The Chesapeake Bay Program’s staff is on a mission to restore the Bay and its rivers. Whether they work on water quality, education or oysters, everyone here is dedicated to helping the Chesapeake. But do they keep the Bay in mind when they aren’t behind their desk?
A few months ago, we sent our staff a quick survey asking them about the types of positive activities they do for the Bay when they’re not at work. Some results were typical, while others were very interesting! The following eight activities were the most popular:
Is anyone surprised that recycling ranked as the number one thing Bay Program staff do to help the Bay? Recycling is one of the easiest things you can do for the environment.
One of the most common reasons why people don’t recycle is because their location does not offer recycling services. If you’re having trouble finding recycling services in your, enter your area code at Earth911 for a listing of drop-off locations near you.
You know you work with environmentalists when fertilizer use ranks near the top of the list! The average person may not realize that yard runoff containing fertilizer can be harmful to local waterways and the Chesapeake Bay. Fertilizer is full of nutrients, which fuel the growth of algae blooms that block sunlight from reaching bay grasses and rob the water of oxygen.
To learn more about Bay-friendly fertilizer use, visit Chesapeake Club.
A little more than half of respondents said they composted at home on a regular basis. Composting is a great way to save time, money and the Bay! When you compost things like kitchen scraps and leaves, you are not only creating your own free fertilizer, but you are reducing the amount of waste that goes to landfills. Old composters used to require a pitchfork to turn over the pile, but these have been replaced with easy-to-use bins with hand cranks.
To help you get started with composting, visit How to Compost.
If you live in or have driven through Maryland, you have probably noticed the iconic blue Chesapeake Bay license plate. What many people don’t know is that the proceeds from this “vanity plate” go to the Chesapeake Bay Trust, a non-profit that conducts restoration, education and community engagement activities throughout the Bay watershed. To date, the Trust has planted 220,648 native plants and trees, restored 65 acres of wetlands, oyster reefs and streamside buffers, and engaged 86,717 students.
If you live in Maryland, buying a Bay plate is one of the easiest things you can do to help the Chesapeake Bay. Visit the Bay Plate website to learn more.
All the funding in the world for restoration projects will not help if there is no one to do the work! There are an overwhelming amount of opportunities to get involved with environmental organizations in our region. From planting trees to removing invasive species to building oyster reefs, there are activities for every interest. Volunteering is also a great way to get your kids outside and help them appreciate nature.
If you are interested in getting your family involved, the Baltimore Aquarium offers regular restoration events. You can also contact your local watershed organization for more information about opportunities near you.
Rain barrels and rain gardens are important because they collect water from roofs, yards and paved surfaces that would otherwise flow into storm drains. Rain gardens and rain barrels are so important that some counties actually offer funding and tax breaks for implementing them. Check with your city environmental office to see if your area has a program.
To learn more about rain barrels and rain gardens, visit Rainscaping.org.
It is common misconception that it’s safe to leave pet waste on the ground because some consider it a “natural fertilizer.” However, pet waste actually contains harmful nutrients and bacteria that can run off into local waterways. Some areas can be closed off to swimmers in summertime due to high bacteria levels from pet waste. Dog waste should be thrown away, flushed or put in a pet waste composter.
For more information about pet waste pollution, visit the Stormwater Center Pollution Prevention website.
People tend not to carpool because they do not know if anyone else who works with them lives nearby. People also enjoy the freedom of being able to come and go as they please without having to worry about altering their schedule because of another carpool rider. However, carpooling can actually save you time and money. You will spend less on gas and vehicle maintenance, and you can take advantage of High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes.
The best solution is to create a way for colleagues who are interested in carpooling to list where they live. Put it in a well-traveled place, such as a kitchen, front desk or break room.
After seeing what the “average environmentalist” does for the Chesapeake Bay, do you think you do the same? Or more? What activities do you do that help the Chesapeake?
Maryland has passed a law that will reduce pollution from lawn fertilizer applied to homes, golf courses and businesses.
The Chesapeake Bay Commission, whose members introduced the legislation, estimates that the Fertilizer Use Act of 2011 will reduce phosphorus pollution from urban sources by 15 percent compared to 2009 levels. This equates to 20 percent of the phosphorus reduction Maryland needs to achieve its pollution reduction goals for the Chesapeake Bay TMDL.
