Thursday, April 9, 2020

Initiative to Convert Lawns to Meadows and Forests

This story appeared in a recent edition of the Bay Journal. The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay has partnered with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources with an initiative whos goal is to convert 10,000 acres of lawn to natural areas. If successful, this could have a tremendous impact on our environment (reduced air pollution and improved wildlife habitat) and the water quality of our state’s streams. Here are a few Penn State Extension resources that may be helpful in this endeavor.

Landscaping for Wildlife: Trees, Shrubs, and Vines
Neighborly Natural Landscaping in Residential Areas

By Ad Crable
April 8, 2020
Photo by Ryan Davis
Well-shorn lawns are still the norm on the grounds of parks, schools, churches, hospitals, business parks and neighborhoods. While better than exposed bare earth, such swaths of green are still environmental minefields.

Rain flushes dog poop, pesticides, fungicides and other chemicals from those grassy surfaces into local streams. The springtime spreading of fertilizer to keep grass thick and green is a troublesome source of nutrients that are harmful to the Chesapeake Bay.

Close-cropped grass grows from compacted dirt that doesn’t soak up much stormwater. The short, monoculture grass has no wildlife value. The army of lawnmowers needed to keep the grass cut to socially acceptable length emits air pollution at three times the rate of automobiles.
And keeping everything a tidy green eats up mowing dollars that could be better spent on the missions of churches, schools and the like.
“It’s kind of tyrannical. Lawns control us more than we control them,” said Ryan Davis of the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay. “One of the most insidious parts of a lawn is it doesn’t do anything. It’s just sterile and sitting there.”
Pennsylvania has come to the same conclusion, launching a campaign to convert 10,000 acres of mowed grass by 2025 into meadows or forests in parts of the state that are in the Chesapeake drainage. There are an estimated 1 million acres of lawn in Pennsylvania’s portion of the Susquehanna River watershed alone.
The lawn conversion initiative, also known as conservation landscaping, is contained in Pennsylvania’s latest official plan for helping to clean up the Chesapeake. It’s the first time that lawn conversion has been included as a Bay cleanup strategy for Pennsylvania, and a priority one at that. The project will count toward the state’s nutrient reduction commitments.
The plan seeks to reduce stormwater runoff which, according to the state-federal Bay Program, is the only source of pollution on the rise. The goal is to convert half of the 10,000 acres into meadows and half into forests.
The first focused project to move that charge forward has already begun with a swirl of interest.
To read the rest of the story click here.

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