparian buffer like Morris.

Merck's Manager of Environmental Engineering, Tedd Jett, says, "I think we're going to see more and more of this sort of thing in the future if we're going to get to the level of water quality everybody wants to achieve."

Industries, farmers and concerned citizens, all serious about their stewardship of the Valley's most precious natural resources.

To learn more about the Pure Water Forum that's sponsoring the river trip or to attend their watershed round table this weekend, log on to www.purewaterforum.org


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