RIPARIAN FOREST BUFFER PANEL
                     CHESAPEAKE BAY PROGRAM


October 1, 1996


To the Members of the Chesapeake Bay Executive Council:

For the past 18 months, the Riparian Forest Buffer Panel has
worked to respond to directive #94-1, signed by you in October
1994. As we transmit our report to you, we wish to highlight some
of the aspects of our work which we believe are important for
your understanding of the report.

You directed us to recommend, where appropriate, a definition for
forest buffers, a quantifiable goal and timetable, ways to
strengthen communication and partnerships, and ways to support
other stream protection efforts.  We worked hard to develop
consensus recommendations on all four points.  While we believe
that the policy advice we are forwarding to you will, if
implemented, greatly enhance our collective efforts to manage,
restore and protect our streams and their riparian areas, we
found it impossible to agree on a numeric goal.  We believe the
three goals are quantifiable, but they do not contain the numeric
aspect you requested.

Members of the Panel expressed a range of strongly held views on
the subject of numeric goals.  Some believe specific targets are
needed to accelerate the effort and have accountability.  Others
believe the current inventory information and differences in
buffer requirements make it impossible to set reasonable goals,
while others expressed concern that numeric targets are
inconsistent with a voluntary program.

We want to say on behalf of the Panel that while there was
disagreement on a few substantive issues, we found much
agreement.  The representatives of private sector groups brought
to our attention issues and concerns related to implementation.
A large number of outside stakeholders provided invaluable
insights and advice.  What we learned is that the protection,
restoration and enhancement of riparian areas will be
challenging, but we believe it is essential to the restoration of
the Bay and its tributaries.  We urge you to take steps to
implement recommendations and to report periodically on progress.
We need to move forward together, in good faith, and with a
collective commitment to do what is right for the Bay and for the
citizens of this watershed.


Sincerely,


///signed///                                ///signed///
James W. Garner                             Louis E. Sage, Ph.D.
Chair                                       Co-Chair




                          FINAL REPORT
                             OF THE
                  RIPARIAN FOREST BUFFER PANEL


INTRODUCTION

     In October 1994, the Chesapeake Executive Council adopted
Directive 94-1 which called upon the Chesapeake Bay Program to
develop a set of goals and actions to increase the focus on
riparian stewardship and enhance efforts to conserve and restore
riparian forest buffers.  The Council recognized that forests
along waterways are an important resource that protects water
quality and provides habitat and food necessary to support fish
and wildlife survival and reproduction.  The Council appointed a
panel to recommend a set of policies, recommend an accepted
definition of forest buffers, and suggest quantifiable goals.
The Panel was a diverse group of thirty-one members, comprised of
federal, state, and local government representatives, scientists,
land managers, citizens, and farming, development, forest
industry, and environmental interests.  This report contains our
principal findings and recommendations.  Background material
which describes in more detail the technical basis for the
recommendations and elaborates on the implementation options is
available as a Technical Support document.
     The Panel adopted a set of principles to guide its
deliberations.  These principles formed the basis of the Panel's
work and are reflected in its recommendations:

  *  Develop goals based on sound science
  *  Recommend flexible strategies
  *  Focus on voluntary incentive-based approaches
  *  Increase private and non-profit partnerships
  *  Enhance, streamline, and coordinate existing government
     programs
  *  Be responsive to landowner needs and ensure stakeholder
     involvement
  *  Respect private property rights


FINDINGS

     Based on stakeholder input and an extensive review of the
science, programs, experience, and opportunities related to
riparian forest management, the Panel found that:

  *  Streams and rivers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed offer a
great diversity of form and function.  Changes on the landscape
have altered many streams and shorelines from their natural
condition.  There are an estimated 111,000 miles of streams in
the watershed, including both perennial and intermittent.  The
small first and second order streams are often the most critical
in terms of downstream water quality and living resources.  As a
result of aerial surveys, it is estimated that more than 50
percent of the Bay's waterways are buffered with 100 feet or more
of forest on each side.

