Landscape Design

Designing Conservation Buffers

By Gary Bentrup | June 30, 2010

The USDA National Agroforestry Center’s publication, Conservation Buffers: Design Guidelines for Buffers, Corridors, and Greenways offers over 80 illustrated guidelines for designing conservation buffers.

Conservation buffers are strips of vegetation placed in the landscape to provide a variety of ecological, economic, and social benefits to society.  They are called by many names, including wildlife corridors, greenways, windbreaks, and filter strips to name just a few. 

 These guidelines have been condensed from over 1,400 research publications and are applicable nationwide and across rural and urban landscapes. You can find guidelines to help design buffers that:

  • Improving air and water quality  
  • Protecting soil
  • Enhancing fish and wildlife habitat
  • Enhancing economic productivity
  • Providing recreation opportunities
  • Beautifying the landscape

With this comprehensive and field-friendly guide, users can assess the potential benefits and trade-offs a buffer might have on different resource concerns and then design buffers that can better provide multiple objectives while minimizing potential conflicts.

 The 110-page spiral-bound guide is free to order at  The Buffer Guide is also now available in Spanish and is a great resource to learn how to design and build conservation buffers to improve water quality, air, protect soil, and potentially add profitable income generating buffers.

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  • Reply Rick July 1, 2010 at 10:05 am

    Water Quality has been something that we have been talking about more and more at Arbor Day and the role trees play in it. The link under water quality is an interesting blog that defines some of the problems

  • Reply Frank J. Heller, MPA July 5, 2010 at 11:27 am

    I organized a reforestation effort—about 400 seedlings in five locations in May. Part of the effort was a new trust farm land that where former pasture was being built out from a well established tree line using White Cedar in a random pattern, following contours and about 100′ in from the tree line. This was on the recommendation of a forester from the Natural Resources Council of Maine. The Labor was supplied by community service students from a local high school; trees came from PROJECT CANOPY; and lunch from the BATH ROTARY.

  • Reply Robert Smith July 28, 2010 at 2:24 am

    Clean drinking water pours out of the forests of our nation’s watersheds. Much of the world’s thirst is quenched by the cleanings roots of trees. Here is how that thought was first expressed by Gifford Pinchot, the first U. S. Forest Service Chief.

    “The relationship between forests and rivers is like father and son. No father, no son.”

  • Reply Daniel Reed August 3, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    Where can I order Conservation Buffers: Design Guidelines for Buffers, Corridors, and Greenways ?

  • Reply Gary Bentrup August 4, 2010 at 8:50 am

    You can order a free copy by going to this link:

  • Reply Ben May 19, 2011 at 11:00 am

    Good Blog from John Rosenow, founder of Arbor Day on the impact of trees on water quality.

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