Bay Journal

July-August 1995 - Volume 5 - Number 5

Study finds 4.5 percent loss in forest lands

Foresters worry the trend threatens remaining woodlands and the Chesapeake Bay

A NEW U.S. Forest Service study shows that the Chesapeake Bay watershed lost 4.5 percent of its forest cover during a 14-year period ending in 1992 as woodlands were cleared at a rate of more than 100 acres a day.

That is a reverse from a long trend of forest recovery which lasted from the early part of this century -- when only 30 percent to 40 percent of the 64,000-square-mile watershed was forested -- to about 1970 when the amount of wooded land grew to more than 60 percent. ...

Manatee’s wanderings monitored from space

"Chessie," the Florida manatee swimming in the Atlantic Ocean hundreds of miles north of where he should be, is being tracked from space.

The 10-foot, 1,500-pound manatee, which has been fitted with a transmitter, was captured in the Chesapeake Bay last October and flown back to the warmer waters of Florida to save his life. No one knows why the manatee, dubbed Chessie, traveled so far north last year and no one knows why he returned.

But he left his native habitat near Jacksonville, Fla., on June 15 and by July 4 had entered the Bay, having traveled 525 miles in 19 days. He was later spotted near Chincoteague Island. ...

Juniata Jaunt

A bright blue "Junicorn' and lots of smallmouth bass. If you think this sounds like a tasty gourmet meal or the characters in the latest medieval adventure novel, you are obviously not one of the 125 plus people who participated in the fifth annual Susquehanna Sojourn.

Dubbed the "Juniata Jaunt," this year's canoe trip ran June 21-28. It drew a record number of paddlers of all ages from all over the Chesapeake Bay watershed and from as far away as Seminole, Fla. The trip, designed to draw attention to the river, its connection to the Susquehanna and ultimately the Bay, covered 99 miles from Warrior's Ridge Dam near Petersburg, Pa., to the river's confluence with the Susquehanna in Duncannon, Pa. This was the first-ever Sojourn to highlight a tributary to the Susquehanna. ...

Scientists back wetland programs, recommend some changes

Wetland delineation -- one of the federal government's most controversial activities -- should be handled by a single agency using a single manual for guidance, concluded a panel of scientists convened by the National Research Council.

Their report, "Wetlands: Characteristics and Boundaries," was requested by Congress after a storm of controversy arose in the late 1980s and early 1990s over how wetlands should be identified. While recommending a number of changes, the panel concluded that current regulatory practices are largely on track. ...

Revisions planned for Pennsylvania wetland rules

Pennsylvania environmental officials are planning to change their wetland identification methods and mitigation requirements in an effort to make the state's wetland policies and regulations more flexible.

Among the proposed changes, the state will drop its use of the controversial 1989 federal manual for identifying wetlands. Instead, it will use the 1987 federal manual, the same document being used by federal agencies and most other states, including Maryland.

The state Department of Environmental Protection is also planning a new "general permit" that will allow homeowners to fill up to one-half acre of wetlands for the construction of a home if those impacts cannot be avoided, a measure that mirrors a new federal policy. Property owners would be required to pay into a mitigation fund. ...

Students and watermen teaming up to save Bay oysters

Dozens of Baltimore schoolchildren joined watermen and scientists in mid-July to begin placing seed oysters in two protected Choptank River nurseries in the hope they can help the Chesapeake's oyster population recover from two diseases.

About 900 bags of the tiny oyster spat, attached to clean oyster shells recovered from Maryland shucking houses, were placed in nurseries as the first stage of a project to recover Maryland's oyster population.

The project is the first major effort for the Maryland Oyster Recovery Partnership, a cooperative venture among watermen, environmentalists, University of Maryland Center for Environmental and Estuarine Studies scientists, and the state Department of Natural Resources. ...

Virginians show strong support for environment in poll

A majority of Virginians oppose reducing environmental regulations overall, and by a 2-to-1 ratio they oppose any action that could increase pollution to waterways and the Chesapeake Bay, according to a new survey.

The survey, conducted for the Virginia Environmental Endowment, found that while state residents strongly support Gov. George Allen -- 69 percent approve of the job he is doing while 27 percent disapprove -- 55 percent also worry that some of the deregulatory efforts he supports may be going "too far" and threaten the environment and public health. ...

Aide to Sen. Biden named to head EPA Region III

An aide to U.S. Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., D-Del., has been appointed administrator of EPA Region III, which oversees Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C..

W. Michael McCabe, 43, replaces former regional administrator Peter Kostmayer, a former Pennsylvania congressman who was fired from the environmental job earlier this year after disagreements with EPA Administrator Carol Browner. All of the Bay watershed, except the northernmost portion of the Susquehanna River drainage in New York, is in Region III. ...

Two new agencies replace Pennsylvania DER

The 25-year-old Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources was replaced by two new agencies July 1, fulfilling a campaign promise of Gov. Tom Ridge to split the states environmental regulatory functions from its resource management actions.

The governor said the division of DER would make the state more user friendly to those it regulates and would provide a Cabinet-level advocate for parks and forests. We have not eliminated DER, Ridge said. We have better defined Pennsylvanias environmental mission. ...

Oxygen in the Chesapeake Bay

Most aquatic species, like land-dwellers, need oxygen to survive: They just need it in smaller amounts. The Chesapeake Bay generally contains less than 14 parts per million of oxygen, compared with more than 200,000 ppm in the atmosphere. Amounts of dissolved oxygen along the bottom of the Bay can be much lower, though. Dying algae sinks to the bottom and decomposes in a process that consumes oxygen. When top and bottom layers become strongly stratified either because of large differences in salinity or temperature the ability of bottom water to mix with the top layer (where oxygen is replenished from the atmosphere) is limited. In that case, oxygen concentrations in the water drop and can even be eliminated. ...

Freshet sequel: Low flows to Bay bring some surprises

For two straight years, huge amounts of fresh water bearing huge amounts of nutrients to feed algae blooms were flushed into the Bay, resulting in some of the worst water-quality conditions ever observed in the Chesapeake.

Water quality managers hoped for a break in that trend this year. They got their wish. After a mild winter, the Bay did, indeed, get low flows. April set a record for low discharges from the Susquehanna, the largest tributary to the Chesapeake.

But managers also learned there was truth in an old adage: Be careful what you wish for, because you may get it. ...

Budgets slashed for many Bay-related programs

The House is moving toward passage -- and the Senate will soon consider -- a series of budget bills that would sharply cut spending for many programs that could affect Bay restoration efforts.

Bills that cleared the House Appropriations Committee would sharply cut many programs from the EPA , National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Forest Service and the Interior Department which benefit the Chesapeake.

In addition, the House voted to eliminate funding for state-federal commissions that manage water issues in the Potomac and Susquehanna river basins, and to slash funds used to help manage coastal fish species -- many of which are in decline. ...

Forest trends in the Bay watershed

In the early 1600s, William Strachey, secretary of the Jamestown colony, observed, "the land we see around us is overgrown with trees and woods, being a plain wilderness, as God first ordained it."

It is no wonder that the region seemed so strange to the newcomers. Europe had only about 25 prominent tree species, while the New World had about 525, many of which were seen along the Bay.

Lumber quickly become one of the first exports from the colony; the first ship returning to England brought along a cargo of wood. Soon, the colony became an important supplier of ship masts and timber. Land was also cleared for farming, and wood was important within the colony for building and for firewood. ...

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