Protecting the Darby Creek watershed is an opportunity for local communities to work together to ensure the long-term survival of this Last Great Place. There are many programs in place to help citizens practice responsible stewardship and make sure the Darby watershed remains a healthy and beautiful landscape for generations to come. Programs include Conservation Tillage, Stream Stabilization, Wetland Reserve Program, Conservation Reserve Program, Conservation Easements, Reforestation, and Restoration.

Conservation Tillage

Conservation Tillage onservation tillage entails leaving the field alone after harvest – the farmer does not till (or churn up) the soil which allows plant residue to remain on

the surface. The plant residue retains water on the soil surface rather than allowing it to run off and cause erosion. This is not only an advantageous practice for the farmer but is also environmentally and economically friendly.
Erosion occurring on corn and soybean fields in the Darby watershed is most severe at times when the ground is bare of vegetation or crop residue. This condition is commonly encountered on fields that have been fall plowed or when tillage has reduced residue amounts to less than 30%.

TNCThrough partnership, cost incentives, information exchange, and adhering to the principle that it is possible to use conservation practices which can ultimately contribute to

an farmer’s economic bottom-line, good progress has been made in the reduction of the threats to the streams from agricultural sources. Almost one-half of the farmers in the watershed now use some level of “no-till.” Filter strips and grassed waterways are being installed, and land is coming out of production and being returned to trees and grasses. In addition, the amount of livestock in the stream is being reduced.

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Stream Stabilization

TNCIn order to maintain the integrity of the stream, it is important to keep the banks of the stream in a state where they do not erode away further or continue to slump into the

river and degrade the habitat in the stream bottom. The goals are to stabilize the stream by using environmentally friendly materials – trees, shrubs and grass.
Filter strips can also benefit fish populations. Filter strips are areas of grass, legumes, and other non-woody vegetation that filter runoff and waste water by trapping sediment, pesticides, organic matter, and other pollutants. Filter strips are plants on cropland at the lower edge of a field or adjacent to bodies of water.

Riparian buffers are areas of trees and/or shrubs next to streams that filter out pollutants from runoff as well as providing shade for fish and other wildlife. The vegetation’s natural litter also provides food and shelter for valuable wildlife. Several rows of trees and/or shrubs along a stream bank form a filter strip that slows surface runoff and erosion and traps sediments. The extensive root systems bind soil in place, decreasing erosion and sedimentation.

Tree canopies provide shade that in turn decreases the temperature of the stream and creates a suitable environment for fish. This shade also decreases the growth of undesirable kinds of algae. And leaves falling into streams add large quantities of organic material needed for food.

Trees and other vegetation along a stream also provide wildlife habitat and travel corridors. A variety of trees and shrubs provide food and cover for a diversity of wildlife.

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Wetland Reserve Program

Both water quality and hydrologic disturbances are exacerbated by the drainage and filling of associated wetlands. In river systems, wetlands serve as important storage areas

during periods of high flow as well as natural filters – removing much of the sediment, nutrients and other contaminants working their way downstream.
The Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) is a voluntary program offering landowners the opportunity to protect, restore, and enhance wetlands on their property. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provides technical and financial support to help landowners.

Restoration of the functions and values of wetlands will aid in flood water retention and ground water recharge, increase open space, and improve water quality, benefit migratory birds and other wildlife.

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Conservation Reserve Program

The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), administered by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency, is the Federal Government’s single largest

environmental improvement program on private lands. The CRP helps safeguard acres of American topsoil from erosion, improving air quality, increasing wildlife habitat and protecting ground and surface water by reducing water runoff and sedimentation.
The program uses financial incentives to encourage farmers and ranchers to voluntarily establish valuable conservation practices. Under CRP contracts, farmers are compensated for planting permanent covers of grass and trees on land subject to erosion, where vegetation can improve water quality, or to provide food and habitat for wildlife.

Tree plantings offer a broad range of conservation benefits. They help cleanse runoff water of silt and pollutants, they replenish water tables, conserve and stabilize soil, reduce flood damage, and enhance wildlife habitat. Trees prevent the erosion of stream banks, increase oxygen levels, reduce so-called greenhouse gases, clean pollutants from the air, and provide shade and buffers against high winds. And they provide food and shelter to countless forms of wildlife.

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Conservation Easements

Conservation easements are restrictions landowners voluntarily place on their property that legally bind the actions of present and future owners of the property. The rights the owner relinquishes and those he or she retains are set forth in a legal document, known as a “conservation easement.”
The easement is transferred to either a qualified conservation organization or a government agency. Each conservation easement must be specifically designed with a particular piece of property and its unique natural characteristics in mind. The specific rights retained by a landowner or restricted by an easement vary with each property. The Nature Conservancy is primarily involved with conservation easements designed to protect a property’s natural features

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Reforestation efforts are important because streamside forests intercept sediment, nutrients, pesticides, and other materials in surface runoff. Woody vegetation in forest buffers provides food and cover for wildlife, helps lower water temperatures by shading the water, and reduces downstream flooding. In addition, the vegetation closest to the stream provides nutrients important to aquatic organisms.

Eric SlosserIn April 2001 in southern Franklin County, 55 acres of floodplain were restored to a 700-foot wide riparian forest buffer by The Nature Conservancy and Franklin Soil

and Water Conservation District and other conservation partners. More than 100 volunteers planted 19,000 native trees along Big Darby Creek.

Other restoration efforts include the reforestation of 40 acres of privately owned property along the Little Darby Creek. A unique partnership helped make this project possible.

Working with The Nature Conservancy, the Ohio Division of Forestry, Top of Ohio Resource Conservation and Development, the landowner, and with funding from the Dayton Power & Light Company, 20,000 native trees were planted on previously farmed land and now provide multiple benefits to the fragile ecosystem in the Darby watershed.

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The Ohio Chapter of The Nature Conservancy has embarked upon a major initiative in the headwaters of Big Darby Creek to preserve native plant and animal habitat and assist in the alleviation of downstream flooding and pollution, and resulting impacts. The long-range goal of this effort is to provide improved water quality to the entire Darby Creek system, which contains an unprecedented number of rare and endangered freshwater mussels and fishes.

Click here to learn more about freshwater biodiversityThis initiative, referred to as the “Freshwater Initiative,” is a nationwide effort by the Conservancy to develop strategies to improve and protect the water quality in freshwater systems across the country. Since the United States ranks first in the world in species diversity for several groups of aquatic organisms, namely freshwater mussels and crayfish, this ambitious effort is vitally important to the preservation of a number of imperiled aquatic species. Click here to learn more about freshwater biodiversity.

To date, the Conservancy has acquired approximately 500 acres protecting nearly two miles of Big Darby Creek frontage and associated tributaries, natural and degraded wetland systems, flood plain forest and upland woods, and as a bonus, a 60- acre remnant oak savanna community, a globally endangered community type. Water pollution in the headwater reaches of the Darby has been identified as a major threat to the entire watershed. The Ohio Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, in cooperation with the United States Army Corps of Engineers, will work towards the restoration of former wetland habitat in and along the stream to naturally filtrate out harmful silt and pollutants and improve water quality throughout the entire aquatic system..