Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the EJ 2020 Action Agenda (EJ 2020), a strategy to advance the agency’s environmental justice efforts. Over the next five years, EJ 2020 will serve as a framework to advance environmental justice—particularly in communities where a combination of environmental, health, social and economic factors disproportionally affect the community.
According to the EPA, environmental justice is the “fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin or income with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies.” Under the strategy, the EPA will work to improve results for overburdened communities, incorporate environmental justice in decision-making, build partnerships with states and co-regulators, strengthen their ability to take action on environmental justice issues, and demonstrate progress on critical national environmental justice challenges.
EJ 2020 will build on the groundwork laid by EJ 2014, the agency’s previous environmental justice strategy. The framework lays out a set of priorities structured around three goals. First, to deepen environmental justice practices within EPA programs. Second, to work with federal, state, tribal and community partners to increase positive impact within overburdened communities. And finally, to demonstrate progress on critical national environmental justice challenges, including lead, drinking water, air quality and hazardous waste sites.
The Chesapeake Bay Program is similarly committed to advancing environmental justice throughout the region and in its work. Environmental justice is one of the guiding principles of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, and through the Diversity Action Team, the Bay Program is working to identify groups that are under-represented in its activities and looking for ways to create meaningful opportunities for engagement.
For more information and to read the entire document, visit the EPA’s EJ 2020 Action Agenda page.
In 2015, Chesapeake Bay Program partners opened 22 boat ramps, fishing piers and other sites that grant public access to creeks, streams and rivers in the region. Virginia opened 10 sites along eight waterways; Pennsylvania opened six sites along the Susquehanna River; Maryland opened five sites along three waterways; and the District of Columbia opened one site along the Anacostia River. There are now 1,247 public access sites in the watershed for boating, fishing, swimming and other recreational activities.
The varied ownership of the region’s public access sites demonstrates the importance of establishing strong partnerships and public access initiatives at all levels of government and with nongovernmental organizations: nine of the new sites are owned by local governments, nine are owned by state governments, two are owned by the federal government and two are owned by nongovernmental organizations.
“As the state with the most public water access points in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, Maryland will continue to seek out innovative partnerships to create, enhance and improve water access so more of our citizens can enjoy the beauty and bounty of the Bay,” said Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary of Natural Resources Mark Belton in a media release. “Expanding public access, either through creating new access points or improving existing sites, is a worthwhile goal for Bay restoration, our citizens and the state.”
Increasing public access to open space and waterways creates a shared sense of responsibility to protect these important natural environments. Through the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, our partners have committed to increasing public access as part of a larger effort to engage communities in our conservation work. The number of public access sites in the watershed is on track to reach 1,439 by 2025. Since tracking began in 2010, our partners have opened 108 sites, meeting 36 percent of our goal to open 300 sites over the next decade.
In celebration of its 100th anniversary, the National Park Service—a Chesapeake Bay Program partner—encourages people to visit parks of all kinds to connect with history and culture and enjoy the natural world.
Zach Bruce, center, and fellow Maryland Conservation Corps members, from left, Taylor Lundstrom, Kevin McNamara and Rachel Werderits, remove invasive trees of heaven and garlic mustard plants at the site of a wetland restoration on Church Creek in Annapolis, Maryland.
Many wetlands in the Chesapeake Bay region have been severely altered by the presence of plants and animals that have been introduced there, whether accidentally or on purpose. Invasive species like the tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima) and garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) can cause harm when they establish themselves at the expense of native plants, encroaching on their habitat.
Once an invasive species is established, it can be incredibly difficult to eradicate; controlling invasive species takes resources, cooperation and commitment, which is why it’s crucial to prevent them from being introduced in the first place. Native trees, shrubs and flowers play a vital role in a healthy ecosystem, in part by serving as food and habitat for native critters and insects.
Learn about how you can choose native plants for your own backyard to provide food and habitat to native insects & critters.
Image by Will Parson
Scientists at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) measured a modest improvement in Chesapeake Bay health in 2015, once again giving the estuary a “C” in their annual Chesapeake Bay Report Card.
Although the “C” grade has remained the same since 2012, the score of 53 percent marks one of the three highest since 1986: only 1992 and 2002 scored as high or higher. But unlike 2015, both those years accompanied major droughts, and according to UMCES researchers, that makes these results particularly notable.
“We’d expect to see improvements after a drought year because nutrients aren’t being washed into the Bay, fueling algae blooms and poor water quality,” said Bill Dennison, Vice President for Science Applications at UMCES, in a release. “However, in 2015 streamflow was below normal, but nowhere near the drought conditions in 1992 and 2002. Thus, the high score for 2015 indicate that we’re making progress reducing what’s coming off the land.”
The Bay Health Index is based on several indicators of Bay health, including water clarity and dissolved oxygen, the amount of algae and nutrients in the water, the abundance of underwater grasses and the strength of certain fish stocks, including blue crab and striped bass. Most of these indicators improved over the previous year; only phosphorus pollution worsened from 2014 to 2015.
"The information being released today by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science is very positive and consistent with the trends the Chesapeake Bay Program has been witnessing over the past few years,” said Nick DiPasquale, Director of the Chesapeake Bay Program. “We should take the opportunity to celebrate these results, but we should also recognize that the long term success of our work to restore water quality and the health of this vitally important ecosystem will depend on stepping up and sustaining our efforts over the long-term to reduce nutrient and sediment pollution discharges to streams and rivers throughout the watershed."