Bay Journal

Opinion

Politics, Schmolitics—We All Want a Healthy Planet

A depressing myth about “the American people” has been debunked consistently in surveys among actual Americans.

The myth portrays U.S. citizens as pitted acrimoniously right against left, with no common ground between us and no interest in finding some.

Worse, it depicts Americans as hostile to our own homeland — happy to wreck our ecosystems, obliterate wildlife populations, public lands and water supplies; and eager to hand our fragile public coastal habitats over to destructive private drilling operations.

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Other actions needed before rushing to address climate’s effect on nutrients

I was among the first and have been among the most persistent scientific advocates for addressing climate change in our efforts to restore the Bay. Even so, I think that the recent decision of the Bay Program's Principal Staff Committee not to increase, at this time, the nutrient loads that must be reduced by 2025 to accommodate the effects of climate change is appropriate. 

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Finding enchantment in our theater of grace

Fairies are nesting in my trees. Right there in my front lawn, at the very top of my tulip poplars.

In the wintertime I can see them cleverly posing as seed clusters perched at the end of the trees’ highest branches. Sometimes they look like golden chalices, or crowns, or stiffened gowns hung upside-down. When the wind is right you can hear them whispering, as if conspiring about the next mischief they will play on the deer.

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Chesapeake’s historic waterways paying the price of nutrient trading

The scenic Monocacy River in central Maryland winds through Civil War battlefields, with rows of bone-white sycamores lining its banks as if they were ghostly soldiers standing at attention to demonstrate their respect.

Both Maryland and the city of Frederick promote kayaking and fishing on the waterway. But beyond this advertising to tourists, the state’s and local governments’ oversight of the river have been more passive-aggressive than respectful.

On the banks of the Monocacy, the Frederick City Wastewater Treatment Plant disgorges a waterfall of partially treated human waste carrying a gut-wrenching reek of ammonia and illegal amounts of pollution down black-stained boulders into the river.

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A walk in the woods with a different kind of forester

It’s a chill November morning, the rising sun sloshing light on the tree tops. Larry Walton and I are about a half-mile into the woods that line the Nanticoke River near Vienna, MD, when he wraps his arms around a great old Atlantic white cedar.

The species once shaded thousands of acres of Delmarva Peninsula swamps with its dense, evergreen canopies, before rampant logging and wetlands destruction made cedars relatively rare. Today, you seldom see specimens like this.

I’m about to kid my friend Larry, a career commercial forester, that he’s become a tree hugger as he approaches retirement at age 65. But he’s just measuring the massive, columnar trunk to see how much wood the cedar’s added since he was here some years ago. 

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EPA lifts ban on pesticide known to cause brain damage in children

Science tells us that nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment are the systemic pollutants of the Bay and its tributaries. The Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint seeks to reduce those pollutants to sustainable levels.

It is working. Water quality is improving, dead zones are diminishing and underwater grasses are at levels not seen in 30 years.

But these are not the only pollutants of concern. A recent decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will reverse a prior agency decision to ban the use of a chemical pesticide, chlorpyrifos, which is acutely toxic to Bay life and has been found to cause brain damage in children.

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Resolve to do the best you can to advance clean water in 2018

As we start to turn the page on 2017, I wanted to brainstorm some ideas for resolutions we can share as a community for 2018.

The new year is a time to reflect on where we’ve been and what we’ve accomplished in the past year and to commit to new habits and practices moving forward. The start of a new year is a time of transition and an opportunity for intentionality. In this list of resolutions, I offer some thoughts on opportunities that we, as the community focused on improving the Chesapeake region, have together in 2018.

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Wilderness connected: The case for an Eastern “wildway”

Healthy waters are dependent on healthy land. Healthy land is dependent on big, healthy forests. And healthy forests, in turn, depend not only on sun and rain and fertile soil, but also on a broad array of wildlife — animals that, when allowed to roam throughout their natural habitat, perform much of the unseen heavy lifting in a thriving forest ecosystem.

Yet today, on the mountainous slopes that feed the headwaters of the Chesapeake Bay, these important balances are threatened. 

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Bay jurisdictions’ no-action climate policy puts restoration in peril

Governors in the Chesapeake Bay watershed are on the cusp of signing off on a momentously bad decision for the Bay, one that involves sticking their metaphorical heads in the sand when it comes to climate change and the Bay, the sort of move one might expect from the Trump administration, but not from more enlightened leaders.

At a meeting right before the holiday season, environmental regulators from Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware, West Virginia and the District of Columbia agreed to ignore inconvenient truths by failing to require pollution reductions caused by climate change before 2025. They have one more meeting in February to get it right.

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We need to shift gears on the pursuit of economic growth

Come ride bikes with me. Don’t dismiss as idle our idyll through an ideal autumn “leafscape” today, for our pedaling shows the way to a better Bay.

My bike has but one speed, unfashionable in a high-geared, tech-fueled world that now affords cyclists push-button shifting through a range of cogs and cranks sufficient to conquer the Alps and pass Porsches.

Single-speeding is limiting — then liberating. It makes you respect the lay of the land, to seek the gentler slopes that meander alongside the hills, to value the wooded corridors that block headwinds.

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You attract more landowners with birds, bees than TMDLs

On a warm Saturday morning this fall, more than 30 landowners gathered on a property in Baltimore County to learn a little about promoting the birds and the bees. Literally. The workshop, titled Get to Know Your Backyard Habitat, invited local residents to see an example of stellar wildlife habitat tended by landowners Pascale Meraldi and Joe Clarke for almost a decade.

