Andy, my next-door neighbor, is a fisherman. We talk from time to time across our backyard decks. Andy has never asked me about the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement signed in June 2014. But if he did, how would I explain it? Are the ten goals of the Agreement connected?
Of course they are. Think fish, think Chesapeake Bay, and the mind conjures rockfish, crabs and oysters - restored and protected. That’s Goal 1, Sustainable Fisheries. What do fish, wildlife and other living things need to survive? Vital Habitats made up of restored underwater grasses, streams, forest buffers and tree canopy (Goal 2). Habitats require good Water Quality, which means reducing pollutant loads flowing into the Bay (Goal 3). But is water quality alone enough? Nope: Toxic Contaminants, such as mercury and PCBs, harm both wildlife and human health and must be reduced (Goal 4).
Are we finished? Not yet. Our good waters must remain healthy (Healthy Watersheds, Goal 5). Without increasing our leadership – citizens and elected officials committed to restoration – our efforts are for naught (Stewardship, Goal 6). Our Chesapeake Bay region is blessed with ecologically valuable and treasured lands that protect our waters and enhance our lives (Land Conservation, Goal 7).
What brings the magic of the Bay home most of all? Experiencing it – swimming, boating and fishing – which means increased Public Access (Goal 8). Future leadership is essential; our children must graduate from school with the knowledge and skills to protect and restore our lands and waters (Environmental Literacy, Goal 9). And our restoration efforts must account for changing climactic conditions and sea level rise (Climate Resiliency, Goal 10).
So, that's it: ten steps to a restored Chesapeake Bay. Have a good day, Andy.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation once again gave the Chesapeake Bay a “D+” grade in its biennial State of the Bay report, with improvements in water quality offset by declines in fisheries.
This grade remains the same from the nonprofit’s 2012 report. The score of 32 on a one-to-100 scale marks an improvement of one point since 2010 and of four points since 2008 but remains well short of the Foundation’s goal of 70, representing an “A+” or a “saved Bay.”
According to the report, four of the 13 indicators of Bay health showed signs of recovery: dissolved oxygen, water clarity, oyster populations and underwater grass abundance. Of those, dissolved oxygen showed the greatest improvement, with this year’s “dead zone” - an area of little to no dissolved oxygen where aquatic life is unable to thrive - the smallest it has been in thirty years. But these advances were offset by declines blue crab and striped bass populations, as well as increases in phosphorous pollution.
Chesapeake Bay Foundation President William C. Baker attributes improvements in water quality to the “Clean Water Blueprint,” or Total Maximum Daily Load - a comprehensive plan to reduce pollution going to the Bay and its rivers and streams.
“We have never before had this level of accountability and transparency in Bay restoration efforts,” said Baker in a release. “Our children and grandchildren can inherit a restored Chesapeake Bay, but only if we continue the hard work and investments that will lead to success.”
The Chesapeake Bay Program will publish Bay Barometer, its annual snapshot of watershed-wide health and restoration, later this month. The Bay Program is a voluntary partnership that includes the six watershed states of Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, the District of Columbia, the Chesapeake Bay Commission and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency representing the federal government.
Learn more about the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
Nearly 18 million people reside in the Chesapeake Bay region, with more moving to the area each year. Growing disputes over land use have conservationists working hard to protect the robust natural resources that can be found within the Bay region. A significant part of these efforts include developing and improving public access points as means for people to experience, explore and develop connections to the land, water and wildlife.
Nestled in between Accokeek Creek and Potomac Creek, Crow’s Nest Natural Area Preserve in Stafford, Virginia serves as one of the state’s highest land conservation priorities in the past 10 years. “This is a priority site because it’s such a large intact ecosystem. You have thousands of acres of mature hardwood forest on the coastal plain in Virginia,” explained Michael Lott, Crow’s Nest Manager and Northern Region Steward for the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR).
In addition to around 2,200 acres of mature hardwood forest, the site boasts 750 acres of nearly pristine wetlands and more than 10 miles of hiking trails, and it acts as a safe haven for wildlife and countless viewing opportunities for critters such as migratory waterfowl, white-tailed deer, river otters and beavers.
The preserve and those who manage it have faced many obstacles over the past few decades, including population growth and development encroaching on the area. “In the 1970’s, there were around 30,000 people in Stafford County; a few of the subdivisions were vacation homes for people in D.C. Now, the population is about 130,000. This is the best remaining tidal marsh in Stafford County, so our priority here is conservation,” said Geoff Austin, Northern Region Operations Steward with DCR.
Despite the vastness of the preserve and the great potential it holds for environmental education and recreational opportunities, the property is largely closed to the public until further operational resources can be effectively implemented.
The dynamic duo of Lott and Austin dedicate 90 percent of their working hours toward maintaining the preserve and trying to make it accessible to the public, but one major hurdle stands in their way – a mile-and-a-half long access road. “The big obstacle is the access road to the [completed] parking lot. We need to raise the money to fix that road. That road has been there since the colonial era, it’s been dug down and needs a lot of work before it’s passable for cars,” explained Austin. The team – with help from volunteers - keeps the trails clear, maintains the parking lot and plans to install proper trail signage once the road is completed.
