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Chesapeake Bay News

Feb
11
2016

President’s budget proposes $29 million for land conservation in Bay region

The Chesapeake Bay region could receive nearly $29 million in conservation funding under President Obama’s proposed budget for the 2017 fiscal year, announced earlier this week. If approved by Congress, the funds could conserve land throughout the Bay watershed.

If approved, the President's budget could fund projects along several of the major rivers of the Chesapeake Bay, including the Potomac River, pictured above. (Image by Jon Bilous/Shutterstock)

Of the proposed $29 million, a significant portion is tied to the Rivers of the Chesapeake Collaborative Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) proposal, which focuses on protecting the James, Nanticoke, Potomac, Rappahannock, Susquehanna and York Rivers and the lands that surround them. By improving water quality; providing critical habitat for fish, shellfish and migratory birds; and offering opportunities for public access, preserving these landscapes would help meet the goals of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement. Bay Program partners are currently welcoming feedback on a draft two-year work plan to support land preservation in the region.

“By acquiring land in key places, federal agencies can protect critical wildlife habitat and nationally significant cultural resources, and enhance the watershed’s natural ability to filter out sediments and nutrients before they reach the Bay,” said Joel Dunn, Executive Director of the Chesapeake Conservancy, in a release. Chesapeake Conservancy is one of the lead partners behind the Rivers of the Chesapeake proposal.

The President’s $4.1 trillion budget recommendation includes $900 million for the national Land and Water Conservation Fund, which supports the conservation of land and water resources across the United States and aims to provide outdoor recreation opportunities to all Americans.

Learn more about how the proposed budget would support conservation projects in the Bay region.



Feb
10
2016

Maryland’s wintering waterfowl population down slightly in 2016

Warm weather may have delayed waterfowl migrations to Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay shoreline and Atlantic coast, according to the results of Maryland’s 2016 Midwinter Waterfowl Survey. While experts from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) counted more diving ducks in their aerial surveys than in 2015, fewer dabbling ducks, geese and swans were observed.

According to a DNR release, abnormally warm weather in the eastern United States delayed the migration of waterfowl to the Chesapeake region, resulting in an overall waterfowl count of 663,000—lower than last year’s 855,000 birds and below the five year average of 759,460.

This year’s total included 69,800 dabbling ducks (a decrease from 90,800 in 2015) and 246,000 diving ducks (up from 192,000 in 2015). The increase in diving ducks can be attributed to teams observing more scaup and ruddy ducks, particularly along the Chester River and the Bay’s shoreline in Calvert County. Survey teams also observed dramatically smaller numbers of Canada geese: 293,800, or 42 percent fewer than were counted in 2015.

The USFWS Division of Migratory Bird Management pools these survey results with those from other states to get a sense of the distribution and population size of waterfowl wintering along the Atlantic Flyway, the migration route that follows the Atlantic coast of North America.

Learn more about the Midwinter Waterfowl Survey.



Feb
08
2016

Fourteen reasons to love the Chesapeake Bay

February is a month to think about the ones you love, and there’s nothing we love more than the Chesapeake Bay. From the first blue crab of the season to the last day out on the water, the Bay brings us so much joy that we have to share it. Here’s a list of fourteen reasons why we love the Chesapeake Bay.

1. Blue Crabs

Perhaps no species is more closely associated with the Chesapeake Bay than blue crabs. It’s estimated that over one-third of the nation’s blue crab catch comes from the Bay.

No list about the Chesapeake Bay is complete without blue crabs. Not just iconic in commercial and recreational fisheries, blue crabs are a keystone species in the Bay, acting as both predator and prey to many underwater creatures. And while harvest pressure and habitat loss affect the crustacean’s continued health, blue crab populations were on the rise in 2015.

2. Oysters

Oysters have one of the most important jobs in the Bay.

Along with being delicious to eat, oysters deserve our love because they do a great job supporting the Bay. These filter-feeders help improve water quality—and they’re really good at it, too.

3. Smith Island Cake

Smith Island Cake has distinct stripes due to its many thin layers of cake and frosting.

Smith Island, located in the middle of the Bay on the border between Maryland and Virginia, is famous in part for the delicious cake that originated there. Consisting of eight to 15 layers, Smith Island Cake not only looks beautiful but tastes great, too. Want to make your own? The Smith Island Cultural Center has a recipe you can follow. You’ll need a lot of cake pans, but the taste is worth the clean-up!

