Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program near the Hot Springs

Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program near the Hot SpringsAs you’ve walked around the thousands of acres that make up Fort Lewis Lodge, or looked down from the overlook, ever noticed all the white poles randomly sticking out of the ground? Wonder what they are?

One thing they are not is random. In fact, in a way, for each pole we stick in the ground, we give back a little something to the land we’ve benefitted from all these years.

It’s all a part of the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, the largest private-land conservation program in the U.S. It’s administered by the Farm Service Agency.

So what do those white poles do, exactly? Each pole protects a tree sapling. If you look closely, the white poles are all around wetlands. The tree saplings, growing up inside the poles, were planted to help, for lack of a better word, shore up the wetlands.

Fort Lewis Lodge sits just across the mountain from Hot Springs, Va., which “Virginia is for Lovers” describes as a great blend of “resort and rural” because it’s quaint, famous for its natural mineral springs and home to The Homestead Resort. But we’re also part of an incredible natural habitat that includes the Cowpasture River, Lake Moomaw and what seems like endless Shenandoah Valley mountain streams.

Did you know sediment from eroded stream banks can degrade water quality and the habitat of animals living there? Or that forested riparian buffers – which all those trees will create as they grow strong thanks to the white poles – reduce nutrient runoff and erosion?

More trees can slow the flow of water. Leaves can act like filtration systems, capturing runoff. Then there’s shade. Shade helps control water temperature, and some organisms need just the right water temperature to thrive.

This program has helped clean up New York City’s watershed and drinking water, improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay and mitigate floods in Washington State.

Let me know if you want to learn more when you’re visiting! The poles, as you might notice, do have a tendency to fall over and need to get stuck back in the ground. Extra hands are always welcome!

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