1995 is a significant, almost ominous, year for the Bay Program and the restoration of the Chesapeake. Before it is over, the year 2000, to which we have attached some our most important goals, will be closer than 1990, which seems like yesterday. Even more, our most important goal is to reduce nutrient loadings 40 percent by 2000, using 1985 as a base year; so we are actually entering the final third of the time we have given ourselves for that achievement. This is not to say we should sound the alarm; a lot of effort is under way, and the Bay is beginning to show some response. But we should be sobered by the task ahead and the time we have left.
1995 also poses an important "people" challenge. Never before has there been such a compressed period of changeover in the executive branches of the three participating states and the District of Columbia. While we should be encouraged by the support shown during the past year by the new administration in Virginia - including election of Governor Allen as Chairman of the Chesapeake Executive Council and active involvement by members of his Cabinet in the Program - the changes are yet to come from the recent elections in the District, Maryland and Pennsylvania. First signs are positive, with the nomination by Pennsylvania Governor-elect Tom Ridge of Jim Seif to be the secretary of that state's environmental agency. Jim served as EPA Regional Administrator in the '80s, and was a big supporter of the Bay Agreements.
We have laid out quite an agenda for the Bay Program in 1995. In the area of nutrients, we need to finalize our tributary strategies for all rivers from the Potomac north, and reach agreement on how to measure progress in carrying them out.
On the Potomac, an innovative agreement is to be completed this spring among the treatment plants in the Washington metropolitan area to reach the 40 percent reduction through determining the most cost-effective mix of technologies. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has asked the Bay Program to help it define by June the criteria that should be used to target the Conservation Reserve Program, in effect using the Bay's data and experience to improve the environmental benefits of the Program nationwide. We will also continue our work to build a major role for the private sector in nutrient management planning throughout the watershed. And much effort will go into carrying out the recently signed Executive Council Directive on riparian forest buffers.
In the area of toxics reductions, our newly adopted strategy calls for a number of major undertakings this year. Watch for opportunities to participate in the development of Regional Action Plans for dealing with the serious toxics problems- many of them tied to contaminated sediments - in Baltimore Harbor, the Anacostia River, and the Elizabeth River. We need to start working toward our goal to have 75 percent coverage of agricultural, recreational and public lands with integrated pest management practices by 2000; once again, there is an expanding role here for the private sector. And a number of new goals and approaches need to be developed in the pollution prevention arena, from industrial releases to handling household toxics.
In the area of living resources, there will be a report on the status and trends in wetland losses in the basin issued early in the year. Major efforts will need to go into the difficult job of setting targets and measures of progress for key species and indicators of the health of the Bay, so that we can factor these into our evaluation of progress in reducing nutrients and toxics. Habitat restoration under the new strategy framework will bring a lot of disparate and uncoordinated efforts into a rational plan that maximizes and leverages the available financial resources. And there will continue to be interest in the multi-state implementation of the new federal fisheries law, which affects many of our most important commercially valuable species.
Also this year, the new Land, Growth and Stewardship Subcommittee will undertake an agenda that includes stream corridor management, the next phase of the Countryside Stewardship Exchange and, this fall, a basinwide conference on growth and land use. Even more important, we can expect a major effort this year to bring local governments into the Bay Program. This is being driven not just by new leadership in the subcommittee and in the Local Government Advisory Committee, but by very real demands from the other parts of the Bay Program. It is becoming ever more clear that wetlands management, riparian buffers, stream corridor restoration and the many aspects of the tributary nutrient strategies all need to rely on effective local government participation and actions.
Finally, 1995 is the year we need to convince the public of the role of clean air in restoring the Chesapeake. We are in a race with the forces of change here. Just as we are beginning to understand the key role of air as a source of perhaps one-third of the nitrogen entering the Bay - and nitrogen is the key nutrient in oversupply in the saline waters of the system - the Clean Air Act is coming under attack. It is clear from the public reaction to Clean Air Act proposals that folks are resistant to changes in lifestyle and increases in cost for the benefit of clean air alone.
It would be tragic irony to save the Bay in the rivers and lose it to auto exhaust in the air because we failed to get the message across. So we have a job to do with the public, and the 1995 clean air debates may be our chance.
So what should we look for in 1995? What will be the signs that we are having an effect? First we need to look at the Bay itself. Are there more grasses? Is the rockfish season longer? Are other species showing some signs of recovery? But then we also need to look at the human response. Have Maryland and Virginia continued their 1994 progress to place adequate restrictions on the crab harvest to ensure the future? Have they finally put a halt to the offshore shad fishery that is probably killing any chance for recovery in the Bay? Are we preventing changes in the way the Clean Air Act is implemented that will harm the Bay? Many of these are results that you can effect through your support of the right decisions.
Then, of course, there is always Mother Nature. For the last two springs, she has sent near-record spring freshets down the rivers to the Bay, waters filled with nutrients and sediments. But despite the onslaught, the Bay proved rather resilient, with grassbeds continuing their expansion and rockfish continuing their recovery. This year we seem to be in for a warmer winter, with less snowmelt to the north in store. As I write this on the winter solstice, my front yard here in D.C. still has foxgloves and snapdragons and even roses in bloom, awaiting the first killing frost. So maybe 1995 will be a good year for the Bay. If it is, I may propose my foxgloves as an official Bay Indicator.