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December 2007

Chesapeake Bay Guitar Project--A Marriage of Music and Beauty for a Great Cause

TriofixedThe Chesapeake Bay's nautical and watermen's cultures have long been an inspiration for local musicians. Now they are inspiring a few other members of the music business. Soon, thanks to the vision of three talented men and their Chesapeake Bay Guitar Project, you won't just be able to sing about the Bay, you'll be able to make music with it.

(Photo, left to right: Craig Lavin, Emory Knode, and David MacCubbin.)

Here's their story.

David MacCubbin is a Maryland native with a lifelong love of woodworking, music, and the Chesapeake Bay. A singer and guitarist, David built his first guitar in 2001, learning the craft from renowned luthiers (guitar makers) William Cumpiano and Ervin Somogyi. Early this year he switched his career path from software engineering to building guitars full time, and has completed a number of commissioned instruments.

Born in Pennsylva, Craig Lavin's love of sea life and music took him to Florida and to a degree in marine biology and a side-job as a guitarist in a South Florida band. He and his marine biologist and musician wife Emily Schmitt, PhD (who participated in CBF's skipjack summer programs as a youngster) are both involved in marine ecology and education. When Craig wanted a coral reef inlay for the neck of his guitar he became so enthralled with the art that he started doing his own inlays. Today, he is a full-time inlay artist with a special emphasis on marine life. His inlays have been commissioned by individual art collectors, guitarists, and luthiers around the world.

Emory Knode's father opened Nelson Knode's Music Centre in Catonsville, MD when Emory was two years old. Emory assumed full control of the business in 1981. Today, the store is the Appalachian Bluegrass Shoppe, reflecting the acoustic and bluegrass music Emory enjoys most. He has also spent countless hours on the Chesapeake Bay boating, fishing, diving, and exploring wetlands.

"For a long time, I envisioned some sort of project that would showcase the natural beauty of the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed," Emory says. "It was not until I shared my vision with David and Craig that the idea of bringing the beauty of the acoustic guitar and its voice together to raise awareness of the  stewardship we all have responsibility for came together."

The three men have teamed up to form the Chesapeake Bay Guitar Project. "Our mission is to offer a very limited number of hand-made and hand-inlayed guitars that showcase the splendor of our bay and how we can help to preserve it," Emory says.

Proceeds from the sale of these unique guitars will go to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

"I am very humbled by this opportunity to be able to share my talents in helping the Chesapeake Bay Foundation preserve the beauty and goodness of the Bay," says David.

Craig and his wife have been on the lookout for an environmental cause to support. "When Dave called me, I immediately knew supporting the Chesapeake Bay Foundation was invaluable. Saving biodiversity through high-end guitar building is wholly unique, I believe," says Craig. "There's way too much riding on this body of water for it to be ignored. I am honored to be part of a project along with Dave and Emory, two other very committed individuals who have so much passion and hope for the Bay's future."

But the story doesn't end there. David MacCubbin will be a guest blogger here on CBF's blog over the coming months and will chronicle the project as it, and its guitars, come together.

(Photo below: an example of Craig Lavin's inlay work on the neck of a guitar from a previous project.)

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Maryland "Style" Crabcakes - Not the real thing

Crab picking houseI recently toured a crab picking house on the eastern shore of VA where watermen drop off fresh catches of blue crabs. As I was waiting in the office several customers arrived with small coolers to collect crabmeat. It made me think of the crabcakes my mom and aunt used to make when I was kid. Fried or broiled, I loved them. Unfortunately, picking houses like these (and the crabcakes I ate as a kid) are declining in number, in part due to the import of crabmeat from outside the Chesapeake. Evidence of this can be seen at seafood restaurants around the region that have on their menu "Maryland Style" crabcakes. Be assured, the style has to do with how they are breaded and seasoned and not where the meat comes from. 

I am concerned that imported crabmeat, among other combining factors, is unfairly placing our local crab industry at risk. I am certain that we can "Save the Bay." However, I want to work towards saving our crabbing economy as well. It's an industry that produces signifcant revenue and jobs and should not be outsourced. So when I go to restaurants I ask the waiter, "What does it mean by Maryland-Style?" You'd be surprised how many servers have no idea where the meat comes from. I then try and order something locally caught, if available.

And the next time I go to the eastern shore I am taking a cooler and visiting that crabhouse. Then maybe I will invite my Mom over for dinner. Crabcakes will be on the menu.

Joe Lerch is a senior land planner in CBF's Virginia office.


General Assembly Approves $50 Million for Bay Cleanup

You deserve a Million Thank You's!!!
Click here for YOUR Thank You!

