Bay Journal

October 2006 - Volume 16 - Number 7

State of the Chesapeake Forests: Public perception often fails to look at importance of forests beyond trees

An early Pennsylvania settler was less than impressed with the massive woodlands he found surrounding his new home. The colony, he wrote, was “not a land of prospects. There is too much wood.” If one wandered to the top of a hill for a view “it generally is nothing but an undulating surface of impenetrable forest.”

At the time, an estimated 95 percent of the Chesapeake Bay’s 64,000-square-mile watershed was forested, filled with massive trees which stood, on average, 40 percent taller than those that fill today’s woodlands. ...

Political scientist launches Blue Crab Project to promote Bay leaders

With many Bay issues being resolved by political bodies—from local government zoning and stormwater decisions to state and federal environmental programs—a political scientist has stepped in to help fill the information void that exists about political newcomers.

Howard Ernst, associate professor of political science at the U.S. Naval Academy, this year launched the Blue Crab Project, which assesses whether political challengers facing incumbents or seeking open seats are what he considers to be a “Bay safe” choice. ...

Gateways Network adds 6 sites

Six new sites recently joined the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network, giving visitors opportunities to learn more about Bay topics as diverse as African American maritime history and cutting-edge scientific research.

The Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network is a partnership system of more than 150 refuges, historic ports, museums and trails around the Bay watershed. Each tells a part of the multifaceted Chesapeake story. Together, they provide a way to experience and understand the Bay as a whole. ...

Researchers seek to understand how blue crabs know to return to bays

Swallows return to Capistrano, and buzzards to Ohio. In the Chesapeake and Delaware bays, it’s the tasty and feisty blue crabs, and researchers are still trying to find out how.

“What we know points up everything we still don’t understand about what triggers what behavior,” said Elizabeth W. North, a researcher at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Studies. “Somehow, they seem to sense the need to get back to the bays.”

Like the buzzards that return to Hinckley, OH, and the swallows that come home to the San Juan Capistrano in California every spring, blue crabs also have a yearly peregrination. ...

High number of egg-producing male bass found in Potomac

Some species of male fish are acquiring female sexual characteristics at unusually high frequencies in the Potomac River and its tributaries, prompting concerns about pollutants that might be causing the problem.

In some Potomac tributaries, including the Shenandoah River in Virginia, nearly all of the male smallmouth bass caught in a survey last year by the U.S. Geological Survey were so-called “intersex fish,” producing immature eggs in their testes.

In the Potomac itself, seven of 13 largemouth bass exhibited female characteristics, including three that were producing eggs. ...

PA farmers could REAP tax benefits under conservation program

Legislation that would provide valuable new tax credits to Pennsylvania farmers who take conservation actions that improve water quality was the subject of hearings in both the state House and Senate during September.

The Resource Enhancement and Protection Act of Pennsylvania, or REAP, would provide tax credits of 25–75 percent for cleaning up barnyards, planting forested stream buffers, installing stream bank fencing or removing accumulated sediment in streams. The amount of the credit is based on the water quality value of the practice. ...

EPA proposes limits on algae concentrations to reduce blooms in Bay

The EPA is proposing that measurable limits be established for algae concentrations in the Bay and portions of its tidal tributaries to provide an added layer of protection for the Chesapeake, and reduce the risk of harmful algal blooms.

In September, the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program Office released draft water quality criteria for chlorophyll a—a measure of the amount of algae in the water—which, if adopted by the states, would join water clarity and dissolved oxygen as the key measures that indicate whether areas of the Chesapeake are healthy or “impaired.” ...

World is her oyster: Science Fair project earns teen international recognition

When Emily Brownlee set up her science fair project about oysters in the Chesapeake Bay, ball gowns and Swedish royalty were far from her mind.

But when all was all over, her project, “A Tale of Two Oysters,” had earned a prestigious national award and the chance to compete in Sweden for the international Stockholm Junior Water Prize.

Brownlee conducted her award-winning project while a senior at Calvert High School in Prince Frederick, MD. She compared the effects of two types of algae on the early growth of young native oysters (Crassostrea virginica) and young Asian oysters (C. ariakensis), which have been proposed for introduction to Bay waters. ...

Executive Council actions focus on forests, farms, fertilizer

Bay cleanup leaders in September took action to help the Bay by addressing water quality issues stemming from three land uses: lawns, farms and forests.

In a series of actions, the Executive Council:

  • Signed an agreement to reduce phosphorus in lawn care products;
  • Pledged to set measurable forest protection goals at next year’s meeting;
  • Agreed to step up state spending for farm conservation programs, while also lobbying Congress for additional support; and
  • Urged state secretaries and commissioners of agriculture to provide regular input on Bay issues.

The annual meeting of the Executive Council, which includes the governors of Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania; the mayor of the District of Columbia; the administrator of the EPA; and the chairman of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, which represents state legislatures, took place on Maryland’s Kent Island with the Bay, which the group has promised to clean up by 2010, as a backdrop. ...

Minebank Run restoration hits pay dirt in reducing nitrogen loads

Minebank Run now splashes through Baltimore County along cobblestones instead of concrete channels, and sports lush, green edges where steep, muddy banks once stood.

The restored urban stream is also sending as much as 50 percent less nitrogen into the Gunpowder River and, ultimately, the Chesapeake Bay.

A team of university and federal scientists is excited about improved water quality in Minebank Run and equally excited about its ability to document the cause.

“This is the only stream for which we have such an intensive study, where we can really demonstrate how restoration projects have reduced nitrogen in the stream,” said Paul Mayer, a groundwater scientist who monitors Minebank Run on behalf of the EPA. ...

How River Groups Can Make Waves

Grassroots organizations often find themselves in something of a Catch-22 when it comes to advancing watershed restoration.

To be eligible for grants, they often must be incorporated as a charitable or educational nonprofit organization under section 501(c)3 of the federal tax code, which makes them exempt from many state and federal taxes.

But that designation also limits their political activity. In general, 501(c)3 organizations cannot advocate on behalf of a particular candidate; publish or distribute statements for or against a candidate; or contribute money or services to a candidate. As a rule of thumb, actions taken near a campaign are more likely to be considered a political activity that those done at other times. ...

Anne Arundel watershed groups unite, seek voters’ help on stormwater utility issue

Every time it rains in the South River, the streams that feed it turn to chocolate as they become choked with the sediment running off the land or being eroded from their steep, unstable banks.

But the runoff carries far more than dirt: It also contains a host of other pollutants from nutrients to toxic substances—recent studies have turned up large numbers of brown bullhead catfish with tumors that scientists think may be linked to chemicals used in pavement sealers. Bacteria levels are often high enough after a rainstorm to make water unsafe for swimming. ...

Forestry for the Bay program to help forest owners see green for their efforts

Many owners of small forest tracts don’t understand the connections between healthy forests and a healthy Bay. In fact, some of them may not think of themselves as forest owners at all. And many think of forest management in extremes—either maximize timber production or do nothing at all.

In fact there are many management options for small tracts. The challenge for landowners is finding the assistance needed to effectively manage their woodland. In some cases, forest agencies don’t have the staff to seek out the hundreds of thousands of individual landowners in need. ...

Strategies for Bay forests

The “State of the Chesapeake Forests” report set 16 specific strategies to help protect forests, habitats, drinking water sources, jobs and public health in the future. They include:

1. Protect the Chesapeake’s exceptional forest resources— on a landscape scale—after identifying, conserving and restoring forests that have high environmental, economic and social value.

2. Direct land use planning efforts to reduce the loss and fragmentation of forest resources in developing areas. ...

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