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Ask a Scientist: Q&A with David Wise

DaveWise2CBF's David Wise, second from left, receiving his Chesapeake Forest Champion award at October's 2011 Chesapeake Watershed Forum. Photo by Adam Wickline/CBF Staff.


In October, CBF's Pennsylvania Watershed Restoration Manager David Wise was recognized as a Chesapeake Forest Champion with the "greatest on-the-ground impact" award. Wise has been a tremendous leader in restoring riparian forest buffers throughout the state with the Pennsylvania Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) partnership. Since 2000, Pennsylvania CREP has restored more than 22,000 acres of forest buffers—more than all the other Chesapeake Bay states combined. We recently sat down with Wise to learn about the importance of this restoration work. 

What is the most significant role of trees?
For streams, the key role of trees is to create the conditions that maximize the good that streams can do. In the eastern U.S., streams are adapted to forested conditions. The life in streams is at its peak with the temperatures, light levels, food types, and physical conditions created by forests. For example, forested portions of streams have five times more living things and remove two to nine times more nitrogen pollution than portions of the same streams running through healthy grass buffers. Streams purify water for our society at no cost, but to do their best work, they need optimal conditions—they need trees.

How did you get involved in CREP and the effort to restore forested buffers? 
In 1998, a group of conservation professionals, both government agencies and NGOs were developing a proposal for a Pennsylvania CREP, and as a new CBF staffer, I was invited to be part of the process.

Is there a stream that you have worked on that exhibited substantial improvement through the restoration/buffer process?
Two streams come to mind. Valley Creek on the Chester/Lancaster County border has had cows fenced out and buffers restored on about five of seven total farms. About seven years later the populations of pollution-sensitive stream insects (the canary in the mineshaft) has tripled. The researcher examining the data gave the technical answer—"it's working."

The other stream is Lititz Run in northern Lancaster County. It has benefitted from buffers and much more work by a long list of local players, including some hardworking trout enthusiasts. It starts in the center of town by a big factory, runs through an industrial area, past sprawl, the sewer plant and then farms. Through all of this, the stream holds onto life. With lots of work, a few years ago brown trout successfully spawned on the site of the oldest forest buffer I know of, one where CBF helped the Donegal Trout Unlimited group. When I heard this, it gave me goosebumps. There’s a lot of resilience in nature—a lot of forgiveness.

—CBF Staff

Learn more about CBF's work on the CREP program.


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jay falstad

Great article! This holiday season, plant a tree with the family, it's great fun and great for the environment too!

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