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Water: Nonpoint Source Success Stories



Pennsylvania Adopts Nutrient Management Act -
Package Includes Education, Incentives, and Financial Help

After several years' discussion and debate, Pennsylvania adopted a Nutrient Management Act in 1993. This legislation requires high-density animal farms (those with more than 2,000 pounds of livestock or poultry per acre) to develop nutrient management plans to prevent water pollution, and encourages other farmers to do the same voluntarily. The plans are written for the farmers by nutrient management specialists certified by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. The Nutrient Management Act also directs the State Conservation Commission to develop programs for education, technical assistance, and, to the extent funds are available, financial assistance.

Defining criteria, negotiating regulations

As a first step toward nutrient management, Pennsylvania's State Conservation Commission began to define minimum criteria for nutrient management regulations. The criteria apply to how the plans are written and to standards for manure storage facilities, recommended best management practices, and administrative requirements. The regulations were developed through a negotiation process with the Nutrient Management Advisory Board. This 15-member board includes farmers, agribusiness representatives, scientists, a local government representative, nonfarming citizens, and an environmentalist.

For 3.5 years, the State Conservation Commission and the advisory board developed and proposed regulations, held public meetings and hearings, received numerous comments, and drafted final regulations. The Commission formally adopted the regulations in March 1997 with an effective date of October 1, 1997.

Education and assistance programs

Education and technical assistance programs will be carried out in large part by county conservation districts in partnership with Pennsylvania State University Cooperative Extension, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Environmental Protection, and others. The State Conservation Commission funds conservation districts to provide these services and to administer other aspects of the Nutrient Management Program, such as reviewing and approving plans. A framework for loans, grants, and loan guarantees is included in the regulations, and funding sources are being pursued.


The Nutrient Management Act preempts any local ordinances that are inconsistent with, or more stringent than, its statewide regulations. This unique feature benefits farmers whose farms lie in two or more municipalities. In addition, the Act limits a farmer's liability for penalties or damages in civil actions related to nutrient use, provided that such farmers are fully and properly implementing approved nutrient management plans. The State Conservation Commission is also developing a program to assist farmers with the costs of having to write the nutrient management plan.

CONTACT: Mike Sherman
Division of Watershed Support Bureau of Watershed Conservation
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection
(717) 787-5259

Partners in Wildlife -
The Pike Run Watershed Restoration Project

The primary goal of the habitat restoration project in Washington County's Pike Run Watershed is to demonstrate the effectiveness of including habitat restoration techniques in a watershed treatment program. A secondary aim is to show that landowners are willing to cooperate with government agencies and conservation groups in habitat restoration programs.

This project shows that restoring riparian ares and wetlands benefits landowners by providing direct economic gain -- increased land values and better herd health -- but also by providing excellent habitat for a variety of wildlife.

The project is a partnership venture of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Partners for Wildlife Program. Other partners are the Pennsylvania Game Commission, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and Pasture Systems and Watershed Management Research Laboratory, Ducks Unlimited, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, California University of Pennsylvania, Pheasants Forever, the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania, and interested landowners.

Major funding for the project came from section 319 grant administered by the Department of Environmental Protection, Bureau of Watershed Conservation. Other contributions were provided by cooperating groups and agencies and private landowners. Results are being monitored by Fish and Wildlife Service biologists, USDA researchers, and California University of Pennsylvania students.

Rebuilding habitats improves watershed health

Restoration efforts in the Pike Run Watershed have progressed rapidly. Since Spring 1994, approximately 48,500 feet of streamside habitat have been fenced on 15 properties, and 22 stone ramps have been installed for controlled cattle access and crossing. In addition, 12 alternative livestock watering structures have been constructed to provide a clean water supply and eliminate the need for livestock to enter the stream.

A total of 40 wetland acres in Pike Run Watershed has been restored by fencing cattle out of degraded wetlands, blocking tile drains, filling ditches, and constructing low-level earthen dams. More than 8,500 trees and shrubs have been planted in the riparian zones and restored wetlands of Pike Run.

Approximately 112 acres of native warm season grasses have been planted in the Pike Run project area. These grasses contribute significant environmental benefits. They provide cover for ground-nesting birds, erosion control on upland soils, and a filter for surface runoff. Landowners are permitted to harvest or graze these grasses after July 1, when most ground-nesting birds have fledged. Warm season grasses grow well in dry conditions and can be used for grazing between the growing seasons of other grasses.

Nothing succeeds like interest

Landowner interest and participation in the Pike Run Restoration Project contribute to its success. Landowners have been involved in every aspect of the project, from planning where to locate cattle crossings, access gates, and watering structures to clearing trees and brush from fence lines and mowing to control weeds in the planted areas. They have also spread the word to their neighbors about the benefits of participation in the project. Landowners also help document the success of the restoration; they report wildlife sightings, streambank revegetation, and visible improvements in water quality.

This project shows that restoring riparian areas and wetlands benefits landowners by providing direct economic gain increased land values and better herd health but also by providing excellent habitat for a variety of wildlife. Indeed, the Pike Run Watershed Restoration Project has been so successful that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service chose the project as a national model for habitat restoration.

In June 1996 the Richard King Mellon Foundation awarded $750,000 to the California University Foundation to fund several watershed restoration projects modeled on the Pike Run Project. This new Farmland Habitat Project will include 5,000 acres in Fayette, Westmoreland, Montour, York, Berks, Centre, Erie, Franklin, and Mercer Counties. In all, nine watersheds will be included in the project planning.

CONTACT: Dave Putnam
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
(814) 234-4090


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