  *  A stream and its riparian area function as one.  The
condition of the riparian area helps determine the quality and
integrity of stream channels and habitat available for fish and
other wildlife.  Riparian areas interact with the flow of surface
and groundwater from upland areas and play an important role in
water quality.

  *  A sound scientific foundation exists to support the nutrient
reduction and ecological values and functions of riparian forest
buffers and to promote their use as a management tool.

  *  Riparian forest buffers will contribute to accomplishing
Chesapeake Bay Program goals for nutrient reduction (especially
the year 2000 cap), tributary strategies, submerged aquatic
vegetation restoration, fish passage, and habitat restoration.

  *  While many approaches to stream protection and riparian
buffers exist, few have targeted the conservation and restoration
of riparian forests.

  *  Landowners see riparian forest buffers as more permanent
than other stream protection alternatives.  They consequently
need more incentive and/or more convincing to establish this type
of buffer on productive land that is generating or has
significant potential to generate nonforest income.

  *  Existing programs are not adequately funded, integrated, or
coordinated to effectively target riparian forest buffers and
track accomplishments.

  *  Although streamside vegetation of any kind is desirable,
forests provide the greatest number of benefits and highest
potential for meeting both water quality and habitat restoration
objectives.  There are situations throughout the watershed where
it will not be possible to provide forest buffers.  In these
instances other buffers will provide some of the desired
benefits.


Land Use-Specific Findings from Stakeholder Meetings

     The Panel also recognizes that existing land uses affect the
approach to buffers.  Related to these major land uses, the Panel
found that:

  *  On Agricultural land:

     Riparian forest buffers are currently used as a management
practice on some farm fields and pastures and as a component of
some conservation management plans.  With increased effort, the
promotion of riparian forest buffers can become a part of routine
farm conservation planning efforts.  A discussion of standards
for their use can be found in the Technical Support document to
this report.
     Site-specific conservation plans must incorporate landowner
objectives and the range of practices necessary to achieve
healthy and functional riparian systems.  Restoration of degraded
conditions and long-term success will depend on a flexible
riparian system conservation approach that examines a farm in
relation to its adjacent properties and the stream's relationship
to its watershed.  Implementing successful riparian system
conservation includes 1) encouraging practical management
measures that limit soil disturbance and reduce potential water
quality impacts, 2) increasing shade, habitat, and food for fish
and riparian-dependent wildlife, and 3) maintaining economic
viability of farming operations.
     Teams such as the USDA State Technical Committees can assist
in targeting, coordinating, and tracking implementation of
federal, state, and local programs for riparian forest buffers
and riparian system conservation on agricultural land.
     The Panel found that successful implementation of buffers on
agricultural land will require 1) enhanced educational programs
for landowners, 2) technical support and financial incentives
aimed at agriculture, and 3) public recognition of the value and
importance of farm land in this rapidly urbanizing watershed.


  *  On Forested Land:

     Riparian forest buffers in the context of forest management
raise different issues than other land uses.  Because the land is
already forested, efforts are focused on retaining forest land
and on techniques for its future management.  On lands where
forests are managed for silviculture, clearly accepted guidelines
already exist for "streamside management zones" and are widely
practiced on public lands, by industry, and by private
landowners.
     Forest management, which includes timber harvesting, is
compatible with maintaining functioning riparian forest buffers.
Deriving income from management of riparian forests should be
integrated with a wider range of management objectives.
     The success of a riparian forest buffer retention strategy
relies in part on creating a favorable climate for continued
forest land ownership.  Actions which will contribute to this
climate include: 1) education and voluntary participation by
landowners and forestry professionals with riparian forest buffer
criteria, 2) recognition by the public that managed forests are a
beneficial land use for water quality and habitat, and 3)
appropriate technical support and financial incentives for
riparian forest retention and recommended management.
     The Panel found that the work underway in the forest
industry, especially the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, could
and should serve as a model.

