Bay Journal

Making the Bay better is a collaborative effort

  • By Lou Etgen on May 01, 2009
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As an organization that forges collaborative solutions to benefit the Bay, the Alliance often forgoes recognition so that the agreement or the partnership that was forged can receive the appropriate attention. I want to take this opportunity to toot our own horn and highlight what we have been doing over the last half year or so. I think you might be surprised to learn of all the good work.

Programmatically, the individual state offices have been going great guns. Our Urban Tree Canopy initiative has planted more than 5,000 trees across the region since the fall, with an additional 3,000 to be planted in the remainder of 2009. Our goal with this initiative, as with all of our H2O Center programs, is to not only see that trees get in the ground, thus reducing runoff in our urban areas, but to use the planting events as a means to help local groups attract volunteers and raise money to support their work.

In the fall of 2008, we launched the Chesapeake Network, an online professional networking tool where those working to protect and restore the land and waters of the Chesapeake watershed can collaborate on projects or learn from one another while keeping up with the latest funding opportunities and tools to help them with their work.

There are 968 members in the network, and new individuals and groups join every day. To find out more or to join, visit www.chesapeakenetwork.org.  

Pouncing on an opportunity in 2008, the Alliance began a collection and distribution program for 55 gallon drums, which local groups convert into rain barrels and either use them as educational tools or sell them to their watershed residents, raising money for their programs. Since its inception last spring, the Alliance has distributed almost 750 barrels to more than 26 local watershed groups, churches and soil conservation districts across the Bay watershed.

In Pennsylvania, the Alliance has joined forces with the state to implement the Tree Vitalize program in the Central Pennsylvania region. Tree Vitalize is a public-private partnership to help restore tree cover, educate citizens about planting trees as an act of caring for our environment, and build capacity among local governments to understand, protect and restore trees in their urban areas and riparian corridors. The Alliance will take the lead on educational activities and help local jurisdictions get trees in the ground.

Project Clean Stream, our annual cleanup and restoration day for streams and watersheds throughout Central Maryland and the Eastern Shore, is just wrapping up and the early numbers are tremendous in their scope and exasperating in their indication of our throwaway society. The Alliance exceeded our goal in coordinating 156 sites throughout the region, where 3,000 volunteers removed more than 300,000 pounds of garbage from local waterways.

In Virginia, we are working to establish a BayScape garden at the entrance to the Science Museum of Virginia in downtown Richmond. Once established, the garden will be used as an educational cornerstone for the museum as well as offer every visitor with a wonderful visual of Bay protection using native plants.

The Alliance staffs the Chesapeake Bay Program's Communications Office, and in that role we wrote and published the recently released Bay Barometer: A Health and Restoration Assessment of the Chesapeake Bay and Watershed.

We have also been instrumental in planning the upcoming May 12 Executive Council meeting at Mount Vernon. If you haven't visited the Bay Program website recently, visit ?www.chesapeakebay.net to check out the redesigned home page and the incorporation of a rotating news section, videos and feature stories, all created by Alliance staff.

For those of you that remember the Chesapeake Club commercials of several years ago in the Washington D.C. metro area, a new campaign of commercials from the Communications office may be coming to a television set near you in the coming months. Visit www.chesapeakeclub.org for information.

In our role as coordinators for the Citizens (CAC) and Local Government (LGAC) advisory committees to the Bay Program, we are supporting the committees in their development of their annual recommendations to the Executive Council which will be presented at its May meeting.

Last year, the advisory committees led the charge to establish an independent evaluator of the Bay Program, which will come to fruition in 2009. Another CAC-led initiative from last year that is being implemented this year is the establishment of a coalition of Non-Governmental Organizations, based on a similar initiative from the Great Lakes. This would hold Bay region officials accountable and help to accelerate the implementation of cleanup goals.

After years of advocating for project implementation support at the local government level, LGAC recently won approval of a Bay Program-funded Circuit Rider initiative. This program will provide knowledge and support for restoration activities to the watershed's local jurisdictions.

In early April, CAC sent a letter of welcome to new EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and encouraged her support of a proposed Presidential Executive Order for the Chesapeake Bay.

Organizationally, we have made great strides in implementing some of the key components of our newly drafted strategic plan and have upheld the values that we set forth as our guiding principles. And with a crew of newly elected, highly engaged board members, we feel prepared to lead the way to a healthy, sustainable Chesapeake Bay.

As mentioned earlier, all of these good works could not be accomplished without the help and support of our partners, members and volunteers, the funding organizations, and most importantly-our board and staff. I want to thank all of you for your help and support on these and all of our projects, and I look forward to continued collaborations and a clean Chesapeake Bay.

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About Lou Etgen

Lou Etgen is program director of the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay.

Read more articles by Lou Etgen

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