Spotlight on Tree Planting Enthusiast Ryan Davis

By Max Sano || Staff Writer

Chesapeake Forests Program Manager Ryan Davis picking up two dozen native tree saplings, donated by F&M Biology Professor Timothy Sipe, to plant in Lancaster county.

The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay is a regional conservation organization represented by multiple stakeholders that include conservation, business, agriculture, academics, and government to galvanize political will and lead conservation initiatives protecting the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. 

They have offices in Washington D.C., Annapolis, Maryland, Richmond, Virginia, and Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I was a project intern for the Lancaster office with Ryan as my supervisor.

Can you tell me more about what the Alliance is doing with the donated trees?

Sure! Yeah, the trees will get planted in riparian forest buffers in Lancaster and nearby counties. PA has a goal of reforesting 85,000 acres of streamside by 2025, and while we’re not even close to being on track, the Alliance is working hard to get acres planted and get the job done in PA.

When you say “PA has a goal,” is that referring to the state’s environmental department, the PA Alliance office, or something else?

That’s the commonwealth goal to meet EPA’s total maximum daily loads (TMDL), which was set in 2010. It’s just a small part of the plan, which also has many other goals related to agricultural conservation and urban stormwater work. One is to convert 10,000 acres of upland lawn to forest or meadow.

What are some of the reasons why we aren’t on track for that goal?

There’s simply not enough people and funds. I’m nearly killing myself to get as much done as possible, and we can only churn out maybe 100 acres a year. So there need to be 850 versions of me, and there is only a handful who do similar work and run similar programs.

The Alliance is doing well with funding from grants, but there are only so many grants out there. Even if we had enough people and enough money, we wouldn’t have enough trees to plant because nurseries are still only providing a limited demand available.

We’re behind the 8-ball in every way. And we’ve had this goal for a decade but only in the last few years are we starting to move towards where we need to be.

A citizens’ climate Corps would really help you out, huh? It seems like the goals and benchmarks and strategies are there. It’s just a matter of organization and manpower?

Well, it certainly would help. But we need a lot of expertise, like from hundreds of seasoned ecologists, if we’re going to do a good job. Like hundreds of seasoned ecologists. And they would all need salaries. Plus, the average cost of just the trees, shelters, and maintenance is $5000 per acre. So we would need $425 million just for supplies, without accounting for salaries, benefits, and other materials like fencing and stream crossings that are also needed. [In order to establish this public/private program as the] status quo is prob about $10 million annually (including salary) and again, that’s just for this one priority in the plan.

Senior Max Sano is a Staff Writer. His email is msano@fandm.edu.

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