One of the largest riparian buffer restoration projects of the year was completed this April and was situated along the main stem of the Rappahannock River in Flint Hill, Virginia. Friends of the Rappahannock (FOR), Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC), Virginia Department of Forestry, RappFLOW, Boy Scouts, and students from Mountain Laurel Montessori School partnered together to restore 750 linear feet of riparian buffer using native trees and shrubs.  This project totaled .75 acres of new buffer with over 285 trees and shrubs!

Riparian buffers are an essential part of our ecosystems in Virginia and throughout the Chesapeake Bay. They provide a myriad of ecosystem services including temperature regulation, habitat for fish and wildlife, bank stabilization, nutrient uptake, and more. Projects like this are a part of the larger effort to protect and restore the Rappahannock River watershed and the Chesapeake Bay. These projects will help reduce nitrogen, phosphorus, sediment, and bacteria from entering the river and making its way downstream.

Before we began the restoration portion of the project, we invited our students to join us in the river to take some water quality measurements. The students collected and identified a wide range of macroinvertebrates to determine stream health and really get up close and personal with the Rappahannock River. This is an important lesson for the students and the data collected will be recorded and re-sampled in the future to track the success of the completed project.

Photo by Marco Sanchez, Piedmont Environmental Council

Photo by Marco Sanchez, Piedmont Environmental Council


This project was one of eight riparian buffer restoration projects throughout the headwater region this spring and marks the first round of completed projects through our “Headwater Stream Initiative” program. The headwater stream initiative is a partnership with PEC to accelerate the restoration of riparian buffers in six counties in the headwaters of the Rappahannock River. Through this program, interested property owners with river frontage or streams running through their property have access to free technical assistance, design, materials, and installation of riparian buffers to protect and restore their streams, wildlife habitat, and water quality. In its first year, this program has resulted in 6.4 acres of new riparian buffer along 1.32 miles of streams and rivers.

The headwater stream initiative is so fortunate to have partners at the John Marshall Soil and Water Conservation District and Virginia Department of Forestry to support this and many other programs to protect and restore the Rappahannock River watershed.

This project was possible thanks to generous funding from the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Rappahannock Electric Co-op, PEC Krebser Fund for Rappahannock County Conservation, Virginia Environmental Endowment, Virginia Department of Forestry Trees for Clean Water, and the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund.

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