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Missouri Landowner Like Riparian Forest Buffer Trees

Missouri's Conservation Showcase






Missouri Landowner Like Riparian Forest Buffer Trees

After spending 29 years in a forest-fire lookout tower, it would have been understandable if Lawrence Buchheit preferred seeing fewer trees after retiring in 2001 from his career with the Missouri Department of Conservation. But Buchheit keeps planting more trees.

"I've been planting trees ever since I was a little kid,"he says. "I've always liked trees, and I've liked working with them."

Dana Seibel, NRCS resource conservationist, and Lawrence Buchheit check a tree planting near a sink hole.These days, Buchheit especially enjoys working with trees that protect water sources from contamination by creating buffers near streams and sinkholes. Buchheit and his wife Shirley have been establishing riparian forest buffers on their property near Perryville, Missouri. They have utilized various USDA programs that make it affordable to establish buffers by offering combinations of one-time incentive payments, cost-share to establish trees and shrubs, and annual payments in exchange for 10-year to15-year contracts.

In the last five years, Buchheit has utilized the Continuous Conservation Reserve Program (CCRP) to establish 32 acres of riparian forest buffers that filter the runoff from marginal pastureland adjacent to Rocky Branch Creek and Black Haw Branch. He also has used CCRP, administered by the Farm Service Agency, to establish 3.6 acres of buffers to filter runoff draining into sinkholes in a crop field.

"The purpose of a riparian forest buffer is to improve water quality,""says Dana Seibel, resource conservationist with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. "The wider the buffer, the more protection it provides. He always tries to put in the maximum width that the program will allow."

Shirley and Lawrence Buchheit enjoy planting riparian forest buffers on their property near Perryville.Seibel and Mike Keeley, Missouri Department of Conservation forester, worked in partnership with Buchheit to develop a conservation plan that includes riparian buffers, fencing, livestock exclusion and tree-shrub site preparation and planting. Seibel says no one has to sell Buchheit on the benefits of riparian forest buffers. In fact, she says Buchheit helps sell the practice to others.

"He's been a good advertiser because he has sites along the interstate that are visible to the public when they drive by day-to-day,"Seibel says. "He also uses word of mouth."

Buchheit has another reason to sell the concept of riparian forest buffers. He operates a commercial tree planting business in five counties in southeastern Missouri. He estimates that he has planted more than 1,000 acres of trees in the five-county area. He adds that CCRP is a good selling point. The program pays about 90 percent of the initial cost to establish trees and shrubs for riparian forest buffers. That one-time, cost-share payment is in addition to annual, per-acre payments for the life of the contract.

"It's a good program. It provides a good incentive for people to establish buffers,"Buchheit says. "A lot of people at first say they don't want to plant (riparian forest buffers) because it will cost too much. When I explain to them that their out-of-pocket expenses will only be 10 percent, they look at it a lot differently."

Buchheit says that in addition to proper species selection and planting, the success of a buffer also is dependent upon caring for the trees after they are planted to ensure successful establishment. Chemical control of vegetation that competes for moisture and nutrients is the most important thing, he says. In some instances, financial assistance may be available for purchasing chemicals needed to establish the trees and shrubs.           

Buchheit says he is proud that he is doing something to protect water quality and to improve the land.

"During different tours that I took in the military, I saw abuse of the land,"he says. "It always frustrated me. I want to do something to help. This helps the whole environment."

Buchheit says he is grateful for the programs that help him establish riparian forest buffers, and for the technical assistance he has received.

"As far as the help out of the office at Perryville, they are great,"he says. "They have to do their jobs well in order for me to do a good job, and they do. Everybody I've worked with has been super helpful."

Buchheit says he doesn't miss his time spent in a tower high above the forest. He says he much prefers contributing to the trees"cause from ground level.

"I like planting them,"he says.

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