ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Higher crop prices are being blamed for a drop in forest restoration in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

The Chesapeake Bay Program says restoration of forest buffer areas along creeks and streams dropped to less than a third of the level reached at the peak of the program in 2005. The regional partnership says 815 miles were restored in 2005 compared to 240 miles last year. The bay program says the buffers keep fertilizer and manure from running off farm fields into waterways, where it can cause algae blooms that harm water quality.

The bay program says higher crop prices are prompting farmers to keep more buffer areas planted with crops. Funding for other conservation practices such as cover crops has also lowered the planting of trees for forest buffer areas.

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