  *  On Developed and Developing Lands:

     Implementation of riparian forest buffers in developed areas
is different from agricultural or forestry settings.  First, the
changes resulting from impervious cover of buildings, streets,
and other infrastructure are permanent and typically result in
cumulative changes in the hydrological regime.  In contrast, the
changes resulting from farming and forestry can be reversed.
Secondly, the per-unit value of developed land is significantly
greater than the per-unit value of farm or forest land.
     A strategy to implement riparian forest buffers on developed
lands must include a recognition of these unique considerations.
For high-density urban environments, the focus should rely
primarily on education, citizen involvement, and general
awareness of the importance of natural systems and people's
connection to them.  Restoration should be promoted where
feasible, and through local outreach with grassroots and civic
organizations.  Recommendations for urban and suburban
alternatives to a riparian forest buffer must be developed for
those areas where development has already precluded the
maintenance or establishment of a forest buffer.
     In developing areas, there is a greater opportunity to
conserve environmental benefits.  Maintaining structural,
hydrological, and functional integrity of riparian systems is an
essential objective of development planning and construction.
     A key component to successful implementation of riparian
forest buffers in developed and developing areas is to support
existing federal, state, and county laws and local ordinances.
In addition, local zoning and subdivision ordinances,
comprehensive land use plans, regional or watershed-specific
stormwater management plans, and riparian system conservation
plans are appropriate mechanisms.  Effective implementation of
riparian forest buffers on developed and developing lands can
result from a set of guidelines that ensure consistency and
clarity, but remain flexible to site-specific needs.
Specifically the Panel was impressed with approaches which: 1)
allow flexibility for expansion, contraction, and averaging with
respect to buffer width criteria so as to account for the 100-
year flood plain, steepness of slope, adjacent wetlands, limited
lot size, stormwater ponds, etc., 2) provide for flexible uses
within the riparian forest buffer, including freedom to harvest
timber for firewood or commercial use, consistent with state
forestry harvesting guidelines, 3) promote riparian forest
buffers as part of stormwater management planning, and allow
pollution removal effectiveness of buffers to be credited in
stormwater management plans and calculations, and 4) provide
flexibility for development density compensation where forest
buffers are required or proposed so that developers can establish
the same number of lots on the parcel outside the riparian forest
buffer as would be allowed without a riparian forest buffer.
     These findings, which are supported by background
information included in the Technical Support document, formed
the basis for the recommendations which follow.


RECOMMENDATIONS

     The Executive Council asked the Panel to consider and make
recommendations, where appropriate, for 1) accepted definitions
of forest buffers which address ecologically beneficial
characteristics and functions of riparian forests while
accommodating resource management activities appropriate within
the riparian zone, 2) a quantifiable goal or goals to serve as a
long-term target for the maintenance and restoration of riparian
forests, as well as a timetable, 3) ways to strengthen
communication and partnerships to better coordinate policy and
program actions, and 4) ways to support other stream protection
efforts.


1)  Definition
     Clarity of definition is important, perhaps more so than
consistency from one jurisdiction to the next.  The Panel
recommends that the Executive Council adopt the following
definition of riparian forest buffers, to be applied throughout
the Bay watershed:

     Riparian Forest Buffer:  An area of trees, usually
     accompanied by shrubs and other vegetation, that is adjacent
     to a body of water which is managed to maintain the
     integrity of stream channels and shorelines, to reduce the
     impact of upland sources of pollution by trapping,
     filtering, and converting sediments, nutrients, and other
     chemicals, and to supply food, cover, and thermal protection
     to fish and other wildlife.

     Width is an important consideration in the overall
effectiveness of forest buffers.  The appropriate width of the
forested buffer will vary depending on site conditions,
topography, adjacent land use, and the benefits one is trying to
gain by installing a buffer.  Technical guidance on buffer width
can be found in the Technical Support document as well as various
other sources.


