The U.S. Postal Service has a new mission — delivering for the Chesapeake Bay.

Bay watershed residents may have already noticed changes at their local post office, such as newly planted blueberry bushes, holly trees, or rhododendrons. These plantings are part of the U.S. Postal Service’s plan to promote BayScaping, an environmentally sound landscaping program that preserves water quality and creates wildlife habitat, while saving time and energy by reducing maintenance and water usage.

The BayScapes projects are part of the Postal Service’s greater efforts to restore and protect the Chesapeake Bay. In 1996, the Postal Service — along with other federal agencies — signed a memorandum of understanding with the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program Office to champion the environmental stewardship of the Bay, improve coordination and involvement with municipalities, and increase public awareness.

The 64,000-square-mile Chesapeake watershed, which includes portions of six states, also contains 3,000 Postal Service facilities, including processing and distribution centers, bulk mail facilities, vehicle maintenance facilities, air mail facilities and local post offices. They range in size from less than 1 acre to as much as 30 acres and are located in both urban and rural areas.

As part of its agreement with EPA, the Postal Service, in October 1997 developed its first biennial Chesapeake Bay Program Action Plan, which outlined actions needed to support the protection and restoration of the Bay. The five goals of the action plan are:

  • Assist the EPA in ecosystem protection that can be directly influenced by actions of the Postal Service;
  • Partner with other federal agencies to champion the concept of environmental stewardship to preserve and protect the Bay’s natural
  • Work with municipalities to improve coordination and involvement with Bay protection and restoration efforts at state and local levels;
  • Assist the EPA with efforts to increase public awareness of the Chesapeake Bay Program and Bay restoration at local postal facilities;
  • Develop an action plan for setting goals and implementing these commitments.

First, an inventory of postal facilities was entered into a geographical information system that was overlaid with natural resource data to determine which facilities fall within the watershed’s boundaries. The Postal Service will use GIS data when making decisions or establishing programs regarding projects situated within the watershed.

In another effort, the Postal Service is helping the Bay Program reach its goal of reducing the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus entering the Bay by 40 percent by developing a “generic grounds management plan.” Traditionally, grounds management plans emphasize landscaping techniques—the new plan is unique in that it is holistic, incorporating BayScapes, natural resource conservation, stormwater management and exterior maintenance.

The new plan also focuses on the grounds management activities of both postal employees and contractors to ensure that they are consistent with the overall goals and objectives of the Postal Service and Bay Program.

The plan will be based on existing Postal Service environmental policies, with new programs and procedures being developed where appropriate. Once the plan is complete, it will be implemented at four model facilities and evaluated for implementation at other sites.

To educate both employees and the public, the Postal Service, in a partnership with the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, has developed a poster illustrating the benefits of BayScaping. It is on display at postal facilities throughout the watershed.

The Postal Service is also designing a brochure on BayScaping practices for employees.

For information on Postal Service environmental initiatives call Sharon Marsh, Environmental Management Policy, 202-268-6486, or visit: www.usps.gov/environ/.

For information about BayScaping, contact the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay at www.acb-online.org