Bay Journal

December 2018 - Volume 28 - Number 9
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Efforts strive to make outdoor spaces more inviting, accessible to all

When Kevin Bryan visits Rock Creek Park near his home in the District of Columbia, it reminds him of what’s possible. He sees families from many ethnic backgrounds hosting barbecues and birthday parties at picnic tables. Dog walkers wind their way through wooded trails while cyclists “look like they are training for the Tour de France” as they hug the curves of the park’s paved roads.

“People do use these spaces differently, and a lot of it depends on your background and the culture you came from,” Bryan said. “But, if these lands are actually supposed to benefit all of us, we should figure out how to make that happen.”

As lead coordinator for the Next 100 Coalition, Bryan is focused on ensuring that national park lands remain relevant for at least another century by appealing more equally to all Americans, especially those who are underrepresented in some public spaces.

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MD Shore farms brace for latest phase-in of phosphorus rule

A much-debated farm pollution regulation is set to take wider effect soon in Maryland, stirring growing anxiety among farmers and environmentalists alike. Those concerns could put the rule on hold next year.

The state’s Phosphorus Management Tool rule, adopted in 2015, aims to reduce the risk of polluted farm runoff by limiting how much manure farmers can use to fertilize certain fields.

Only about 100 farms have been affected so far, as the restrictions are being slowly phased in through 2022. But the number of farms that must comply with the rule is set to jump significantly in 2019.

Banned pesticide still in some MD stores, spot checks show

Maryland’s pioneering law to restrict the sale and use of insecticides implicated in honeybee die-offs had a bumpy debut this year. Spot checks of home and garden, hardware and other stores around the state found some of them still stocking bug-killing products that should have been removed from retail shelves.

The Pollinator Protection Act, passed in 2016, made Maryland the first state in the nation to adopt legislation aimed at keeping consumers from using neonicotinoids, a widely used class of insecticides that some studies have linked to steep population declines of bees and other pollinators. At least eight other states have adopted different legislation aimed at protecting pollinators from pesticides.

Is nonnative red alga a friend or foe? It all depends…

Any newcomer takes time to size up. And when one makes its entrance as slowly and subtly as Gracilaria vermiculophylla — a red alga native to the Pacific — did in the Chesapeake Bay, it can be even harder to determine whether its introduction will be helpful or harmful.

Today, as Gracilaria has become widespread in Virginia waters, questions continue to swirl around it.

Cattle farmer uses down-to-earth practices to beef up the soil

The shaggy Red Devon-Angus and doe-eyed Jersey cattle surrounding Virginia farmer Matt Rales are more than the sum of their parts — though their meat will eventually be sold by the pound. To Rales, they are tools to tangibly address climate change, and he wants to prove they’re up to the task.

Rales, who runs Another Perfect Day Farm with his fiancée, Abigail Fuller, has begun transforming the nearly 800 acres he purchased in 2016 into an ecosystem at peak performance: one that better filters water and sequesters carbon — and does so by feeding a growing herd of cattle.

‘Just short of a crisis’: Tensions flare as VA halts oyster seed harvest in James

Virginia fishery managers are taking the rare step of halting oyster seed harvests in the lower James River as they seek to protect the baby bivalves from overfishing.

Oyster seeds are wild-grown juvenile oysters, or “spat.” Many oyster farmers working in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries depend on regular shipments of fresh seed to replenish their lease areas.

The Virginia Marine Resources Commission expects to temporarily stop the catch before the season’s scheduled closure at the end of the year. Without the action, watermen almost certainly would surpass the fall quota of 40,000 oyster seed bushels taken from the river, officials said.

Spotted lanternfly, a dire threat to crops, shows up in MD

The spotted lanternfly, an exotic insect that feeds like a vampire on the sap of fruit orchards and hardwood trees, has been detected for the first time in Maryland, setting off alarm bells in the agricultural industry.

The Maryland Department of Agriculture announced Oct. 25 that it had found a single adult specimen in a trap in the northeastern corner of Cecil County, at the northern end of the Bay. The county borders Pennsylvania and Delaware, two states where lanternflies had previously been discovered.

Maryland officials said they are moving to stop the invasion in its tracks.

Bid to build townhomes on VA floodplain draws opposition

A vacant trailer and spray-painted “no parking” sign in Alexandria, VA, have long made the gravel lot where they’re perched look forgotten. But a plan to redevelop the 8-acre site at 8800 Richmond Highway — which sits squarely in the floodplain of a Potomac River tributary — is garnering plenty of attention and lively debate.

A Northern Virginia developer wants to build 43 townhomes on the property that is considered one of the thoroughfare’s biggest eyesores. Supporters say the project aligns with Fairfax County’s broader vision for redeveloping a more than 7-mile strip of the timeworn corridor.

But doing so would require exemptions from state and local laws intended to prevent flooding and protect water quality in the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay. 

Months after storms, Chesapeake debris cleanup presses on

A half-submerged tree trunk bobbed in the waters of the Chesapeake Bay.

From his perch several hundred feet away aboard a small barge, John Gallagher began giving orders to his crew. Not much needed to be said. By now, the actions of the other three men had become almost automatic.

“Here’s a good example of what the debris looks like in here,” said Gallagher, head of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ hydrographic operations. “This is right off the channel.”

Multifunction stream buffers offer food for thought for PA farms

Don English strode along the mowed path through his streamside buffer on Happy Hollow Farm in southcentral Pennsylvania with the confidence of an experienced tour guide. The tiny headwater stream of Deer Creek gurgled by, hardly visible in the tangled sprays of goldenrod and deep purple bergamot growing tall in the sunny spaces between larger trees and shrubs.

The 4-acre streamside buffer designed by his landscape architect wife, Ann, filters pollutants from stormwater and provides wildlife habitat. It also generates nuts, berries, honey and syrup — a bounty that could also deliver a financial return. 

Young Atlantic sturgeon numbers surge in the James River

A bumper crop of juvenile Atlantic sturgeon in the James River this fall is raising some environmentalists’ hopes that the endangered fish may be staging a steady comeback in Virginia’s largest river.

“We’re starting to see real momentum to see a species come back, but also a river come back,” said Jamie Brunkow, riverkeeper for the James River Association.

This fall, as of Nov. 12, 153 juvenile sturgeon had been discovered in the James during routine trawling surveys — a staggering increase over last fall’s yield of just two.

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