Political leaders of the Bay region met on Friday, Sept. 22, on Kent Island, Md., for the annual Chesapeake Executive Council meeting to adopt new measures aimed at improving water quality throughout the watershed.
The waters of the Bay served as the backdrop for the signing of important policy directives:
Prior to Friday's formal meeting, a Watershed Restoration Fair was held at Sandy Point State Park in Annapolis, Md., to celebrate the organizations throughout the watershed that are helping to make Bay restoration a reality. The fair included exhibits and presentations by over 90 conservation and restoration groups, including:
National Aquarium in Baltimore
Snyder County (Pa.) Conservation District
Upper Susquehanna Coalition
Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fish
Four Businesses for the Bay facilities received recognition from Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich for their pollution prevention and nutrient reduction successes: Volvo Powertrain (Md.), Wenger's Feed Mill (Pa.), Trammell Crow Company (D.C.) and Degussa Goldschmidt Chemical Corporation (Va.).
The Forest Conservation Directive obligates the signatories to identify where forests are needed most to protect water quality in their jurisdiction, and to establish individual numeric goals for forest conservation. In addition, the directive provides guidelines for developing a framework with milestones to help implement and track progress toward the numeric goal.
This directive will mark the first time the partners have joined together to support a forestland conservation initiative, formally recognizing the vital and often overlooked role forests play in improving water quality.
Coinciding with the signing of the Forest Conservation Directive is the release of The State of Chesapeake Forests. This in-depth report paints a clear picture of the values of and threats to the watershed's forests, and is the first-ever comprehensive look at how retaining and expanding forests in critical areas of the watershed may be the most cost-effective strategy to ensure long-term nutrient load reductions to the Bay.
The Executive Council partnered with the Lawn Care Product Manufacturing Industry to sign another groundbreaking policy. The Healthy Lawns and Clean Water Initiative will, by 2009, reduce by 50 percent the pounds of phosphorus in lawn care products sold in the watershed. A second initiative addressing nitrogen in fertilizers will be developed for the 2007 Executive Council meeting.
In a complementary action, the non-federal members of the council signed an agreement to support efforts to have funding included in the 2007 Farm Bill that would provide the watershed's 87,000 farms the ability to institute environmentally sound practices. The directive includes a statement recognizing the importance of technical assistance to conservation program implementation, and lists three state commitments regarding the leveraging of federal funds, the provisioning of adequate technical assistance and the coordination of state efforts with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service.
This resolution recognizes the need for a unified voice from the farming community to help guide the Partnership in a direction that enhances clean-up efforts in the watershed, while providing increased farm viability.
It urges state secretaries and commissioners to periodically meet and discuss issues related to farming and Bay watershed restoration, and tasks them to report back to the Executive Council with recommendations to enhance the role of agriculture in the Bay Partnership.