In February 2020, Berks Nature closed on a conservation easement project in southern Berks. The Love family has protected about 80 acres of their family farm, located in Robeson Township along a tributary to Beaver Run, in the Hay Creek Watershed. The farm includes a mixed landscape of woodland, pasture, and sorghum and hay fields. The conservation easement protects important forest in the Hay Creek Watershed in perpetuity, and preserves a working farm for future generations. Along with the establishment of the conservation easement, the Loves worked with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to install best management practices throughout the farm and barnyard, which lessen the impact of stormwater on the stream.

The project protects and restores a forested corridor along the stream, called a riparian buffer. Forested watersheds have many benefits, such as slowing and filtering water from storms, producing clean air, shading and cooling streams, and providing wildlife habitat. Beaver Run and the Hay Creek support many important local species, including the brook trout, which is our state fish. This local project holds regional significance as well. The Hay Creek Watershed, which is the source of drinking water for the Borough of Birdsboro and a significant tributary to the Schuylkill River, is located within the Hopewell Big Woods landscape. The Hopewell Big Woods is the largest unfragmented forest in southeastern PA, and an important hotspot of biodiversity and resilience. Berks Nature and many regional partners work directly with landowners to protect the farms and forests which compose the natural and cultural heritage of our unique landscape. Berks Nature has partnered with 132 landowners across Berks County to permanently protect over 87,000 acres through conservation easements.

“Berks Nature is proud to work with the Love family and all of our partners to protect this Hay Creek Watershed farm and surrounding forest. It will be exciting to see the benefits of the riparian buffer and the positive effects it will have on the wildlife species that live in and along the stream,” stated Kim Murphy, President of Berks Nature.

Berks Nature’s Hay Creek Love Easement project was supported through Open Space Institute’s Delaware River Watershed Protection Fund which is made possible with funding from the William Penn Foundation for its Delaware River Watershed Initiative which seeks to protect water quality in the Delaware River Basin. Funding for the agricultural best management practices came from the NRCS RCPP Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), which implements conservation practices on working lands. Additional essential financial support which made the project possible came from the Schuylkill River Restoration Fund, the Wyomissing Foundation, the Schuylkill Highlands Conservation Landscape Initiative, and the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association.

“The protection of Love Farm is an aspiring model for protecting the forested source waters of the greater Delaware River, and for protecting the drinking water resources of millions of local residents along the river,” said Peter Howell, Executive Vice President of OSI. “We applaud the tireless efforts of Berks Nature in successfully bringing this project to fruition.”