2)  Goals
     The Panel recommends that the Council adopt one long-term
and two immediate goals:

   *  Assure that every stream in the watershed is protected by a
      riparian forest or other buffer. - Conserve existing
      forests along streams and shorelines.
   *  Increase basin-wide riparian forest buffers through
      restoration benchmarks to be established by each signatory
      in 1998 with the aim of accelerating the present rate of
      reforestation in the riparian area.  Priorities should be
      focused on those areas that will provide the greatest
      benefit.


3) Policies
     Maintaining existing buffers along all streams and
shorelines will not be an easily-achieved goal.  Restoring forest
buffers in areas where they are most needed will also be
difficult.  However, the present level of effort is inadequate,
and the Executive Council is urged to enable the realization of
these goals by making adequate staff resources, technical
assistance, tax relief, financial incentives, and education
programs available.
     The Panel believes that adoption of five policy
recommendations will help enable the signatories to establish and
develop implementation strategies.  These five recommendations
address the remainder of the Panel's charge.

Recommendation 1:  Enhance Program Coordination and
                   Accountability Establish mechanisms to
                   streamline, enhance, and coordinate existing
                   programs related to buffers and riparian
                   system conservation.

Suggested actions include:

  *  Establish coordinating teams to address how riparian forest
buffer retention and restoration goals are being achieved.  These
teams should report annually to the Chesapeake Bay Program
Implementation Committee.

  *  Use federal, state, or other sources of funding to establish
personnel in each jurisdiction capable of specializing in
landowner outreach and education and local program assistance for
riparian forest buffer design, establishment, management, and
education.

  *  Encourage public land managers to review current practices
and policies (e.g. mowing, wildlife management, encroachment,
disturbance, and practices on leased land) and to develop plans
and goals for riparian system and riparian forest buffer
protection and restoration.

  *  Evaluate and modify existing federal and state cost-share
and assistance programs to simplify the process, streamline
implementation, and ensure that they support a wide range of
riparian system conservation practices, including planting trees
and shrubs, maintenance of plantings until successfully
established, use of temporary fencing, and development of off-
stream water sources.

Recommendation 2:  Promote Private Sector Involvement Build
                   partnerships with the private sector to help
                   support the promotion and implementation of
                   riparian forest buffer retention and
                   restoration activities.

Suggested actions include:

  *  Establish a recognition program in each state to reward and
recognize developers, farmers, and forest landowners for riparian
forest buffer accomplishments and proper riparian system
conservation.

  *  Establish demonstration projects which enlist
industrial/corporate landowners to establish riparian forest
buffer restoration/retention on their lands.

  *  Convene a workshop to explore ways to facilitate and
encourage land trusts to increase the conservation of riparian
forests and riparian systems, to include provisions in existing
easement agreements for riparian forest buffer establishment and
stream enhancement activities, and to track lands protected by
permanent easements.

  *  Improve the ability of non-governmental partners such as
private, nonprofit, and watershed organizations to assist in
landowner outreach, education, and buffer restoration efforts by
establishing grants through public/private endowments supported
by multiple funding sources.  Ensure an adequate and inexpensive
supply of native riparian planting materials.

  *  Continuously work to involve citizen groups and volunteers
in riparian forest buffer planting and management efforts in
rural and urban areas and build a cadre of private individuals
who can assist government agencies to design, organize, and
implement stream improvement and riparian restoration projects.

Recommendation 3:  Enhance Incentives
                   Develop and promote an adequate array of
                   incentives for landowners and developers to
                   encourage voluntary riparian buffer retention
                   and restoration.

Suggested actions include:

  *  Compile a list of existing federal and state tax advantages,
tax relief provisions, conservation easement tax benefits, tree
planting credits, and other tax options that currently exist and
market these tools to landowners.

  *  Deliver to Congress an Executive Council proposal to amend
inheritance tax law and provisions that unintentionally result in
conversion of forests and agricultural land to other land uses,
making opportunities for riparian forest retention difficult.

