Bay Journal

Tom Horton

Oligotrophication! A big word for even bigger news, a Bay comeback

It was a year ago, a sunny summer morning overlooking the Choptank River… We were discussing what it has all meant, studying the Chesapeake Bay for about 40 years with just retired University of Maryland scientists Walter Boynton and Michael Kemp.

Except they’re not sounding as retired as they should. Both have completed enviable careers; Walt’s dealing with leukemia and...

Time and tide wait for no one when dealing with rising sea level

“Hey there, thanks for making my property worth even less.” You get these calls and emails when you make a movie that raises public awareness of climate change, rising sea levels and worsening erosion.

The collateral damage of such efforts is they don’t exactly boost housing values for those already living along the lower-lying edges of the Chesapeake.

The Bay Journal film I just...

You can own the Chesapeake’s riches without acquiring property

I grew up middle class but land rich: roaming hundreds of acres of woods and marsh, hunting properties owned by my dad’s poultry company and his best friend. And I always dreamed that someday I’d be wealthy enough to afford my own wonderful, big chunk of Chesapeake, a dream that receded after I stopped pursuing chicken moguldom for newspapering.

But there are a lot of ways to...

A Chesapeake portrait, painted by almost a thousand words

Combing the beach, I stoop to pick up an essay for my upcoming college nature writing class. It’s a reddish, roundish pebble, tumbling in the clear lapping waves during a campout to the vanished community of Holland Island.

For a couple of centuries, before erosion forced Holland’s people to the mainland, my pebble was a brick, proud and sturdy and eminently useful in its uniform...

How much woods would a woodpecker need if it’s to succeed?

The piney woods stretching for miles around us smell springy, as warm winds melt the last of a big January snow. At the crest of a rise, Bobby Clontz stops his pickup: “Look back…that’s a hard view to beat.”

A tawny, sunlit sea of native grasses and low shrubs laps the dark columns of tall, widely spaced loblolly pines. Light streams through the green needles, which gleam as they...

Ajax Eastman cared more for planting seeds of conservation than earning laurels

The phone number sticks in my memory, the number I called the most in some 35 years of environmental reporting for the Baltimore Sun. It wasn’t the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or state departments of Environment or Natural Resources. It was the home of Ajax Eastman, who died this week of pneumonia at age 84.

Ajax was a mentor to a wet-behind-the-ears environmental...

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...

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...

No man’s land is ideal habitat for animals

“Please Straddle Turtles.” The curious sign, on a lonesome dirt road that winds through marshes and forests along the northern Chesapeake Bay, shows a military Humvee taking care to keep a spotted turtle between its wheels.

The turtle in question, classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, is a small reptile with a dark head and shell with...

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 get on the Maryland Department of Planning’s website — until the website and department became a joke...

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About Tom Horton

Tom Horton's avatar

Tom Horton is a contributing writer and columnist for the Bay Journal. He wrote for the Baltimore Sun on environmental issues from 1972 through 2006, with a five-year time out when he ran education trips on Smith Island and wrote “Turning the Tide” for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. He is author of several books on the Chesapeake Bay, including “Bay Country” and “Island Out of Time” and numerous articles for publications that include National Geographic, Rolling Stone and the New York Times. He is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University. He teaches writing and environmental topics at Salisbury University.

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