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Let’s appreciate, not exploit, our green areas TOM VENESKY OUTDOORS

There’s a section of Toby’s Creek in Dallas that seems to have disappeared.

Vanished.

No, the small creek didn’t dry up. It still flows, but in this section the creek flows not through a canopy of trees but through a pipe underneath paved roads and the hustle and bustle of civilization.

The creek flows more like plumbing than a freshwater stream.

As urban sprawl consumes more of our landscape, more streams are at risk for a similar fate that the stretch of Toby’s Creek has suffered.

That’s why measures such as Buffers 100 – a proposal from the PA Campaign for Clean Water to expand riparian buffers along every stream from the state-mandated 50 feet to 100 feet – are crucial.

A stream flowing through a forested channel represents a healthy ecosystem. The tree canopy keeps the water cool while the roots filter sediment and contaminants, keeping the water clean. Erosion is minimized and flooding is controlled when trees, and not civilization, dominate the banks.

It doesn’t seem like a major sacrifice to add 50 feet to a stream buffer. But there are those who believe it would be the end of the world.

An opinion piece that appeared in The Times Leader on Wednesday argued that Buffers 100 could hasten our financial decline by hindering economic growth.

The writer, Joseph Mackey, is the secretary of the Pennsylvania Builders Association and obviously there is a motive, or bias, behind his opinion.

In all fairness, there is a bias in my support of Buffers 100 – I appreciate a healthy environment and clean water.

Mackey wrote that Buffers 100 deprives landowners the use of their property and would reduce the amount of land available for development.

Is the latter really a bad thing? As sprawling housing developments continue to consume acres and acres of our landscape, is an extra 50 feet of forested buffer along a stream really going to “deliver a death blow to economic growth?”

With gas wells and wind turbines ready to carve up our landscape, it seems as if there is nothing that is untouchable anymore.

Gone are the days when nature was something to be appreciated and respected. Today, more and more people view our green areas not as places to enjoy, but areas to exploit so they can add some green to their bank accounts.

There is no reason why the pavement of a housing development has to extend within inches of a stream, much less 100 feet.

Mackey correctly notes that Pennsylvania has 83,000 miles of streams and rivers. He then states that a 100-foot buffer could result in the “uncompensated taking of hundreds of thousands of acres of private property.”

How? Because it can’t be cut down and paved over?

So far, 130 organizations across the state have endorsed the Buffers 100 plan, along with 25 state legislators.

The facts backing Buffers 100 are numerous, but it all boils down to protecting our most precious liquid – water.

Yes, the Pennsylvania Builders Association wants us to believe that protecting a 100-foot forested strip along Pennsylvania’s streams would lead to economic disaster.

But not doing so could lead to an environmental disaster as more of our streams end up like Toby’s Creek.

An extra 50 feet of forest is not a lot to ask for in protecting our water and landscape.

In my opinion, that type of green is worth more than the kind that fits in a wallet.

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