Turf grass is now the largest “crop” in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, exceeding the amount of acres planted in corn and fast approaching all row crops combined. As the amount of lawns in the region increases, so does fertilizer use.
The legislation limits the amount of nutrients in fertilizer used by homeowners and lawn care professionals. Nitrogen will be limited and phosphorus will be banned in most types of lawn fertilizer.
Additionally, professional fertilizer applicators will have to be trained and certified in proper fertilizer application, such as keeping fertilizer off paved surfaces and not applying before heavy rain or when the ground is frozen. Areas along waterways, drainage ditches and near storm drains will be designated as “no-fertilizer zones.” (Read a full list of the lawn fertilizer bill provisions.)
The commission worked with soil scientists, environmental groups, fertilizer manufacturers, the Maryland Department of Agriculture, and associations representing lawn care professionals and golf courses to develop the provisions. Similar legislation passed in Virginia this winter, and is expected to be introduced in Pennsylvania this year.
Calling this bill “one of the nation’s most comprehensive and protective standards for lawn fertilizer content and use,” Chris Wible, director of environmental stewardship for the Scotts Miracle-Gro Company, pledged to work with Bay groups to teach homeowners about protecting the Bay from their own backyards.
Another important part of the legislation is increasing and improving homeowner outreach. Within one year, the Maryland Department of Agriculture and the University of Maryland will develop and distribute consumer guidelines to help homeowners better understand how to reduce pollution from lawn fertilizer.
EPA Senior Adviser for the Chesapeake Bay and Anacostia River Jeff Corbin discusses the challenge and importance of Chesapeake Bay restoration in our latest feature.
I have recently been given the opportunity by U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to serve as her senior advisor for the Chesapeake Bay and Anacostia River. I am both honored and humbled to serve in this role (as well as over-whelmed and sleep-deprived).
On my second day in my new position, I found myself in a late evening meeting with the EPA deputy administrator discussing urgent Chesapeake Bay issues. On his conference table was a report he recently received and on the cover was an aerial view of the Hoover Dam. If you’ve never seen what the Hoover Dam looks like from above, I can assure you that it is awe-inspiring. To think that we humans could build such a massive structure, divert enormous natural forces, and do it in the midst of the Great Depression, got me thinking - if we can build a Hoover Dam, surely we can restore the Chesapeake Bay and rivers that feed it.
I do not make that conclusive statement lightly. Full restoration of all of the Bay region’s waters will not be easy, cheap, or without stumbles and obstacles. So then why do I say we can do it? Because not a single person I have encountered in my 14 years of restoration work has said we shouldn’t restore the health of the Bay and its rivers. And I mean not a single person. Not an elected official, not a wastewater treatment facility operator, not a homebuilder, not a farmer – no one. And that gives me great hope.
This is not to say that various interests don’t have concerns about the timeframe for restoration, or funding concerns, or how the pollution reduction responsibilities were divvied up. But they all acknowledge that we need to figure out a way to get the job done. And we will. Through the states’ newly developed watershed implementation plans and the federal government’s recent Chesapeake Bay Executive Order Action Plan, we have the vision and the strategies to see this restoration effort through.
Interestingly, many of the people who sent me congratulatory notes after hearing about my new position also expressed their condolences. I realize that they did so jokingly, but it really made me wonder why so many people would make that comment.
Is it because the Bay partnership’s restoration efforts are under scrutiny? If so, why would we discourage scrutiny? We are committed to restoring a national treasure and investing significant federal, state and local revenues to do so – we should be scrutinized. But after the scrutiny, let’s come together and get on with our restoration work.
Is it because of the sizable projected costs? We’ve always known those costs existed – they’ve been spelled out in detail in the various “tributary strategies” developed a decade ago by the Bay jurisdictions, in reports prepared by the Chesapeake Bay Commission and the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Blue Ribbon Finance Panel in 2004. If we are now questioning whether the costs are sustainable, then were we ever really “committed” to meeting our previous “commitments?”
