New Opportunity for Combining Education and Community Service

Posted: December 10, 2010

A brand new 4-H project book, Riparian BUFFers - Making Our Riparian Areas Strong is now available from Penn State Cooperative Extension and the Pennsylvania 4-H Program.
Installing tree shelters to protect seedlings. Photo by Richard Tchun

Installing tree shelters to protect seedlings. Photo by Richard Tchun

Riparian BUFFers, a supplement to the PA 4-H Water Project Series, introduces youth to the importance of healthy riparian buffers along stream corridors through hands-on activities and direct engagement in providing maintenance to a recently restored riparian buffer. A riparian buffer is the land along the side of a stream or river that, when in a natural or healthy state, is filled with trees, shrubs or other native vegetation. This vegetation is important for helping to slow the flow of water during heavy rains, to maintain the integrity of the stream banks, to filter out pollutants in groundwater and surface runoff, to provide habitat and so much more. The Riparian BUFFers 4-H project fills an important void in youth educational materials about riparian buffers while also providing a great service to landowners in need of help with their stream side restoration projects.

 Restoring a riparian buffer often includes planting native tree and shrub species along the sides of a stream. There are a variety of local, state and federal programs that can help a landowner cover the costs of these restoration projects, however many of these programs have strict requirements for maintaining the restored buffer land over the next three or more years. For some landowners, this is an obstacle that prevents them from participating in these important efforts to protect and restore our local water quality. A group of youth participating in the Riparian BUFFers 4-H project can help to alleviate some of this burden on the landowner. Simple maintenance tasks, like keeping invasive species at bay and checking up on the newly planted trees, can help to improve the success of the restoration project and provide youth with an amazing educational experience.

 Groups interested in learning more about this project and getting involved in helping to protect local water quality can download the Riparian BUFFers 4-H Project book online at  It is important to provide guidance to any group of youth seeking a restored buffer to help maintain. This project requires landowner permission and cooperation.

 For help getting a group of youth started on this project, contact Jennifer Fetter, Extension Educator with Penn State Cooperative Extension in Dauphin County at (717) 921-8803 or

 By Jennifer Fetter