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News Release

Remote Sensing Project Multiplies Evidence of Farm Conservation

Contact:
Molly Hippensteel
717-237-2208


The saying “everything flows downstream” is especially important in a place like Pennsylvania, where the land-management decisions of farmers and forest landowners are helping send cleaner water downstream to the Chesapeake Bay.

Since 2009, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service has worked with partners and producers to install conservation systems on more than 1 million acres in the basin, investing $267 million.

Additionally, new research shows that producers are making a difference on their own.

A recent remote sensing pilot project conducted by NRCS and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection found that producers in the Potomac watershed in south-central Pennsylvania have installed and implemented more than four times the number of conservation practices that make up the current NRCS database, which is one of the contributors to the Bay Model.

This level of conservation is testimony to the strong stewardship of farmers and forest managers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

This latest study shows that agriculture in the region is doing even more than initially documented. Conservation works and farmers’ significant conservation investments are improving water quality in the watershed while maintaining the role of a strong and vibrant economic engine for the region.

Remote sensing is the art and science of gathering useful information from imagery and other data acquired from a distance. NRCS soil scientists and other soil survey specialists use remote sensing techniques that protect producers’ privacy while collecting aggregate information on farms that can assist with mapping, analysis and correlation.

The remote sensing approach is accurate and makes a total landscape inventory possible while establishing a baseline of conservation in the counties.

NRCS conducted 200 farm visits to verify the practices identified on the aerial images and found less than a 1 percent error rate.

Over 16,000 conservation practices on more than 5,970 farms were inventoried in Somerset, Bedford, Fulton, Franklin and Adams counties using aerial imagery interpreted by the NRCS Remote Sensing Lab and staff in Pennsylvania.

Although we cannot share site-specific data, including that collected from aerial imagery, it is important to share what we have learned about the true conservation footprint in Pennsylvania with our partners.

This information was provided to DEP in aggregate form on a watershed scale so that no individual farm information would be revealed.

For more information on targeted conservation efforts in the Chesapeake Bay watershed visit http://nrcs.usda.gov/chesapeake.