Bay Journal

September 1995 - Volume 5 - Number 6

Biodiversity and the Bay

For the past 30 years, scientists have been studying the varied bottom-dwelling invertebrates that reside in the York River near its confluence with the Chesapeake Bay.

There has been a lot happening.

“We’ve seen species come and go, we’ve seen species become very abundant and then go back down in abundance, and we’ve seen species that were not abundant increase in abundance,” said Bob Diaz, of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. “So there is almost any combination of patterns that you can think of going on.” ...

How the Endangered Species Act Works

Each year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (or the National Marine Fisheries Service for marine species) publishes a “notice of review” in the Federal Register listing animal “candidate” species being considered for endangered or threatened status one year and plant candidates the next year. Sometimes, states, citizens or others may petition the agencies to list a species. When that happens, the agencies evaluate the petition to determine whether a listing may be warranted.

After a series of procedural steps designed to ensure public participation, the appropriate secretary (secretary of Interior or Commerce) decides whether to list the species based on the best scientific information available. By law, listing decisions must be based solely on the best available biological data. (This is the only place where the act expressly prohibits economic factors to be considered.) ...

Endangered Species Around the Chesapeake

On the brink

A number of plant and animal species in the Bay region are currently designated as threatened or endangered. Most of these have been impacted by habitat loss and human activity. Among the endangered or threatened species in the region are:

  • Piping plover (threatened). This small, sandpiper-like bird is found on sand flats and mud flats, feeding on worms, crustaceans and other invertebrates. The piping plover nests on open, sandy beaches from Newfoundland to North Carolina. Primary threats to the piping plover include the modification and destruction of habitat from commercial, recreational and residential development.


Debate over endangered species reaches the Bay

On one side of the street, a clutch of about 20 sign-toting property rights activists gathered to chant: “What do we want?” “Private property rights.” “When do we want them?” “Now.”

Across the street, 200 or more environmentalists, some clutching stuffed animals, listened to speaker after speaker talk about the peril facing many species across the nation.

The scene, near the State House in Annapolis, was a sign that the endangered species debate was alive in the Chesapeake Bay region. The specific event was a June 26 town hall meeting hosted by Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-Md. ...

Marylanders support public funds for land conservation

Almost 90 percent of Maryland residents support the use of public funds for land conservation and agree that some areas should be left in their natural state forever, according to a recent survey.

The survey, done for the Maryland Greenways Commission, also found that three out of four residents believe it is important to have natural resources close to where they work and live, and a majority said they would be inclined to move if existing open spaces were lost in their communities.

“These results clearly indicate Marylanders care deeply about their natural resources and recognize the important role they play in their quality of life and in making the state attractive to tourists, businesses and development,” said Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary John Griffin. ...

Bay Foundation calls for deep-water crab sanctuary

Saying that the Bay’s blue crab population is close to “collapse,” the Chesapeake Bay Foundation has called for establishing a sanctuary in all portions of the Bay deeper than 40 feet — putting about one-quarter of its tidal area off-limits to crabbing.

The intent of the sanctuary, which the CBF said should be implemented in September, is to provide a zone of “safe passage” to female crabs that migrate down the Bay to spawn. CBF has sent its proposal to natural resource officials in Maryland and Virginia. ...

Goose population plummets

The first concrete sign that something was dramatically wrong with the Chesapeake Bay’s Canada goose population came 1,600 miles to the north.

There, in the spring of 1994, a pair of biologists knew something was amiss shortly after their small, twin-engine plane began flying straight lines — or “transects” — over the tundra of northern Quebec.

As they scanned the breeding grounds 100 feet below, it was clear to the biologists — one from Canada, and the other one from the United States — that far fewer geese were nesting than in 1993, the first year of the annual survey. ...

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