Bay Journal

December 2006 - Volume 16 - Number 9

Urban tree canopy effort branching out across watershed

Blue skies are fine, but urban forester Jay Banks looks forward to the day that the skies of Leesburg, VA, look a lot greener.

In November, Leesburg became the first town in Virginia and the seventh in the Bay watershed to become an official partner in reaching the Chesapeake Bay Program urban tree canopy goal.

“My personal hope is that trees start to be considered as an asset to the community, instead of a liability,” Banks said. “Once that happens, we’ve turned a corner.” ...

Executive Council gets new members, leader after elections

When Maryland voters went to the polls to elect a new governor in November, they unknowingly selected a new leader for the Bay cleanup effort as well.

That’s because Gov. Robert Ehrlich, who was defeated by Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley, had been selected as chair of the Chesapeake Executive Council at its annual meeting in September.

The chair of the Executive Council—which sets policy for the Bay cleanup effort—had never been defeated in an election before. Officials say the position stays with the jurisdiction selected at the meeting. ...

Officials are anything but crabby over inability to find foreign invader in Bay

Fishery officials this fall issued the equivalent of an “all points bulletin” in their search for an unwanted alien. But they were pleased to not find their suspect—a foreign crab.

When a Chinese mitten crab turned up in a waterman’s crab pot this summer in the Patapsco River, fears were heightened that a breeding population of the exotic creature might become established in the Bay.

After the initial crab turned up, only one other find was confirmed—one that had been collected more than a year earlier and stored in a freezer. Several other sightings were reported, but not verified, leaving the status of the mitten crab uncertain. ...

ASMFC approves menhaden cap for the Bay

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission in October approved a five-year annual cap on the commercial menhaden harvests in the Bay of 109,020 metric tons, a number derived from the average of harvests from 2001–2005.

The cap will be implemented this year and extend through 2010. Harvest for reduction purposes will be prohibited in the Bay when 100 percent of the cap is landed.

The new cap was proposed by Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine after the state General Assembly this year failed to approve a cap approved by ASMFC last year. That threatened to put the state out of compliance with the ASMFC—which regulates catches of migratory fish along the East Coast—which could have led to a closure of the menhaden fishery altogether. ...

Loss of biodiversity a threat to future of world’s fisheries, report says

A new study argues that the loss of biodiversity threatens the ability of the world’s oceans and coastal areas to maintain healthy fisheries, a team of scientists said in a recent article published in the journal Science.

The cumulative loss of species—from inconspicuous worms to large fish—sharply reduces the ability of sea life to resist diseases, filter pollutants and rebound from stresses such as overfishing and climate change, the scientists said.

If current trends continue, the scientists predict a global collapse of fish stocks in the middle of the century—an argument disputed by other fishery scientists. ...

CBF gives Chesapeake Bay a D for 2006, its highest grade ever

The Bay’s health was scored at 29 on a 100-point scale in the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s most recent “State of the Bay” report—the highest mark ever given by the environmental group. Nonetheless, the Bay still got a “D” grade.

“Despite the improvements reflected in this year’s score, the Bay remains in critical condition,” said CBF President Will Baker. “Fish kills, beach closures and dead zones are clear reminders that much more needs to be done.”

Much of the two-point improvement from last year’s mark was attributed to near-record-low spring rainfall, which flushed fewer nutrients and sediment off the land and into the Bay. But the report also suggested that some actions on the land to reduce nutrients are beginning to have an impact. ...

Volunteers flock to tree planting at Virginia Important Bird Area

Sometimes if conditions are right, a series of ideas will converge, and much like a network of small streams, pick up velocity and become a mighty force just like the river they are intended to serve. That’s what happened in the lower James River this year, as a 20-acre tree planting project designed to quell a serious erosion problem at Presquile National Wildlife Refuge flowed naturally into a collateral effort aimed at designating that stretch of river as a globally significant area by the National Audubon Society. ...

Exurban development sprawling across watershed’s landscape

Beyond the suburbs, yet apart from the countryside, is a familiar realm with a less-than-familiar name: the exurbs.

According to a new report from the Brookings Institution, the exurbs are a crucible of change in the U.S. landscape, and the Chesapeake Bay watershed contains many of them.

The exurbs also influence the quality of life—and environment—for the entire metropolitan region to which they belong. “What we do with exurbia will have a disproportionate impact on the future shape of the metropolitan area,” said Alan Berube, lead researcher and co-author of the report. ...

Scientists hope to get Bay’s oyster restoration rolling with reef balls

Faced with a declining supply of oyster shells and an increasing demand for oyster reefs, scientists are exploring a new way to provide habitat: prefabricated oyster homes.

The homes in this case are “reef balls” made from concrete poured into fiberglass molds. When popped from the molds and placed on the Bay’s bottom, they provide a raised, solid surface on which oyster larvae, or “spat,” can attach and grow.

“The big picture idea is to explore alternatives to dredge shell for reef construction,” said Stephanie Reynolds, a fisheries scientist with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, which is conducting experiments to see how hospitable reef balls are for oysters. ...

There’s still hope for the Anacostia in spite of all the strikes against it

When the national anthem is finally played in the new baseball stadium rising along the banks of the Anacostia River, long-suffering fans of the Washington Nationals may have to use one hand to hold their hats over their hearts—and the other hand to hold their noses.

Every year, human waste is discharged directly—or leaks indirectly—into the Anacostia by a century-old sewage system that is overwhelmed during heavy rains and is riddled with leaks.

Most sewage from homes and businesses is combined with stormwater from city streets and sent to the Blue Plains Wastewater Treatment Plant. ...

Urban trees’ benefits extend beyond their beauty

Urban trees are dispersed in small clusters throughout a city, but have a collective impact on both the environment and human health. Increasing the amount of urban trees—and the amount of mature, leafy canopy that spreads across the city—improves the overall quality of life for urban residents and saves money, too. Some examples include:

  • Water quality: Trees absorb rain in their leaves and roots, reducing stormwater runoff, erosion and flooding. Trees also filter nutrients and sediments from rainwater, reducing pollution to local waterways. When too few trees remain, communities increasingly rely on costly engineered solutions to manage stormwater and reduce pollution.
  • Air Quality: Trees filter pollutants carried in the air that affect both local rivers and human lungs. Trees are especially effective at storing carbon, which helps to reduce global warming. They also remove particles of dust, smoke and ash, as well sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, two major components of acid rain.
  • Energy Savings: Trees are natural insulators that cool buildings during the summer and keep them warm during the winter. Homes with well-placed trees cut energy costs by as much as 25 percent.
  • Temperature Control: Trees take a bite out of the urban heat island, where buildings, paved surfaces, and automobile engines create air temperatures that are 2 to 10 degrees hotter than rural communities.
  • Wildlife Habitat: Urban trees offer refuge for mammals, insects and birds, including migratory species. Along streams, they support fish and amphibian habitat by cooling the water and creating shelter and feeding grounds along fallen branches and leaves.
  • Recreation: In urban areas, wooded areas are valuable settings for recreation and exercise, which is especially important when 75 percent of Americans aren’t getting the exercise they need.
  • Quality of Life: Urban settings filled with trees foster human connections to the environment and to one another by reducing stress, increasing the use of public spaces and offering healthier play for children. Studies have also indicated that work productivity and patient recovery are aided by a green environment. Drivers tend to be less aggressive on tree-lined thoroughfares, while consumers linger longer and spend more money. Homes with mature trees can sell for at least 7 percent more than those without. And, a Baltimore study showed that more than half of a neighborhood’s residents consider moving away when tree cover falls below 15 percent.


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