Lott and Austin measure their success one victory - no matter the size - at a time, their latest being the installation of a handicap-accessible boat ramp to be opened to the public within the next couple of months. The ramp overlooks acres of tidal marsh, provides access to Accokeek Creek and lays adjacent to a half-mile trail complete with benches for wildlife observers. “It’s a great birding spot,” said Austin. The launch is part of a larger plan to connect a water trail system along the Potomac River.
DCR wants the public to be able to experience the preserve’s natural wonder. “In the past, this landscape did not lend itself to farming very well, and so a lot of the soil we have out here is still very much intact. Researchers have said that throughout the mid-Atlantic and East Coast, you can’t find soil like this in very many places anymore, which is why the forest out here is so productive,“ explained Lott. “A lot of the forest, particularly in the ravines, hasn’t been logged intensively since the Civil War, so it’s trending back toward mature forest. [For this reason] we keep the trails clear and have been holding open houses twice a year for five years now, so people have had the opportunity to see it and enjoy the trails.”
Tending to nearly 3,000 acres of forest and wetlands is no simple task for two people, but the work is done out of a place of deep caring and passion for protecting and sharing the special places in life with the public. “I grew up in this area and it’s nice to have an intact piece of hardwood [forest] that is going to be preserved in the area for years to come. It’s great to be able to walk out there when I’m working or hunting and see the big trees; you don’t see that in many other places in this area. As stewards of the land year-round you spend a lot of time here – it means a lot to be able to take care of this place.” said Austin.
To view more photos, visit the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Flickr page.
Many of us look forward to celebrations and gift-giving during the holiday season, but these festivities can be tough on the environment as households use more energy and throw out extra trash. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, Americans send about one million additional tons of garbage to the landfill. Give a gift to the Chesapeake Bay this year with our guide to reducing the impact of your holiday gift exchange.
1. Give experiences. Research has shown that spending money on events – not material purchases – creates lasting memories and provides the most happiness. Give the gift of experiences this year with gifts like concert tickets, cooking classes, museum memberships or national park passes. You could also plan a trip for someone special to one of the many parks and public access sites across the Bay region.
2. Edible gifts. Homemade treats give your gift a personal touch, and by packaging them in a reusable container, you can help reduce the amount of trash going to the landfill. Bake a batch of your favorite cookies, pack a basket full of snacks or fill a mason jar with the dry ingredients needed to make muffins, soups, or hot cocoa. Monica from The Yummy Life shares her recipe for double chocolate hot cocoa mix, complete with printable labels to decorate the jars. For more ideas, check out this list from The Kitchn of 40 homemade edible gifts, from salted pistachio brittle to fruit-infused vinegars.
3. Handmade items. Crafting handmade items from recycled materials can give new life to things you might otherwise throw out. Try using an old teacup as the base for a decorative candle with these instructions from Little House Living, or turn an old sweater into a cozy pillow cover with these instructions from Pop Sugar. Simple crafts like these salt dough ornaments from The Artful Parent are perfect for young kids to make for family and friends.
4. Upcycled materials. If crafting isn’t your specialty, find a store that repurposes recycled materials to make their products. Store such as UncommonGoods sell a variety of “upcycled” merchandise, ranging from a wallet made from an old fire hose to cufflinks made from railroad nails. For kids’ toys, many companies like Green Toys use recycled plastic from milk jugs to make their products.
5. Waste-reducing gadgets. Look for devices that help reduce waste of all kinds – from wasted energy to household trash – for gifts that can help save money and the environment. For the tech-lover, try gadgets like “smart” light switches or learning thermostats that adjust to your schedule to reduce the energy you use. To reduce the amount of waste that goes into the trash bin, consider gifts like reusable lunch bags, grocery bags, water bottles, or coffee thermoses.
6. Creative gift wrapping. Wrapping paper is often used once and thrown away, and much of the shiny, metallic paper is not recyclable. By packaging gifts in creative coverings like colorful shopping bags, old newspapers or decorative cloth instead of paper, you can reduce the amount of wrapping paper that goes in the garbage. With reusable tins or baskets, you can even eliminate the need to wrap presents at all! As a finishing touch, decorate gifts with reusable cloth ribbon or even try making your own bows from recycled paper instead of using plastic ribbon.
7. Rechargeable batteries. According to the EPA, nearly 40% of battery sales occur during the holidays. But depleted batteries can be difficult to dispose of and harmful to the environment. If you’re giving a device that uses batteries, consider including rechargeable batteries and a charger with your gift to help reduce waste and prevent harmful chemicals from entering the environment.
What Bay-friendly gifts are you giving this year? Let us know in the comments!
Note: Any references to commercial entities, products or services included in this post are provided solely for informational purposes and do not constitute an endorsement by the Chesapeake Bay Program or the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay.