Buffalo Creek Watershed Initiative
What is it?
Buffalo Creek Watershed Initiative is a group of residents and stakeholders led by Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania committed to the stewardship of the Buffalo Creek Watershed. The initiative serves to promote, conserve and develop the ecological, cultural, and recreational assets of Buffalo Creek, its tributaries, and its surrounding landscape. Additionally, many groups are working in isolation and are unaware of other groups doing complementary work; the goal of ASWP is to ensure communication between the different active groups in the watershed.
Groups involved in the watershed include:
- Armstrong County Community Foundation
- Armstrong County Historical Society
- Arrowhead Chapter of Ducks Unlimited
- Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania
- Butler County Conservation District
- Butler-Freeport Community Trail
- Butler County Historical Society
- Freeport Renaissance
- Freeport Public Schools
- Friends of Harrison Hills
Other Groups in Southwestern Pennsylvania:
- Butler Outdoor Club
- Basscasters of Butler
- The Bluebird Society of Pennsylvania
- Moraine Trails Council
- North Country Scenic Trail
- Three Rivers Wet Weather
- Venture Outdoors
Ten Projects Recommended By the Watershed Conservation Plan
There are many projects that ASWP's Watershed Initiative may not be able to undertake--for example, only municipalities can change their zoning laws--but this is a list of projects and changes that the initiative is invested in, and where possible will work to achieve. To view the entire list of action items for the watershed, visit the Buffalo Creek Watershed Conservation Plan page.
ASWP has expanded the amount of watershed material available online. We plan to use this space to keep you abreast of developments and opportunities in the watershed, and to inform stakeholders when portions of the plan have been implemented.
Invasive Species Eradication
ASWP has received a small amount of funding to begin eradication of Japanese Knotweed, the watershed's most troublesome invasive species. Knotweed eradication projects are on the agenda for summer 2009. Because knotweed is so tenacious, its eradication is a priority for the health of the watershed.
Buffalo/Little Buffalo Stream access
Buffalo and Little Buffalo Creek can be and are already used for fishing, kayaking, canoeing, and other types of recreation. Although the creeks are a great potential community resource, access to them is limited, and most of the waterfront lies on private land. The Audubon Society of Western PA has received a grant for canoe access; the coalition has begun to work on the question of where a boat put-in should be located, and has been talking to local landowners about possible locations.
Butler-Freeport Community Trail
The trail will ultimately run twenty-one miles from Freeport to Father Marinaro Park in Butler. Right now, seventeen miles have been completed and the rest are under construction. The trail organization is all-volunteer, but have a number of ongoing projects.
Half the trail is in the watershed, while the other half lies outside. A number of the trail council's efforts at the moment are directed at the (unfinished) Butler end of the trail. The trail council has just purchased the old Herman Station, and has plans to turn it into their new headquarters, with a three-room bed and breakfast, bicycle and cross country ski rental, and a small store. Renovation of the house will take an estimated $500,000.00, and a timeline is in development. Already, the trail is an important open space resource for the watershed; it is also important because of its ability to draw visitors from neighboring communities and counties. The completed trail will serve an enhanced role as a local and regional resource.
A riparian buffer is a strip of vegetation along a stream bank. They serve to filter pollutants (for example, from auto or agricultural runoff) from entering the water. They also provide nutrients to water-dwelling species and are especially useful in preventing erosion. In flood-prone areas (like southwestern PA), riparian buffers are an important part of stream health. The watershed initiative will work with landowners on reestablishing riparian buffers where they have been lost, and may work with other environmental organizations on landowner education.
Animal monitoring programs
The watershed is home to a number of threatened or endangered species, as well as some destructive invasive species and the watershed coalition would like to work with local organizations to begin monitoring those animals, and then take steps to protect them or eradicate them, as needed. Endangered species include the Massassauga Rattlesnake and the Indiana Bat; the Wooly Adelgid and Emerald Ash Borer are two species of insects threatening watershed tree populations.
Greenways and Recreation plans
Armstrong County is in the final stages of a recreation plan, and Buffalo Township has also completed a recreation plan. Historically, rural communities have been concerned not with conservation but with a deficiency of active open space (playgrounds, sports fields, etc). However, there is recognition of the value of rail-trails, as well as open space designed without a particular purpose in mind, and hopefully communities will pool their resources to protect both types of open space as the area faces continued pressure from development.
Agricultural Conservation Easements
An easement is a conservation tool that can be bought and sold like real estate. A landowner can sell an easement to his property, for example, where they relinquish the right to build anything. As long as the right to build is owned by an outside organization, the land can be bought and sold like any other land and can be used for crops or forest, but there can be no development. Easements are an excellent way to preserve rural character and prevent suburban sprawl, and do not affect landowners' ability to use the land as they are already using it. The watershed conservation plan suggests an increase in the amount of land under easement by encouraging private landowners to donate or sell easements to conservation groups working in the watershed.