4. The food

Crab is a main ingredient in many Chesapeake Bay specialties, such as crab cakes. (Image courtesy Gabriel Li/Flickr)

The Bay has too many fantastic food traditions to be bound to only one entry. From oysters and crab cakes to fried chicken and anything you can put Old Bay on, the area has a specialty for every taste. They say the best way to people’s hearts is through their stomachs, right?

5. Natural spaces

A family crosses a bridge in Patapsco Valley State park, located just west of Baltimore.

Did you know the Chesapeake Bay region has over 130 state and national parks? And that number doesn’t even include the many other community parks, trails and nature preserves. No matter if you’re on the Bay itself or elsewhere in the area, there’s somewhere nearby to visit and get in touch with nature.

6. Something for everyone

For those who want a city-vibe, Baltimore is located right on the Bay. (Image by Warren Price Photography/Shutterstock)

One reason to love the Bay is that it has something for everyone—mountains, beaches, countryside and large cities are all nearby. For those who like being outdoors, there are ample hiking paths and public access points. For water-lovers, there’s boating, kayaking and swimming. History buffs can visit the many historical sites dotted throughout the area, while museumgoers have their pick of art, history, science and cultural museums.

7. Year-round activities

Winter is a great time to being birdwatching. Pictured above, a mourning dove rests on a snowy branch.

The Bay doesn’t give you any excuses for not enjoying all it has to offer. Even when it’s too cold for lounging on the beach, there are ample opportunities to love the Bay. When you can brave the elements, there are plenty of hikes to go on and museums to visit—and when it’s just too cold to go outside, there’s birdwatching and virtual tours that make you feel like you’re out on the water. Some might even say winter is a great time for a swim!

8. Boats

Boats rest on the Bay near Annapolis. (Image courtesy Mr. TinDC/Flickr)

The Bay has a long maritime history and is home to boats of all types. For generations, watermen have taken their boats out on the Bay to gather the day’s catch of crabs and oysters. Annapolis—known as “America’s sailing capital”—sits on the Bay’s western shore and is home to the U.S. Naval Academy. The Bay is not just for work, though; each year there are countless boat races, sailing competitions and boat shows where all manner of crafts glide through the water. Outside of official events, people enjoy the Bay in personal boats, canoes and kayaks.

9. The beauty

Dusk on Tangier Island.

You can’t beat waking up early to see the sunrise over the Bay, or watching a fog roll in over the water. They may say that love is blind, but looks are just another reason why we love the Chesapeake Bay.

10. The Atlantic Flyway

Every year Canada geese migrate to the Chesapeake Bay from their breeding grounds in northern Quebec.

One example of the Bay’s rich diversity of wildlife is the Atlantic Flyway, a migration route that many birds follow up and down the Eastern Seaboard. The Bay’s prime location in the middle of the route gives us the chance to see birds at the beginning, middle or end of their migration. Birds such as the Canada goose begin their journeys up north in Canada and make their way south to the Bay-area for winter; other birds, such as the osprey, spend their summer months in the Bay and continue further south for winter.

11. Lighthouses

Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse, built in 1875, is the last screw-pile lighthouse in its original location and is designated as a National Historic Landmark. (Image courtesy Mark, 8752845@N04/Flickr)

Lighthouses have been a part of the Bay since the first one was built in 1792. But these beautiful structures are more than iconic landmarks: of the 74 lighthouses that originally aided sailors, over 30 are still standing and 23 are still in use. The Bay’s lighthouses stand as a symbol of the area’s maritime history and serve both a functional and aesthetic purpose.

12. Chesapeake Bay Retrievers

Chesapeake Bay Retrievers grow from adorable puppies to helpful, life-long companions. (Image by Zuzule/Shutterstock)

Not only do these dogs make adorable puppies, but they can grow up to be valuable companions. Named for the region in which they were bred, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever—or Chessie—is said to be descended from two Newfoundland dogs that survived a shipwreck off the coast of Maryland and were bred with local retrievers. Perhaps due to their maritime history (but mainly their genetics) these dogs are excellent swimmers. They are prized waterfowl hunters and have been known to retrieve hundreds of birds from icy waters in a single day. These dogs are more than workers, though, and make great family pets.

