Agricultural and forested lands are converting to residential development at a high rate in the region. Forested land can sequester nutrients more efficiently than developed land. Excess nutrients and pathogens in residential runoff pose a threat to human health and water quality.

Extension programs promote "smart" landscaping techniques that reduce polluted runoff and groundwater contamination by promoting infiltration and filtration. Extension methods include demonstration sites (rain gardens, native plant landscapes, low fertilizer and pesticide input lawns), publications, websites, workshops and involvement of trained volunteers including Master Gardeners. Research focuses on various aspects of buffer effectiveness and nutrient and water management. Social science research provides a foundation for understanding human knowledge, attitudes, values and behaviors related to landscaping and water quality and quantity protection.

Homeowners, town officials, municipal workers, landscapers, growers, volunteers, watershed groups, garden clubs, and environmental organizations.

Maine rain gardenSampling of Programs in the Region:

In this presentation, there is a brief description highlighting accomplishments and tangible changes in
this focus area in 2007.

Homeowners are reducing the application of excess nutrients throughout the region as a result of the Extension efforts being driven by environmental and behavioral research. Environmental research is investigating two types of nitrogen soil on turf, both of which have the potential to provide site-specific information. Turf nutrient management recommendations specific to northern and southern New England have been compiled. Extension is incorporating the nutrient application recommendations from the environmental research into messages and delivery methods that have been determined to be compelling to neighborhood residents based on social science research results. Students involved in the project range from undergraduate to graduate levels. The program’s advisory team partners with and leverages the interests of state agency and municipal staff, agricultural extension programs and representatives from area garden centers.

Lessons from the regional effort piloted by Rutgers University - Stormwater Management in Your Backyard - to educate and support the installation of rain gardens by private property owners will also be incorporated into these sustainable landscaping efforts.

Focus area members partnered with the Northeast IPM Center and Mid-Atlantic Regional Water Program to organize the present at the first Green-Blue Summit on residential pest management, nutrients, and water quality. People from across the Northeast attended the Summit. As a result, the Northeast IPM Center released an RFA for projects focused on educating residents in the Northeast on how using IPM in residential structures and landscapes can affect water quality. The summit released a listing of comments and suggestions on what the focus issues should be.

installing rain gutterThe Cornell Center for a Sustainable Future  (CCSF) promotes and advances collaborations across Cornell and with selected external partners, leveraging Cornell's resources to help build a sustainable future for the world.

UMaine Watershed Stewards, Lake Smart, and Lake*A*Syst Programs train residents to assess the impact of lawn management techniques on water resources. UMaine's Cooperative Extension’s Watershed Stewards Program documented that their program significantly improved program participant knowledge level over non-participants through quantitative and qualitative measures (Jemison et al. 2004). Stewards scored significantly (23%) higher on the objective test than those that had not been involved in the program. Program participants qualitatively demonstrated much more involvement with lake governance, implementation efforts, and related activities.

UConn L.A.W.N.S (Learning About Water and Nutrient Strategies) Program teaches homeowners how to protect water resources through proper nutrient management practices for lawns and use of low input turf species.

UCONN has developed a Residential Water Quality Education Program.  The programs are voluntary, prevention programs that train citizens and volunteers to reduce water quality risks in and around the home.  Programs incorporate regional and national research results from septic systems and well water, nutrient and pesticide management landscape management and plant selection.

The URI Coastal Landscapes Program conducted 2 pilot training courses for over 100 landscape professionals as part of a "coastal landscape certification" program. In the near future, RI Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) will require that landscape professionals working in CRMC jurisdiction be certified in topics ranging from rain gardens, turf management, invasive species and buffer zone re-vegetation.

Virgin Islands agriculture is increasingly becoming dependent upon the ability of local producers to maintain competitiveness in a changing Caribbean and world market. The Virgin Islands Extension Service is looking into alternative enterprises, opportunities, and agricultural practices which will sustain our agricultural resources to ensure continued production and optimum crop yields.

The Healthy Landscapes Project at URI educates homeowners on pollution prevention best management practices that they can implement in their backyards to protect water quality (McCann, 2004). One output of the project was the creation of educational materials on rain gardens. More than 500 URI Master Gardeners were trained about sustainable landscaping practices. Over 80% of the individuals (in Healthy Landscapes program evaluation) indicated a willingness to change their yard care practices to better protect their water quality. More than 54% of respondents have adopted at least one sustainable landscaping practice. Their final report documents additional successes.

Landscaping for water quality protection plays a key role in the Northern New England Lake Education and Action Project (LEAP), a collaborative project between the UMaine, UNH and UVM.

Extension Master Gardner programs:

Cross-Cutting activities with other focus areas

The Sustainable Landscaping focus areas will work with the Watershed Assessment focus area to target placement of rain gardens and shoreline buffers.