USGS commited to reporting unbiased data in a timely fashion

As the nation’s premier earth science agency, the U.S. Geological Survey is committed to conducting sound and reliable research and responsibly sharing scientific data and information. Judging from several statements made by Donald F. Boesch, President of the University of Maryland Center for Environ- mental Science, in his commentary, “Releasing data before it’s soup can get scientists in hot water,” [Bay Journal December 1998] it appears that there may be a general misunderstanding of the USGS policy related to information dissemination.

With respect to the release of information concerning the Chesapeake Bay Program, the USGS agrees with Dr. Boesch’s suggestion that the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Scientific and Technical Advisory Subcommittee openly shares procedures about communicating scientific results through the media. It is certainly important for members of the Chesapeake Bay Program to be able to reference scientific findings presented by the media. This, however, is not synonymous with doing science by consensus. As always, good science includes the free and open exchange of data and information for the purpose of posing new ideas and opening them up to challenge.

The USGS makes use of universally employed, time-tested procedures for ensuring that the results of its scientific research and data-collection activities are technically sound and unbiased. Through a rigorous process of internal technical review, the results of every scientific investigation are scrutinized for data quality, appropriateness of methods, analytical accuracy and the validity of conclusions before being reported to the scientific community.

External review is also part of the process. Scientists in the USGS are expected to communicate and discuss their findings with the scientific community by participating in symposia and workshops and through contributions in publications such as USGS maps, books and recognized scientific journals.

Full USGS participation in the Chesapeake Bay Program committees, subcommittees and workshops enables USGS scientists to routinely share and openly discuss their data and findings. As an example, the information associated with the media reports referred to in Dr. Boesch’s commentary all had been openly discussed within the appropriate Chesapeake Bay Program subcommittees and scientific audiences before their release to the press.

Both quality and relevance are measures of the value of the science communicated. The USGS ensures that its scientific activities are relevant by participating in programs focused on broad societal and environmental problems, such as the Chesapeake Bay Program. One example of the quality and relevance of USGS science was referred to in a January –February Bay Journal commentary by Bill Matuszeski of the EPA. Mr. Matuszeski recognized the “ground-breaking work by the U.S. Geological Survey … to quantify groundwater lag time” within the Chesapeake Bay watershed as an “important scientific breakthrough.”

This leads to a final point regarding the value of accurately and responsibly presenting scientific findings to the public. The USGS informs the public in a timely manner about programs, activities and research through fact sheets, press releases and the USGS web pages. Information about the Chesapeake Bay Program, for example, is available to the public at:http://chesapeake.usgs.gov/chesbay.

The USGS publishes its findings independent of the political or administrative interests of other organizations. As a matter of policy, the USGS strives to be as unbiased in reporting its findings to the public as it is in communicating its findings to other scientists.

The USGS looks forward to working with its partners in the Chesapeake Bay Program to provide technically sound science and to improve methods of communicating the results to other scientists, resource managers and the public.

Katherine Lins
Regional director
Eastern Region, USGS

No females, No babies

We have study after study to see what will be the best way to keep a good supply of fish and crabs in the Bay to ensure that there is a good harvest and that watermen can make a good living.

Studies are good, at times, but it takes nerve, or let’s call it common sense. It took common sense to put a moratorium on the harvesting of rockfish in the Chesapeake Bay, and we all can see what that achieved. The Bay is now full of rockfish.

Now we all know that it takes females to have babies. Put a moratorium on the harvesting and selling of all female crabs: soft, hard and crabmeat that is picked from female crabs, for one year. No studies are needed; common sense tells you: no females, no babies.

The people of Maryland, at one time, bought all of the Maryland crabs they needed. Now, they buy crabs from North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, etc. because one cannot supply them with crabs from the Chesapeake Bay. The moratorium on female crabs would change this.

There is also a shortage of food for the fish in the Bay. More crabs will also mean more food for the fish and more money for the watermen.

It will take the senators and delegates of Maryland to disregard the lobbyists and join the Department of Natural Resources, without studies on this issue — there have been enough studies — to pass a bill to ban the harvest or sale of female crabs and crabmeat in the state for a year. Then the governor can sign it into law. “No Females, No Babies.”

Anthony Kropkowski
Baltimore, MD

Healthy forests, Healthy Bay

As a member of the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, I always enjoy reading the Bay Journal. As a forester, of course, I pay particular attention to articles on riparian forests and forests in general.

We all agree that the health of our forests and the health of the Chesapeake Bay are interdependent. While past articles have suggested the forest products industry somehow fits into the scheme of things, I am sure that there are some skeptics among the readership. For this reason, I think it’s important for readers to understand what’s going on within the industry, particularly the American Forests & Paper Association’s Sustainable Forestry Initiative.

The AF&PA is the trade organization representing the forest and paper industry. The membership of the AF&PA represents 90 percent of the industrial forest land ownership in the United States as well as a large percentage of both paper and solid wood production.

And what is the Sustainable Forestry Initiative? With an eye on the future, the forest and paper industry has designed practices that promote the protection and preservation of our forests. These practices will meet the needs of the present while not compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. This is accomplished by practicing a land stewardship ethic that integrates reforestation by managing, growing, nurturing and harvesting trees for useful products while conserving soil, air and water quality, wildlife and fish habitats and aesthetics. I doubt there are many people who would not buy into these goals.

The industry is also cooperating with conservation groups and others to develop and employ management strategies that foster forest growth. In this regard, here in Maryland, forest and paper companies have worked with such organizations as the Conservation Fund, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation on forest management projects. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has also participated in the state’s Master Logging Program by running one of the training sessions for local logging contractors. Similar stories can be told across the watershed in Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New York.

These practices demonstrate the forest and paper industry’s commitment to showing the world a higher standard in the care and protection of the nation’s forest land. That commitment was solidified with the adoption of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative Program, which was developed and is managed by the AF&PA.

The SFI program is a comprehensive system of principles, guidelines and performance measures that integrates the perpetual growing and harvesting of trees while protecting wildlife and plants as well as soil, air and water quality.

Adopted in 1994, almost 4 million acres are enrolled in the SFI program today. More than 20,000 loggers and foresters have completed SFI training, and an estimated $178 million has been spent by the forest and paper industry on research related to biodiversity, ecosystem management and the environment.

This is why we think a healthy forest products industry is every bit as important to the health of the Chesapeake Bay as the forests themselves. In fact, we think this partnership is a a “natural.”

Larry Walton
Sustainable Forestry Initiative