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Chesapeake Bay News


Chesapeake Bay dead zone measures slightly below average in 2015

The Maryland portion of the Chesapeake Bay dead zone measured slightly smaller than average this past summer, supporting scientists’ June prediction of a smaller than average hypoxic zone in the nation’s largest estuary.

Dead zones are areas of little to no dissolved oxygen that form when nutrient-fueled algae blooms die and decompose. This decomposition process removes oxygen from the surrounding waters faster than it can be replenished, and the resulting low-oxygen conditions can suffocate marine life.

Each summer, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) collect water samples to measure the hypoxic volume of the Bay. At 3,806 million cubic meters, the Maryland portion of this year’s dead zone was the 13th smallest in 31 years of sampling.

According to a report from the DNR, the size of the dead zone was likely due to reduced rainfall earlier this spring.


Federal agencies welcome input on water quality milestones

Federal agencies are seeking feedback on a set of short-term water quality goals, or milestones, as part of the Chesapeake Bay Executive Order and in support of the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement.

The “Strategy for Protecting and Restoring the Chesapeake Bay Watershed” calls upon the federal government to join the seven Chesapeake Bay jurisdictions—Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia—in establishing two-year milestones. The draft water quality milestones for 2016-2017 were selected because they represent activities that can result in considerable environmental improvements, require significant resources or directly support the jurisdictions in meeting their Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs).

You can provide feedback on the draft water quality milestones through December 17, 2015.

Visit the Chesapeake Bay Executive Order website to learn more about the federal strategy to protect and restore the Bay.


Restoration Spotlight: The Grass Whisperer gets to the root of grazing

At Endless Trails Farm in Hubbardsville, N.Y., Troy Bishopp is looking for cow pies.

“There’s a little bit there, but overall there isn’t a whole lot of manure,” he says, explaining to the farm's manager. “Every rotation we’re going to want more.”

Bishopp is a conservation specialist with New York’s Madison County Soil and Water Conservation District and the Upper Susquehanna Coalition, and among the services he provides is advice on how grassland farmers can get the most out of their pastures. With 30 years of experience, he has learned to pay attention to the subtleties that only come with walking out in a field and talking with farmers.

Troy Bishopp stands on a rotationally-grazed pasture at Palmer Farm in Madison County, N.Y., on May 28, 2015. "We’ve helped with the water system here—fencing, some buffers and just overall pasture management," said Bishop, known as the Grass Whisperer, who works with the Madison County Soil and Water District and the Upper Susquehanna Coalition.

“I’m constantly looking, because wherever that cow manure lands is where there’s going to be more grass than not,” Bishopp says. This passion for grass has led to him being called the Grass Whisperer, a moniker first bestowed on him by his friend Dick Warner during a visit to Washington to educate congressional districts about grass-based agriculture in New York.

Bishopp has worked with Endless Trails Farm for about eight years, first to set up some conservation practices like stream buffers, then helping with fencing and offering rotational grazing advice. When he visits a farm, his tools are cheap—a plastic grazing stick helps him assess how many pounds of feed are in a pasture, and a reel of electrified tape lets him keep animals on and off sections of pasture, a practice he prescribed for Endless Trails.

Troy Bishopp meets with farm manager Megan Wilcox at Endless Trails Farm in Hubbardsville, N.Y., on May 28, 2015. Switching to an all-grass system allowed the farm to exercise agro-tourism opportunities, including a six-bedroom guesthouse.

“There was no real system of fencing or paddock rotation [on this farm]. And so usually in July and August there wasn’t a whole lot of grass here,” Bishopp says. “Implementing strategic fencing, water spots around the farm, water tubs, and then allowing the grass and the pastures to rest for a month or two, always made a lot of grass which actually sequestered any rain that came, which is huge up here.”

The water infiltration resulted in more grass for cattle at the farm, and also less runoff, including sediment and nutrients, running into streams and ultimately into the Chesapeake Bay. In 2011, the Madison County Soil and Water Conservation District named Endless Trails its Conservation Farm of the Year.

“Generally speaking, we want to retain our topsoil, have good water infiltration and keep the waters clean,” Bishopp says. “When you produce a lot of feed and you do those things that make you money, conservation comes right along with it.”

To view more photos, visit the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Flickr page.

Video, Images and Text by Will Parson

Will Parson's avatar
About Will Parson - Will is the Multimedia Specialist for the Chesapeake Bay Program. A native of Bakersfield, California, he acquired an interest in photojournalism while studying ecology and evolution at University of California, San Diego. He pursued stories about water and culture as a graduate student at Ohio University's School of Visual Communication, and as an intern at several newspapers in New England before landing in Maryland.


Conservation partners convene in Shepherdstown for sixth annual meeting

For the last five years, non-profits, American Indian tribes, land trusts and federal and state agencies engaged in land conservation throughout the Chesapeake watershed have come together at the Chesapeake Conservation Partnership’s annual meeting. In the largest gathering to date, nearly 120 people convened at the National Conservation Training Center on October 5-6, 2015, for the sixth annual meeting. The spirit of the event—Growing the Partnership, Growing Our Impact—was reflected both in the increased attendance and the conversations around increasing diversity and inclusion.

Attendees of the sixth annual meeting of the Chesapeake Conservation Partnership, held at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, W. Va., on October 5-6, 2015, discussed successes and new projects related to land conservation in the Chesapeake region. (Image courtesy Jeff Allenby/Chesapeake Conservancy)

New and returning attendees were invited to an overview of the history of the Conservation Partnership and information on the broader large landscape conservation movement. The Conservation Partnership’s co-conveners are Joel Dunn, President and CEO of the Chesapeake Conservancy, and Chuck Hunt, Superintendent of the National Park Service Chesapeake Bay. They addressed the growth of the Conservation Partnership over the previous year and recent progress of conservation in the Chesapeake region. Speakers were invited to share their successes and new projects in fast-paced presentations, highlighting the tremendous collective impact of the group over the previous year.

Updates included:

  • The recent submission of the Rivers of the Chesapeake Land and Water Conservation Fund proposal for the 2017 fiscal year, which requests funding for over 25,000 acres in conservation opportunities;
  • Preservation efforts on Tangier Island, Va., including the nomination of the site for designation as a historic district;
  • The successful acquisition of the historic Campbell Tract in the George Washington National Forest, led by the U.S. Forest Service; and
  • Improved safety and public access at Brookwood Point on Otsego Lake, the source of the Susquehanna River.

Other features included a session on impacts from linear infrastructure projects like roads and power lines, a discussion on strategies to engage with diverse audiences and breakout sessions on key conservation focus areas. The meeting set the stage for action in the coming year, including continuing progress toward achieving the protected lands outcome of the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement.

The Chesapeake Conservation Partnership was formed in 2009 and is jointly convened by the Chesapeake Conservancy and the National Park Service Chesapeake Bay Office. Its mission is to foster collaborative action to conserve culturally and ecologically important landscapes to benefit people, economies and nature throughout the six-state watershed.

Learn more about the Chesapeake Conservation Partnership.

Written by Jonathan Doherty, Assistant Superintendent, National Park Service Chesapeake Bay, and Kate Baker, Chesapeake Conservation Partnership Coordinator.

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