Or is it because of the sometimes seemingly insurmountable political divide that exists in Washington? If that is the case, I remind everyone of the following quote: “Preservation of our environment is not a liberal or conservative challenge, it's common sense.” Who said that? President Reagan, in his 1984 State of the Union Address. He then announced a sizable budget increase for the U.S. EPA – specifically for the purpose of restoring the Chesapeake Bay.
I ask that we stop thinking of the expenses of a clean Bay as “costs” and start treating them for what they really are: investments. Investments in clean water that will generate considerable economic gain for the region.
I ask that we redouble our efforts and commitment to do what it will take to fully restore the health of our rivers. Clean the rivers and the Bay will take care of itself. I am referring to the collective “we” – EPA and other federal agencies, Bay region states, districts and local governments, numerous stakeholder interests, and millions of Bay watershed residents.
In 1961, President Kennedy didn't say to the American people, "Let's try really hard to put a man on the moon"; rather, he committed the nation to do so by the end of the decade. If you go back and read the various Bay Agreements that have been adopted since 1983, the word “commitment” is used extensively.
So if we are serious when we say that the Chesapeake Bay is a “national treasure,” and we wish to honor our past commitments, then let’s gather the strength, will and resources to achieve the Bay equivalent of landing a man on the moon – or maybe something easier, like building a Hoover Dam.
We can do this – and the world is watching us.
The birds are chirping, the sun is starting to feel warm on your face, and those afternoon thunderstorms are rolling in. It’s officially spring in the Chesapeake Bay region, which means it’s time to get outside and plant!
If you’ve been looking for a way to help the Chesapeake Bay, planting native plants in your yard is a great way to make a difference. Native plants are adapted to our region's environment, so they need less watering and no fertilizer – which saves you money. Less work, less cost and helpful to the Bay? Sounds great to us!
Here are ten native plants we recommend you plant in your yard this year!
Coneflower (or Echinacea) is a popular, long-lasting perennial that grows 2-5 feet tall. Its bright lavender flowers attract butterflies, hummingbirds and other beneficial wildlife. Coneflower is also known for its herbal remedies as an immune system booster.
Sweetbay magnolia is a slender tree or shrub with pale gray bark. It is native to all the Chesapeake Bay states, except West Virginia. It usually grows 12-20 feet tall, but occasionally reaches 50 feet in the southern part of its range. When in bloom, the plant’s fragrant magnolia flowers open in the morning and close in the evening.
Scarlet beebalm is a popular perennial with tufts of scarlet-red flowers. The 3-foot stems are lined with large, oval, dark green leaves that have a minty aroma. Scarlet beebalm will attract hummingbirds to your garden.
This popular, beautiful shade tree tree grows 40-60 ft. in cultivation, occasionally reaching 100-120 ft. in the wild. Red maple is named for its brilliant red autumn leaves. It has the greatest north-south distribution of any East Coast tree species.
Considered one of the most spectacular native, flowering trees, flowering dogwood is a 20-40 foot, single- or multi-trunked tree with white or pink spring blooms. Its fruit is known to attract birds and deer.
The eastern redbud is a 15-30 foot tree with a purplish or maroon trunk and a wide, umbrella-like crown. Its tight, pink flower clusters bloom before its leaves grow, offering a showy spring display.
Blazing star has long spikes of dense, feathery white or purple flowers that bloom from the top down. Birds, bees and butterflies will be frequent visitors to your garden if you plant these beautiful native flowers.
Boneset’s tiny, white flowers are arranged in fuzzy clusters atop 3-6 foot stems. Early herb doctors thought this plant helped set broken bones. Its leaves were wrapped with bandages around splints.
New York ironweed is a tall perennial, growing 5-8 feet in height. Its clumps of striking, deep reddish-purple flowers attract butterflies.
This perennial grows 2-4 feet tall and has showy, red flowers. Although relatively common, cardinal flower is scarce in some areas due to over-picking. Because most insects have difficulty navigating the plant’s long, tubular flowers, cardinal flower depends on hummingbirds for pollination.
For more information about native plants in our area, check out the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s special Plants of Chesapeake Bay collection. This database contains hundreds of native plants and a link to a BayScaping guide that will help you use native plants in a Bay-friendly garden.