13. The history

This monument of abolitionist Frederick Douglass stands outside of the Talbot County Courthouse, where Douglass was born into slavery in 1818. (Image courtesy Matthew Straubmuller/Flickr)

The Bay has a rich and full history going back hundreds—even thousands—of years. There is evidence of people living here at least three thousand years ago. Today, historical sites are dotted throughout the region, from the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway to the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail. No matter what period of history captures your interest, there is somewhere in the area for you to visit.

14. The people

Representative Steny Hoyer and former State Senator Bernie Fowler wade into the Patuxent River during the 2008 Patuxent River Wade-In. The wade-in, founded by Fowler in 1988, draws attention to the health of the Patuxent River and the Chesapeake Bay by having people wade into the water until they can no longer see their feet.

What would the Bay be without the people who live here? The Bay’s prime location and many resources attract people of all types; farmers, artists, fishers and politicians all call the Bay home and make it what it is today. We might not all talk the same, but no matter how you say it: we love the Chesapeake Bay!

 

Why do you love the Chesapeake? Let us know in the comments!

Joan Smedinghoff's avatar
About Joan Smedinghoff - Joan is the Communications Office Staffer at the Chesapeake Bay Program. A transplant from Chicago, Il., she received her Bachelor's in Environmental Studies from Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa.



Feb
03
2016

By the Numbers: 51 billion

Countless creeks, streams and rivers flow into the Chesapeake Bay. For decades, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has measured the flow of the region’s rivers in order to forecast floods, spot low-flow conditions and estimate the amount of pollution running from the land into the water. While annual river flow has remained within its normal range for much of the last decade, our increasingly variable climate has fostered increasingly variable river flow, which has the potential to affect habitats and pollution levels in the Bay.

The U.S. Geological Survey measures river flow in order to forecast floods, spot low-flow conditions and estimate the amount of pollution running from the land into the water. (Image by Xavier Ascanio/Shutterstock)

While river flow is tracked at 300 monitoring stations across the watershed, it is the data that are collected at stations along its three biggest rivers—the Susquehanna, the Potomac and the James—that are used to calculate total flow into the Bay. Data collected at these monitoring stations show that, on average, 51 billion gallons of water flow into the Bay each day.

Annual river flow that falls between 44 and 58 billion gallons per day is considered normal. But the last 15 years have seen extreme flow variability, which can affect the surrounding ecosystem.

Data collected at monitoring stations along the Susquehanna, Potomac and James rivers are used to calculate river flow into the Chesapeake Bay.

While low river flow can dry up stream beds and threaten fish, high river flow has garnered much attention in the region.Excess river flow can damage stream banks, trigger sewage overflows and push pollutants—including nutrients, sediment and toxic contaminants picked up from farm fields, backyards, parking lots and roads—into the Bay. It can also lower salinity levels in the Bay itself, which has a direct impact on underwater grasses, fish and shellfish. Often, high river flow is linked to heavy precipitation, which has become a noted impact of our changing climate.

In 2014, the U.S. Global Change Research Program reported in its National Climate Assessment that heavy downpours have increased across the nation. The Northeast, in particular, has seen a 71 percent rise in the amount of precipitation that falls during heavy downpours: a higher jump than any other region in the United States. In our work to protect the nation’s largest estuary, the Chesapeake Bay Program is taking these and other climate impacts into account.

The Northeast has seen a 71 percent rise in the amount of precipitation that falls during heavy downpours. High precipitation can mean high river flow, which can damage stream banks, trigger sewage overflows and push pollutants into larger bodies of water.

Through the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement’s climate resiliency goal, our partners have committed to monitoring climate trends and the effectiveness of our restoration policies, programs and projects under these changing conditions. Our partners have also committed to adjusting our work as needed in order to enhance the resiliency of the watershed against climate change. Because in building the resiliency of the Bay, we can increase the likelihood that its living resources, habitats, public infrastructure and communities will withstand the changes—to temperature, sea level and even river flow—that may come their way.

Learn more about rivers and streams and climate variability.

Catherine Krikstan's avatar
About Catherine Krikstan - Catherine Krikstan is a web writer at the Chesapeake Bay Program. She began writing about the watershed as a reporter in Annapolis, Md., where she covered algae blooms and climate change and interviewed hog farmers and watermen. She lives in Washington, D.C.



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