Huntingdon, PA -- Wolf Administration officials today joined inmates at the State Correctional Institution at Huntingdon to plant 400 tree seedlings along an unnamed tributary to the Juniata River as the culmination of a 14-week inmate vocational training session.
“This program is a win on several levels,” Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said.
“It provides employable skills to inmates nearing release and returning to their communities and grows the number of contract installers and maintainers of riparian, or streamside, forest buffers. These buffers will help improve the water quality in rivers and streams and make them healthier for people and wildlife.”
This effort is part of a Correctional Conservation Collaborative (CCC) between Corrections and DCNR. CCC objectives include reducing recidivism through correctional education, empowering reentrants to start businesses, and increasing diversity in the conservation and natural resources industries.
The 17 participants from SCI Huntingdon have been attending weekly class and field sessions on everything from stream ecology to entrepreneurship.
The two acres of a riparian buffer on SCI-Huntingdon property where the trees were planted has served as the program’s outdoor classroom for the past few weeks.
The inmate participants paced out the area for the trees and hand-picked the tree species being planted. The property is currently leased to a local farmer.
“We are excited to participate in today’s events, and we are even more excited about the post-incarceration opportunities that this course affords these individuals,” DOC Sec. John Wetzel said.
“We are helping to provide a living buffer along our waterways as we help individuals transform themselves into law-abiding citizens who can obtain and retain life-sustaining jobs upon their return home after prison.”
Pennsylvania has a goal of planting 95,000 acres of riparian, or streamside, buffers by 2025.
Maintaining and restoring buffers along rivers and streams is a key strategy for improving water quality and aquatic habitat in Pennsylvania, and downstream in the Chesapeake Bay.
Properly planted and maintained, streamside tree and shrub plantings filter the runoff of sediments and fertilizers that are applied to lawns and crops; control erosion; slow stormwater runoff; cool stream temperatures; and improve fish habitat.
For more information about stream buffers visit the DCNR website.
MEDIA CONTACT: Christina Novak, DCNR, 717-772-9101
Sue McNaughton, DOC, 717-728-4025