Last night in a marathon session, the Maryland General Assembly ended its three-week special session by earmarking $50 million per year to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. The funds will be used to reduce pollution and bring the State closer to meeting its 2010 Bay-restoration commitments.

The legislature adopted the House's plan, which will fund the cleanup efforts through the existing motor fuel tax and the car rental tax. No new taxes were created for this fund.

As anyone following the Green Fund issue can attest, it's been a tough road. We couldn't have done it without the thousands of concerned citizens who baked crab cookies, sent postcards, and made phone calls to their elected leaders to let them know clean water is a critical issue they want to see addressed.

Del. Maggie MacIntosh, who sponsored the House Bill, has been an incredible advocate for our Bay. CBF thanks her, the rest of the General Assembly, and Governor O'Malley and his administration for passing this legislation. We look forward to working with them in the upcoming session on the next step—legislation to ensure the funds are used effectively and efficiently to get the Bay off of the federal "dirty waters" list.


Take the Polar Bear Plunge and Fight Global Warming

Logo_polar_plungeOn December 8, CBF's president, Will Baker, will join hundreds of others across the country and take the Chesapeake Climate Action Network's third annual Polar Bear Plunge into the fridgid waters of Chesapeake Bay. Won't you join him?

CCAN's annual polar bear plunge draws prominent elected officials and journalists and allows us to dramatically communicate the dire threat to our planet’s environment – and to the Chesapeake Bay. We have one planet and it has a fever, and we need clean energy solutions now.

Join Will and other CBFers at this event and fundraiser. It all begins at 11 am on Saturday, Dec. 8th on the beach at CBF's Merrill Center headquarters in Annapolis. CCAN will have heated tents on the beach plus hot chocolate and donuts and even a trio of polar bears who sing rap songs for the Earth. It’s fun for the whole family for a cause that couldn’t be more vital.

Can't get to Annapolis? Check CCAN's Keep Winter Cold website for a plunge near you.

Register online at keepwintercold.org

And, again, keep in mind that this is also a fundraiser for CCAN and their work to fight global warming, such as the campaign to pass the Global Warming Solutions Act here in Maryland. Participants are simply asked to get their friends and family members to give pledges to sponsor their plunge. It’s easy, and CCAN will take care of all the details.


House Passes Bay Funding; Next Stop--Senate

Yesterday, the Maryland House of Delegate passed the Chesapeake Bay 2010 Trust Fund (House Bill 23), with a vote of 102-31. We're getting so close!

But hold on, more challenges are ahead. The Senate must also vote on the bill. So now is the time: If you haven't contacted your Senator, please call them now and urge them to support the Bay cleanup fund passed by the House (mention House Bill 23). If you have contacted your Senator—THANK YOU—and remember, it doesn't hurt to remind them of how important the Bay is to each and every one of us!


Growing Pains...

LillianmichaelfinalThe Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) has established itself as a knowledgeable authority on the Chesapeake Bay. Quick to champion the cause, the pioneers have held the fort steady and cleared a path for true Bay change. In the same pioneering spirit, we are coming to yet another new frontier. No, we are not talking about new ways to fundraise, rather new ways to engage.

Historically, CBF has done a great job at finding and acting on opportunities to interface with its traditional constituency. But what happens when you take a 40-year-old pioneering environmental nonprofit and plop it in the middle of inner Baltimore City? Or in the richly made ranks of Prince George’s County? Well, I can’t pretend to have the answers. But wouldn’t it be cool to just imagine how that would be equally beneficial? Wouldn’t it be interesting to see all of us stretch in ways we never imagined?

I just returned from a retreat where CBF's Environmental Protection & Restoration and Communications departments were challenged to think about those very questions of inclusion and partnership. Peter Forbes, a dynamic environmental leader and former “political thug,” challenged the organization to reach people outside the “choir” by speaking with a value-oriented message instead of a typical strategic message (read "numbers and statistics"). As scientists and analytical types, sure we were uncomfortable with stepping out of our comfort zone, but we listened intently and thought seriously about Peter’s proposal. What if we could use both? What if we could become much better at communicating our vision for the Bay by sharing our values as well as statistics and numbers?

As most of us pensively thought about the connections, it was clear that before my very eyes—a change was happening. Instead of one person championing the cause of inclusion, all of us were thinking as transformational leaders with transactional flair. We were thinking “outside of the box.” Admittedly, not everyone felt the same. Some of us were still skeptical, waiting for the shoe to drop, or doubting that there would be next steps. All of these thoughts are incredibly valid. A mature organization doesn't change because of a two-day retreat with a dynamic speaker—but at least the mice are starting to turn the wheels.