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Opinion: Archives

Finding enchantment in our theater of grace

Fairies are nesting in my trees. Right there in my front lawn, at the very top of my tulip poplars. In the wintertime I can see them cleverly posing as seed clusters perched at the end of the trees’ highest branches. Sometimes they...

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Around the Watershed

Hogan takes reins of Council at a critical time for the Chesapeake

In the end, it was a custom-made crab cracker, made from the wood of the Pride of Baltimore, and a crab baseball hat that sealed the transition. On June 8 at the annual meeting of the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Executive Council, Gov. Terry McAuliffe officially handed over the...

The Bay Program: It takes a partnership to save an estuary

As the story goes, the cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay began with a boat trip. In 1973, after hearing reports of the estuary’s ailing health, Sen. Charles “Mac” Mathias, R-MD, set out on a “fact-finding tour”: a five-day trip traversing the Maryland portion of...

We must turn instant gratification into burning desire for clean Bay

The views expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect those of the Bay Journal. The Earth is about 4.5 billion years old, or 4.5 eons. Of that time, humans have only been around for about 200,000 years, with civilization only beginning about 6,000 years ago and industrialization,...

Read more Around the Watershed »

Chesapeake Born

A walk in the woods with a different kind of forester

It’s a chill November morning, the rising sun sloshing light on the tree tops. Larry Walton and I are about a half-mile into the woods that line the Nanticoke River near Vienna, MD, when he wraps his arms around a great old Atlantic white cedar. The species once shaded thousands of...

We need to shift gears on the pursuit of economic growth

Come ride bikes with me. Don’t dismiss as idle our idyll through an ideal autumn “leafscape” today, for our pedaling shows the way to a better Bay. My bike has but one speed, unfashionable in a high-geared, tech-fueled world that now affords cyclists push-button...

The dumbing down of Smart Growth will fail to preserve MD landscape

If you’re not yet worried about Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s abandonment of Smart Growth, you might want to read a new study on how Dumb Growth could cost Frederick County taxpayers some half a billion bucks. First, a brief primer on Smart Growth, which you used to be able to...

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Conservation Matters

Terrapin park shows importance of access to the Bay

The Terrapin Nature Area in Stevensville, MD, reminds me why I’ve committed my career to conservation. This gorgeous park hides in plain sight on Kent Island, waving to everyone traveling eastward over the Bay Bridge, and offers so much to its visitors. Managed by Queen...

Immerse yourself in Dumbarton Oaks Park

The Japanese have a practice translated in English as “forest bathing,” in which people immerse themselves in a forest as a preventative health measure. Studies have shown tremendous benefits of this practice, including lower blood pressure, reduced stress and improved sleep,...

At the ten-year mark, happy birthday to the Bay’s beautiful and profoundly historic national trail

As the National Park Service celebrates its centennial this year, we are also celebrating the 10th anniversary of a national park we have right here in our collective backyard: the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail. Winding through much of the Chesapeake region, the...

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Forum

Finding enchantment in our theater of grace

Fairies are nesting in my trees. Right there in my front lawn, at the very top of my tulip poplars. In the wintertime I can see them cleverly posing as seed clusters perched at the end of the trees’ highest branches. Sometimes they look like golden chalices, or crowns, or stiffened...

Chesapeake’s historic waterways paying the price of nutrient trading

The scenic Monocacy River in central Maryland winds through Civil War battlefields, with rows of bone-white sycamores lining its banks as if they were ghostly soldiers standing at attention to demonstrate their respect. Both Maryland and the city of Frederick promote kayaking and fishing on...

Politics, Schmolitics—We All Want a Healthy Planet

A depressing myth about “the American people” has been debunked consistently in surveys among actual Americans. The myth portrays U.S. citizens as pitted acrimoniously right against left, with no common ground between us and no interest in finding some. Worse, it depicts...

Read more Forum »

Letters to the Editor

Elect to protect Eastern Shore

Thank goodness the election is finally over. I heard the term “election stress disorder” this fall and it immediately resonated with me and many others I know. Part of the stress for me related to the continuous news cycle and overwhelmingly negative tone of the presidential...

Bay needs menhaden more than reduction industry

Much has been written and discussed about menhaden (Brevootia tyrannus), a forage fish for many other fish, birds and mammals. Recently, a bill was introduced into the Virginia Legislature to move the management of these fish from the Virginia Legislature to the Virginia Marine Resources...

Biodiversity needs human diversity among those who protect it

I read with great interest the Bay Journal’s recent article, “The ‘green ceiling’: Environmental organizations lack diversity” (November 2014). As an African American woman fish and wildlife biologist, there were not many faces that looked like mine as I...

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Message from the Alliance

Resolve to do the best you can to advance clean water in 2018

As we start to turn the page on 2017, I wanted to brainstorm some ideas for resolutions we can share as a community for 2018. The new year is a time to reflect on where we’ve been and what we’ve accomplished in the past year and to commit to new habits and practices moving...

You attract more landowners with birds, bees than TMDLs

On a warm Saturday morning this fall, more than 30 landowners gathered on a property in Baltimore County to learn a little about promoting the birds and the bees. Literally. The workshop, titled Get to Know Your Backyard Habitat, invited local residents to see an example of stellar...

Forum explores connections between healthy lands, waters, people

The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay’s 12th Annual Chesapeake Watershed Forum takes place Nov. 3–5, at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, WV. In keeping with this year’s theme, Healthy Lands, Healthy Waters, Healthy People, the event will explore...

Read more Message from the Alliance »

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