In the hope that a Bay-wise population will be a better steward of the Chesapeake and its watershed, the Executive Council launched a new education initiative aimed at bringing the Bay into the classroom.
The initiative, aimed at the 3 million pupils in kindergarten through 12th grade in the watershed, seeks to connect students with the Bay through classroom work and hands-on restoration and research activities.
"The future of the Chesapeake Bay is the students sitting in classrooms all across the watershed," said Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening. "Soon, it will be their responsibility to decide the Bay's fate. Right now, it is our responsibility to provide them with the best available information and the best decision-making skills possible. This new initiative will help us to do that."
At its Dec. 8 meeting, the Council also re-elected Glendening to serve as chair for another year. The Council is the top policy-making body for the Bay cleanup effort, consisting of the governors of Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia; the mayor of the District of Columbia; the administrator of the EPA; and the chairman of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, representing the state legislatures.
Also at its meeting, the Council adopted directives promoting the use of innovative technology in the Bay restoration effort; calling for a coordinated regional effort to manage and distribute animal waste; and launching a "Chesapeake 2000" plan which will result in the signing of a new Bay Agreement.
The education directive seeks to bring together diverse groups such as educators, resource managers, policy makers, the scientific research community, education agencies and others to construct a program that integrates the Bay throughout school programs.
To do so, the directive invites each education departments in the Bay states to become a more active partner in the Bay Program. Each department is encouraged to increase student involvement in watershed protection and restoration efforts, and to compile an annual report summarizing Bay-related education goals.
"The only way we're going to clean up the Chesapeake Bay is if every one of us is out there working together," said Maryland Del. John Wood, chairman of the Chesapeake Bay Commission.
Besides working within the Bay Program, the directive calls on each Bay jurisdiction to create it s own interagency education group to bring together teachers, nonprofit organizations, a Bay Program representative, and officials from state education and resource agencies to focus efforts within their own jurisdictions.
It also calls for an watershedwide "education summit" to take place in 1999 and every two years thereafter to help ex-change ideas and highlight success stories.
Calling better education the key to future stewardship, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Jim Seif, who attended the meeting in the place of Gov. Tom Ridge, remarked about how far environmental education had progressed over the decades. "When I was in high school, environmental education consisted of a guy from the game commission coming in once a year and showing us a stuffed raccoon," he said.
Among its other actions, the Executive Council:
- Signed a directive to promote the development and use of innovative technologies to help control runoff pollution and end-of-pipe discharges, as well as to improve monitoring and speed habitat restoration activities. It directs the Bay Program to identify by May what areas of the restoration effort could most benefit from the use of innovative technologies and to appoint a task force to find ways in which the use of those technologies could be made a reality.
- Signed a directive to help the states deal with the mounting problem of animal waste disposal. As animal feeding operations become more concentrated, they result in more manure production than can be applied locally on land without causing excessive nutrient runoff. Often, though, it is not economic to ship those wastes to areas where they could be used as fertilizer. The directive calls on the Bay Program to establish a task force that will recommend ways to improve the interstate distribution of these wastes, including the use of financial incentives, cost sharing and other techniques.
- Adopted the Community Watershed Initiative Strategy that it had called for at its previous meeting. The strategy outlines ways the Bay Program can better work with local groups and communities to achieve both local environmental goals and broader Bay restoration objectives.
- Signed a "Chesapeake 2000" directive, launching a program to review and update the activities of the Bay Program, leading up to the signing of a new Bay Agreement in 2000. In doing so, the Council also bid farewell to District of Columbia Mayor Marion Barry, the only Council member to have signed the 1987 Bay Agreement, as well as the original agreement in 1983.
In recognition of his role, council members gave Barry a fishing rod and tackle box to use in retirement. Barry, in accepting the gift, recalled early skepticism as to whether the District should have been in-cluded in the signing of the original agreements. "I'm happy to report that we have done our share, more than our share."