  *  Create flexible state income tax incentives (such as tax
credits for tree planting, retention, or easement expenses in
buffers) to promote riparian forest buffers.

  *  Enable, encourage, and, where necessary, amend legislation
to ensure that local governments have the authority to promote
preferential property tax strategies.

  *  Implement, within existing state land trust or conservation
easement programs, mechanisms which emphasize riparian forest
buffers and riparian systems.

  *  Develop strategies and tools to promote local implementation
of flexible land development practices which enhance riparian
forest buffer retention, such as density compensations, pollution
removal credits for riparian forests in stormwater management
plans and calculations, more flexible use of buffer resources,
and off-site mitigation or buffer trading within existing
regulatory programs.

  *  Encourage agencies to evaluate their regulatory and
conservation programs and develop approaches that will not
penalize landowners who restore buffers.

Recommendation 4:  Support Research, Monitoring, and Technology
                   Transfer

                   Increase the level of scientific and technical
                   knowledge of the function and management of
                   riparian forest and other buffers, as well as
                   their economic, social, ecological, and water
                   quality values.

Suggested actions include:

  *  Update state and federal technical assistance handbooks,
manuals, and specifications and provide a field handbook
providing guidance on the benefits, functions, design,
establishment, and management of riparian forest buffers.

  *  Develop a research agenda that addresses information needs
regarding riparian forest buffers, such as landowner concerns,
economic analysis of costs and benefits, and ecological and
physical relationships.

  *  Conduct an analysis of riparian forest and other buffer
effectiveness and targeting for nutrient removal and living
resource habitat enhancement.

  *  Commit to repeating the inventory of riparian forests in the
Chesapeake Bay watershed at periodic intervals, continually
refining the technological capabilities and resolution of the
inventory, in order to accurately measure progress and program
accomplishments against the baseline findings of the inventory
completed in 1996.

Recommendation 5:  Promote Education and Information
                   Encourage Bay signatories to implement
                   education and outreach programs about the
                   benefits of riparian forest buffers and other
                   stream protection measures.

Suggested actions include:

  *  Publish state directories for riparian forest buffer and
stream protection and restoration assistance programs for use by
landowners, citizens, and local governments.

  *  Coordinate the development of educational materials and
tools (such as public service announcements, videos, posters,
fact sheets, displays, brochures, field tours, Internet homepage,
etc.) and implement a basin-wide public outreach and education
program about the benefits of healthy streams and riparian areas.

  *  Initiate ongoing training and education programs as
appropriate for developers, loggers, the forest industry,
consultants, and citizen groups as well as other resource
professionals and decision-makers to communicate the importance
of riparian forest buffer and riparian system conservation,
methods of protection and establishment, and the use of watershed
and stream assessments.

  *  Ensure coordination among agencies providing landowner
assistance to develop and implement a strategy for enhanced
outreach, technical assistance, and education related to stream
restoration and riparian forest buffers on private and public
lands.

  *  Establish and publicize riparian forest buffer and riparian
system conservation demonstration sites in each jurisdiction
which are representative of all physiographic regions and land
uses.


CONCLUSION

     The environmental benefits of riparian forest buffers
presents the Executive Council with a unique opportunity to
develop a Bay-wide policy that will help in meeting the Bay
Program's goals to reduce nutrients and restore habitat for
living resources.  The Panel urges the Executive Council to adopt
these recommendations and will call upon their respective staffs
to implement a comprehensive riparian system conservation policy
which includes forest buffers as an important component.
Revisiting the goals of the policy, evaluating programs, and
redirecting actions as necessary will be important as the
Chesapeake Bay Program monitors progress in adding forest buffers
and improving riparian system conservation.  The adoption and
implementation of a riparian system conservation policy will
assure that the huge effort mounted by the Executive Council over
the past decade continues to advance, while simultaneously
respecting the partnerships that have been forged, the legal
responsibilities of the various levels of government, and the
evolving knowledge base which forms the foundation of this work.