Pennsylvanians will soon have an easy way to help boost the number of pollution-fighting trees in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and it will be as easy as checking a box when applying for a driver’s license.
The Keystone Tree Fund, which was passed by the state Senate, will create a check-off box on online driver’s license and vehicle registration applications. If checked, the voluntary $3 donation will support two Department of Conservation and Natural Resources programs, the Riparian Forest Buffer Grant and TreeVitalize.
The Riparian Forest Buffer Grant pays for riparian forested buffers (trees and plants that stop pollution from flowing into waterways) in Pennsylvania’s parts of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. TreeVitalize helps to educate communities about the benefits of trees and supports forestry programs throughout the Commonwealth.
The measure has made its way to Governor Tom Wolfe’s office, where it awaits his signature. Lyndsay Kensinger, Deputy Press Secretary for the Office of the Governor, confirmed that the governor is planning to sign the bill.
Harry Campbell, Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) executive director in Pennsylvania, said in a statement that the Keystone Tree Fund will mean numerous benefits and a cleaner future for the nearly 40,000 miles of Chesapeake Bay waterways throughout the state that are vulnerable to pollution.
“Along streams, trees filter and absorb polluted runoff, improve soil health, and cleanse drinking water sources. They also cool the water and improve habitat for important critters like brook trout and the Eastern hellbender,” Campbell says. “Along streets they help cleanse and reduce runoff going into storm drains, beautify communities, and sequester carbon.”
Campbell adds that the Keystone Tree Fund will also support Pennsylvania’s Watershed Implementation Plan, which has a goal of 95,000 acres of forested buffers throughout the state’s Chesapeake Bay waterways. Pennsylvania has faced criticism for falling behind on its “pollution diet” goals contributing to the overall Chesapeake Bay cleanup efforts.
“Passing the Keystone Tree Fund is a positive step for the Commonwealth’s communities and creeks by giving Pennsylvanians the opportunity to invest in the future of cleaner rivers and streams,” Campbell says.
–Laura Adams Boycourt