In its tireless efforts to preserve the natural beauty of Chester County, the work of the Brandywine Conservancy has helped keep the area unspoiled and maintain the hundreds of streams flowing through miles of rich, gently rolling land, writes David D. Shields, Associate Director for Land Conservation, for the Brandywine Conservancy blog.
The Brandywine Conservancy started its activities in Honey Brook Township fifteen years ago with the goal of protecting the beautiful land and the unique way of life for the area. Since then, its staff has expanded from assisting with zoning and planning, to helping landowners preserve their farms through the county’s Agricultural Land Preservation Program. Last year saw a major milestone, as 25 percent of the entire Township became permanently protected.
The majority of the land belongs to an Amish community, a Plain Sect, which takes pride in its ties to the land. For them, farming is a way of life as land and traditional methods get passed down through generations.
The Conservancy also works on protecting and improving the quality of water in the area, making sure that half a million downstream residents have healthy drinking water. As part of this initiative, the Conservancy staff has been working closely with local farmers to prepare farm conservation plans which specify Best Management Practices designed to preserve the valuable soil and curtail pollution. To further that aim, the Conservancy staff has been securing grants to help pay for these initiatives.
One of the most important new measures for water protection is to focus on the banks of streams to protect them from cattle by planting fenced areas with trees and shrubs. By doing so, it creates a forested riparian buffer which helps filter out pollutants, steadies the stream banks, as well as providing shade for the water.
This is in stark contrast to not too long ago when farmers were asked to cut down trees to plant as much land as possible. However, thanks to the Conservancy’s efforts and a better understanding of the impact trees have on water quality, this is changing.