Bay Journal

June 1998 - Volume 8 - Number 4

Paying for the environment—one way or another

Each year, government economists around the world calculate the value of goods produced and services provided by all of the activity within the borders of their nations. The value of all those human-produced services is the Gross National Product.

What those figures don't include is all the things we get for free - air cleaning by forests, water filtering from wetlands, and pollination by bees, just to name a few. Those services, not factored into traditional economic estimates, nonetheless have values: If wetlands weren't cleaning water, humans would have to pay for more water pollution controls. Recently, scientists from around the world teamed up to estimate what might be called the world's Gross Natural Product. ...

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29 species may be downlisted or removed from endangered list

Declaring that the Endangered Species Act works, the administration says 29 birds, plants and animals, including the bald eagle, are on their way to recovery and may soon be removed from the law's protection.

The proposal announced in May by Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt marks the first time in the law's 25-year history that such a large number of species would be earmarked for removal from the endangered list, although it would be done over two years.

The action would affect several species in the region. Besides the bald eagle, the peregrine falcon, the Dismal Swamp southeastern shrew, the Virginia northern flying squirrel, the brown pelican and the Virginia roundleaf birch would be either removed from the list altogether or downlisted from endangered to threatened status. ...

Trees reveal early colonists arrived during worst drought in 800 years

Starting a new life in unfamiliar land along the Chesapeake Bay couldn't have been easy for early English colonists in America.

But scientists now believe the settlers had the bad luck to arrive during the worst drought in the past 800 years, bringing starvation and death to colonists at Jamestown as well as to an earlier settlement on Roanoke Island, NC.

Jamestown survived despite the early period known as the "starving time," when settlers were forced to eat boiled shoe leather, dogs and even their own dead. ...

Early support for establishing forest buffers streaming in

On the banks of the Anacostia River, more than 100 volunteers turned out to help do their part to restore, in Deborah Gangloff's words, "the greatest natural water filtration system in North America."

They were planting trees.

In all, volunteers planted about 600 trees, creating a forest buffer on the bank of the Potomac tributary that winds through the District of Columbia.

Gangloff, executive director of American Forests, was announcing the conservation organization's commitment to plant 1 million trees in the Bay watershed, mostly along streams, by the turn of the century as part of its "Global ReLeaf for the Chesapeake Bay" initiative. ...

Data show ‘97 was best year on record for Bay oxygen levels

The Chesapeake Bay last summer had the best oxygen conditions ever reported in the 13-year history of the Bay Program's water quality monitoring effort.

While cautioning that it is difficult to draw conclusions from one good year, some officials believe it could be a sign that some cleanup efforts are beginning to show results. "It may be the signal that we've been looking for - that when nature keeps the flow conditions in the normal range, we're looking at substantial improvements," said Bill Matuszeski, director of the EPA's Bay Program Office. ...

Lag time of groundwater dampens hope for fast Bay cleanup

The speed at which the Bay responds to cleanup efforts may have more to do with the trajectory of a falling drop of water than by actions being taken on the ground today, new research suggests.

That drop may land and roll downhill until it, and anything it has picked up on the way, splashes into the nearest stream and begins its journey oward the Chesapeake. It will reach the Bay in a few days.

But suppose that instead of flowing down to the stream, the drop soaks into the ground. Eventually, it reaches the groundwater, at which point it begins - slowly - to work its way toward a stream, pond or wetland. ...

Federal court halts use of streamlined Corps permit for Wetlands

A federal judge has suspended the use of an Army Corps of Engineers permit used to streamline the wetland permit process to build single-family homes. 

The injunction, issued April 30 by U.S. District Judge John Sedwick, stems from a 1996 lawsuit filed by 16 environmental groups who alleged that the Corps' Nationwide Permit for Single-Family Housing (Nationwide Permit 29) allows "far more" than the "minimal" environmental harm allowed under the Clean Water Act, and adversely affects threatened and endangered species.  ...

Latest data show decline in menhaden, despite spawning potential

For menhaden, it's same old story: The good news keeps getting better, and the bad news keeps getting worse.

Atlantic menhaden reproduction for the past several years has been poor. At the same time, the overall spawning potential has been unusually high.

Now, a recently completed analysis of the 1997 data shows a continuation of those contrary trends. "It's a concern, but it's not a panic situation," said Doug Vaughan, a National Marine Fisheries Service scientist who does a menhaden population
assessment each year. ...

Clinton expected to form panel to deal with alien species

The Clinton administration may soon take aim at "invasive alien species." 

They're not Martians or illegal immigrants, but something that may pose a more immediate threat to the Chesapeake and other ecosystems across the nation - non-native species that can crowd out resident plants and animals.

Bill Brown, science adviser to Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, said scientists increasingly agree on the need for a national effort to combat these invaders, and that President Clinton could issue an executive order soon creating a panel charged with writing a national plan to deal with exotic species. ...

Flows to Bay top average in April

Streamflow in the Chesapeake Bay, though still higher than average, was in the "normal" range for the first time this year, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Flows into the Bay were about 115 billion gallons per day, the USGS said. While above the long-term average of about 94 billion gallons per day, the April flows were still within the range that USGS hydrologists consider normal.

So far this year, flows have been higher than average every month. In January and February, they were more than twice the normal flow. February flows set a record for the month. Flows in March were about 50 percent above average. ...

Signs of Bay crop up in Virginia

Millions of people driving along Interstate 81 in western Virginia are getting a lesson in geography and the environment. The most recent signs in the Chesapeake Bay Commission's effort to educate people about the size of the Bay's drainage basin were erected April 16 on the watershed's westernboundary in Botetourt County, VA.

"The lands that affect the waters of the Bay spread across 64,000 square miles, involving six states," said Virginia Sen. Joseph V. Gartlan, Jr., vice-chairman of the commission. "By erecting these signs, we hope people will better understand that they can be far from the Bay, yet still have an impact. Everyone and everything within the watershed contributes to the health of the Bay." ...

Effort to teach trumpeter swans to migrate deemed a success

Scientists say their effort to teach young trumpeter swans to migrate was successful enough to move forward this year with plans to re-establish North America's largest waterfowl in the Bay region.

Hunters had wiped out the swans in this area nearly two centuries ago. But scientists last year conducted an experiment that taught three young swans to "migrate" 103 miles from Virginia to Maryland's Eastern Shore behind an ultralight aircraft "mother."

This spring, they waited to see whether the swans would return on their own. ...

Delmarva fox squirrel at center of development suit

A large squirrel made a series of slow leaps past the gated entrance to a farm field in Maryland's Queen Anne's County, where Ned Gerber was parked.  "There goes one now!" he said. "You can see where it would be pretty easy for a dog to catch that thing."

The animal, Gerber said, was a Delmarva fox squirrel, an endangered species found only in four Eastern Shore counties.

Gerber, a wildlife biologist with Chesapeake Wildlife Heritage and the president of the Queen Anne's Conservation Society, said he believes that when the gated dirt farm road is paved and the field filled with houses, the slow-moving squirrels in the surrounding woods will become pet food if they aren't squashed under the wheels of cars. ...

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29 species may be downlisted or removed from endangered list

Chesapeake Milk rewards farmers for ‘green’ practices

During the long drives between his Penn State office and the dairy farms of Lancaster County, Les Lanyon often took a break at a truck stop along the Susquehanna River.

There, in the middle of Pennsylvania, he could help save vanishing rainforests by purchasing snacks where proceeds went to special programs.  If people could help ecosystems a continent away, Lanyon began to wonder, why couldn't they help farmers in their own backyards who were trying toprotect close-to-home rivers and streams? ...

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