The last of the snow mounds on my street finally melted, leaving a grave reminder of the paralyzing snowfalls that left many of us "stranded" in our neighborhoods for days at a time this winter. And now, the first signs of spring are bursting forth: bulbs pushing up from garden beds, squirrels digging through the thawed earth, a fuzzy haze of green coving trees and my car windshield. Ahh, Spring has finally arrived.
The transition from winter to spring reminds us that the Earth has an amazing capacity to renew itself-to start over. So it is fitting that we celebrate Earth Day during this renewal period each year in April.
For those of us who make the Earth a priority every day, it is still a great reminder that we need to renew our efforts to help restore and repair our damage planet.
Earth Day was started 40 years ago this month by U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson, D-WI, as a nationwide grassroots demonstration-a forum for all Americans to express concern about what was happening to the land, rivers, lakes and air. An estimated 20 million people participated in various events through the nation. Today, Earth Day is celebrated by more than a billion people in 180 nations around the world.
For many, Earth Day has become a weeklong celebration with activities before and after the official day of April 22.
As I travel around this region, I am continually encouraged and amazed by the grassroots efforts and innovative actions under way to restore and protect the Chesapeake Bay-not only on Earth Day-but every day. Many of these efforts, led by individual citizens, are making a difference in local "head state" waterways and are ultimately helping to restore and protect the Chesapeake Bay.
One example is the restoration work by landowners like Ray and Loddie Lewis in New York state. After attending a local community organization meeting on how landowners could improve local stream conditions through watershed management, the Lewises constructed three wetlands on their upstate New York farm. Working with several local organizations and eventually the National Park Service, the wetlands were constructed and now help catch sediment and farm-related pollution before it enters Carrs Creek, a tributary to the upper Susquehanna River.
Farmers in West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle region area are making a big impact by preserving forested areas and creating obstacles to development. Third generation farmers Mike Rudolph and his brother, Jackie, are some of the largest cattle producers in the region. Both brothers put conservation easements on significant portions of their farms.
Along with other like-minded individuals, more than 10,000 acres in the state's Cacapon and Lost Rivers watersheds are now protected from development in perpetuity.
Students can make a difference, too. A group of high school students in New York is getting real-life experience monitoring environmental conditions on the upper Susquehanna River as part of a regional program for schools. Working with the Upper Susquehanna Watershed Project, a collaborative effort of high schools from Cooperstown to Afton, NY, the students analyze water samples and monitor stream flows at seven satellite reporting stations along the Susquehanna River and its tributaries. The data collected by the students will be used to complete a watershed plan and pursue reductions in harmful water pollutants.
The new strategy for restoring and protecting the Chesapeake Bay relies on improving performance and greater accountability. But, it will take a collective effort at every level-federal, state, local, public, private and individual-to restore the Chesapeake Bay and our local waterways.
So, on this 40th anniversary of Earth Day-or Earth Week-take a moment to think about actions you can take to improve your local waterways and the Chesapeake Bay. Whether it's planting a tree or creating a rain garden in your yard, working with your local watershed organization on an education campaign or meeting with your local officials about how they can make changes to reduce stormwater runoff in your community-remember that as a citizen of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, your actions matter!