West Virginia Potomac Tributary Strategy

Forested Riparian Buffer Demonstration Projects

Update: click here for early results (July/August 2005)

Update 2: click here for 2nd & 3rd Year Results

June 2007 Deer exclusion fencing experiment at the Yellow Spring site designed to test an innovative and relatively low cost method to protect riparian forest plantings from destructive or even catastrophic damage from deer browsing activities.

Forested riparian buffers are wide strips of trees located along river and stream corridors.  They provide many important benefits, including shade to keep river water cool and wildlife habitat.  They also significantly reduce the flow of pollution from the land into our rivers by filtering nutrients, sediments and other pollutants from runoff as well as removing nutrients from groundwater, allowing cleaner water to flow through to the stream.

Forested riparian buffers are an important component of West Virginia's Potomac Tributary Strategy to reduce the transport of nutrients and sediment into West Virginia waters and the Chesapeake Bay.  It is anticipated that hundreds of acres of these buffers will be planted in the coming years. 

Riparian planting at Yellow Spring, WV.


The West Virginia Potomac Tributary Strategy Implementation Committee (WV Department of Environmental Protection, WV Conservation Agency, WV Department of Agriculture, The Freshwater Institute, Cacapon Institute) and USDA-NRCS partner Steve Ritz facilitated the planting of two forested riparian buffer demonstration projects in April 2005.  These projects will provide highly visible demonstrations of this important Best Management Practice and test various methods to measure relative success. 

Measuring success is critical, because the long-term success of riparian plantings in this region has thus far been poor.  The first site selected for this demonstration project was near Yellow Spring in Hampshire County, along the banks of the Cacapon River.  This site has, sadly, been a highly visible demonstration (see sign at left) of how difficult it is to establish trees in this area.  Saplings were planted and replaced repeatedly at this site in the mid-1990s (click here to view a Flash slide show of the original planting).  They were not watered or protected from deer browse and few, if any, have survived (see picture above).

Sign at Yellow Spring, WV from failed riparian planting in the mid-1990s.


The second site (at right) is located along the South Branch of the Potomac River downstream of Romney, WV.  The stream was fenced in the late 1990s by the US Fish and Wildlife Service Partners with Wildlife program.  The landowners hoped that substantial natural tree recruitment would occur at the site over time, but it has not.  

At each site, native hardwood trees were planted more or less on a 20' X 20' spacing, and shrubs and smaller trees were planted on a 12' X 12' spacing.  Each plant has a weed mat to reduce competition and retain moisture.  At the Yellow Spring site, all saplings were planted in tubes, primarily for protection from browsing.  At the South Branch site, half of the trees and shrubs were planted with tubes and half without.  Provisions have been made to water each site during dry periods.  Success of each method will be measured. 

Riparian planting along the South Branch.


Species Planted Yellow Spring South Branch
White Ash 15 15
Shagbark Hickory 15 15
Sugar Maple 15 15
Northern Red Oak 15 15
White Oak 15 20
Yellow Poplar 20 32
Black Walnut 15 15


35 78


35 75
Washington Hawthorne 35 75
Hazelnut 35 75
Flowering Dogwood 35 -
Chinese Chestnut 35 -
Total Count 320 430


Tubes or no tubes - the South Branch planting will help us decide which is better.


The West Virginia Potomac Tributary Strategy Implementation Committee is in the process of selecting additional sites for planting in the spring of 2006.  The purpose is to test alternative planting methods, including the effects of different tube heights on grazing damage, and to have demonstration plots in high priority watersheds.

This project is funded by the Chesapeake Bay Program and administered by the WV Conservation Agency and WV Division of Environmental Protection.  




Cacapon Institute - From the Cacapon to the Potomac to the Chesapeake Bay, we protect rivers and watersheds using science and education.

Cacapon Institute
PO Box 68
High View, WV 26808
304-856-1385 (tele)
304-856-1386 (fax)
Click here to send us an email
Frank Rodgers,  Executive Director

Website  made possible by funding from The Norcross Wildlife Foundation,  the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Virginia Environmental Endowment, NOAA-BWET, USEPA, The MARPAT Foundation, and our generous members.