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Planting trees to restore watershed health in Lake Champlain

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Lake Champlain receives waters from the Green Mountains of Vermont and the Adirondack Mountains of New York. The lake drains nearly half of Vermont. About 250,000 people get their drinking water from the lake. It is also a resource for fishing, swimming, boating and other recreational pursuits. But water quality is at stake, mainly due to polluted runoff which brings phosphorus in excess from streams and rivers into Lake Champlain.

Phosphorus is one of the nutrient pollutants found in runoff and the greatest threat to clean water in Lake Champlain. It mainly comes from farm runoff, fertilizers from lawns, sediments from eroded river banks, wastewaters and overflows.

Too much phosphorus pollution stimulates excessive growth of algae.  It can turn Lake Champlain water green, and even be toxic to pets and people. Local stakeholders are very concerned and focusing attention and resources to stabilize the lake. They need to reduce phosphorous levels by 50-60%.

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In partnership with American Forests, one of the biggest group to promote forest conservation in North America, and regional farmers, who contribute a lot to the lake contamination (farm runoff, massive use of chemical inputs, nutrient pollution), we started a project in 2016 to restore watershed health through the plantation of 23,500 trees in 3 years.

Trees will be planted in riparian buffers & windbreaks to reduce flooding and water runoff, provide shade on the waterways hence lowering the temperatures, and benefiting the trout population, and naturally help to absorb and reduce nitrates and sulphates in the water.

Workshops will be organized with farmers to build awareness on sustainable agricultural practices and water protection, and train them on the techniques and benefits of integrating trees in and around their farms.

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