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."

The new signs feature a great blue heron, a brook trout and a canoeist. They were funded by a special appropriation from the Commonwealth of Virginia and erected by the Virginia Department of Transportation.

They are part of an educational effort to help the public understand more about the Bay restoration by highlighting the concept of a watershed, or drainage basin. The Bay's watershed includes all or parts of Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia, Delaware and the District of Columbia.

Similar signs have been erected elsewhere in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. All are original works of art reflecting clean water and symbols of the watershed's bounty.

The Chesapeake Bay Commission is a tri-state legislative advisory commission formed in 1980.