Virginia farmer Buff Showalter relies on federal conservation funding to help him protect nearby Chesapeake Bay waterways.

Standing on the edge of a streamside habitat he helped restore, Virginia farmer Buff Showalter interrupts himself mid-sentence to point out a pair of hummingbirds overhead, barely visible as they sketch busy circles against a blue-sky backdrop. By late August, he says, there will be hundreds of them flitting around their favorite jewelweed wildflowers in this forage-covered patch of wetlands.

The patch used to be a favorite drinking hole for Showalter’s cattle as well, before he realized that having cows near and in the waterways could contribute to pollution in the nearby Chesapeake Bay. A decade later, the stream is fenced off and teaming with wild-looking shrubs and trees that help soak up pollutants before they reach the water.