As I leave this dynamic organization, I can only wonder what CBF will do in the next few years. And if it is anything like what I am imagining, I am excited about our future…

At the time of this writing, Lillian Buie is Environmental Diversity Outreach Coordinator for CBF. Unfortunately she is leaving us for a new job. We wish her well!


Saving the Bay, But for Whom?

WatermanTo whom do we have a responsibility? For whom are we saving the Bay?

These questions came to mind on reading two articles yesterday—one about the Bay and one about the greater world. In her article Once Plentiful, Crisfield Oysters in Short Supply, Liz Holland shares the story of a culture's decline—the waterman's culture upon which the town of Crisfield was built a century ago. Her story prompted several comments about whether commercial watermen should continue to struggle to make a living on the Bay or whether we should just record their culture and let it disappear.

On the New York Times blog Dot Earth, Andrew Revkin asks What Does the Present Owe to the Future? "I’ve noticed some signs of the tensions that lie at the heart of the sustainability puzzle—including the push and pull over what one generation owes the next, or what one individual owes to someone else’s child," he writes. His article also prompted a hot round of comments.

At CBF, our efforts to improve the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay, its rivers, and streams stem from the belief that they are national treasures of immense natural, economic, cultural, and historic importance and need to be preserved for future generations. We believe we do have a responsibility to provide a better world for future generations. We also believe we have a responsibility to preserve the Bay's natural resources—not just to save the environment, but for the health of both the people and the economies that depend on those resources. That doesn't only mean working to ensure there continue to be oysters, crabs, and rockfish coming out of the Bay, but working to help the cultures dependent upon those natural resources continue to thrive as well.

Who are you saving the Bay for? 


Green Fund Passes First Hurdle!

Today, the House Environmental Matters Committee passed HB 23, the Chesapeake Bay 2010 Trust Fund, formerly known as the "Green Fund."

The bill sets policy for the state to give $50 million per year toward measures that will clean up the Bay and its rivers and streams. The new version of the bill strips the "hardened surface" fee, and the House is currently looking for a new funding measure.

The full House must also vote on the measure, and then the bill will cross over to the Senate. So it's good news, but the fight isn't over yet. Contact your legislators if you haven't -- time is running out! Stay tuned for the latest developments!


Green Fund Update

The Maryland House of Delegates heard testimony on the Green Fund Bill (HB 23) on Nov. 2 in the Environmental Matters Committee. The hearing went well with many proponents, including groups as diverse as the Maryland Homebuilders Association to other environmental groups. Governor O’Malley's  administration testified, saying it “strongly” supports the Green Fund.

The Maryland Farm Bureau and Delmarva Poultry Industry along with the Marine Trades Association of Maryland, Association of Soil Conservation Districts, Sportsmen Foundation, and the Partnership for Sustainable Forestry are also among those who showed support for the Green Fund bill, which would reduce pollution to Maryland's rivers, streams, and the Bay.

Chair Del. Maggie McIntosh convened a work group after the hearing to work on the legislation. The discussion revolved around the administration’s suggested amendment to have the state's BayStat group manage the resources; the bill's original proposal outlined how much of the funds would go to the three agencies primarily responsible for Bay cleanup. The administration said it prefers the flexibility of the BayStat approach to allow for spending flexibility from year to year, depending on the needs.

On Friday, Senate President Mike Miller dropped his own bill to create a Chesapeake Bay Trust Fund (SB 28). The bill does not provide a funding source for the Trust Fund, but President Miller has said he is looking for a  source to bring in $30 million to $50 million per year.

After the hearing, The Baltimore Sun reported that the Green Fund was "dead" in the Special Session because of Senate opposition to the Green Fund bill, but many pundits and people close to the process say this is not the case. What may be the case is that the Senate will not pass the House version of the Green Fund because it doesn’t like the funding mechanism, but will instead create its own funding source during the Special Session. If the House passes a bill that includes directives on where the money goes, the two bills would go to conference committee. In conference, the bills might be melded into one bill with a Senate funding source and House policy measures. Keep your fingers crossed.

Two weeks ago, we had no idea where we were headed on the Green Fund, but with the help of thousands of Marylanders and partner groups concerned about the Bay, we now have the Senate President dropping his own bill to create a dedicated fund to cleanup the Bay. And it is the only bill he is sponsoring. The debate has shifted from “should we do this?” to “how are we going to do this?”  Thanks to all of those who have contacted their legislators and asked them to support the Green Fund!

The session may run another 5 to 10 days with the Senate voting first on the revenue package. As much is still in flux especially slots, and new service taxes, anything could happen. But we are very hopeful we will eventually come away with a new funding source for the Chesapeake Bay.

If you want to help, call your State Senator today and ask them to support dedicated funding for Bay conservation programs. To learn who your Senators are and to get a phone number, visit http://mdelect.net/.