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August 2008
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October 2008

Dealing With Disaster

It's been quite a week for the Chesapeake Bay.

First, on Monday, Bay state and Washington, D.C. representatives and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency tentatively agreed to recommend pushing back the current 2010 deadline, set in 2000, for cleaning up the Bay another ten years. CBF issued a statement congratulating governments for what they have achieved in recent years but expressing frustration that the deadline for true restoration has been pushed back on leaders who have not yet come to office or position.

On Tuesday, U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez issued a federal disaster declaration for the Bay's blue crab fishery. Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski asked for the declaration back in May. Funding is still pending but Sen. Mikulski is optimistic it will come through quickly.

As an editorial in the Free Lance-Star stated, both serve as reminders that, even in this see-sawing economy, "cleaning up the bay needs to remain a top priority--one that will pay future economic dividends in jobs, recreational pursuits, and the bay's delicious bounty."

An editorial in today's Daily Press about the crab crisis notes, "Real improvement in the outlook for crabs or any bay residents depends on fixing the underlying conditions that threaten them." That echoes arguments made back in April that while we need a quick fix for the sake of our watermen's economy, what we really need is long-term committment. Not rhetoric, real committment.

Yesterday, in a move that holds the federal government accountable for its responsibilities to the Clean Water Act and to the American public, CBF issued a federal blueprint for environmental action by the next Administration. Titled "Restoring Clean Water and the Chesapeake Bay: A Plan for America's Next President," it outlines 16 specific actions that the next president and Congress need to take if we are to be successful in reducing pollution, meeting the requirements of the Clean Water Act, and improving local economies.

What are your thoughts on the week's news?


5 Fun Links From My Mailbox

Imgp0318_pie When I get an e-mail I find interesting I pop it into an Outlook folder to get back to later. Like this photo of a pie students made while on a CBF Student Leadership Trip this summer.

Everyone likes lists, so here are five items that made it into my folder recently.

1.If you're a coffee fiend like me and don't compost (shh, I won't tell anyone), GreenUpgrader has some ideas for recycling those coffee grounds. The picture's a hoot!

2. Want to line up some eco-friendly shopping for the holidays? PlanetGreen takes a look at Target.

3. If you like lists you'll love WebEcoist. A newcomer to the green Web, they've put together a four-part series on Your Great Guide to the Green Web. The series includes green blogs, green tools (the Web kind not the gardening kind), social media sites, and environmental organizations. (I'm not sure why we didn't make it into the last one but I guess I won't hold it against them.)

4. Columbus Day is coming up and the National Wildlife Federation has a great idea for how to spend it. Go to www.maketracks.org and register for the Make Tracks! Family Trail Weekend. Enter your zip code into the NatureFind tool to find a trail or walking path near you.

5. Did you know the EPA has a widgets Web page? Its latest addition is "Find Your Watershed." If anyone knows how to add it to a Typepad blog, let me know.

Have any interesting sites you'd like to share?   


Is Your River at Risk? Nominate It

I just received this email from American Rivers.

Is your local river at risk from pollution, dams, harmful development, or other threats? Will the future of the river and your community hinge on action taken in the coming year? Will a positive decision boost your community’s resilience in the face of global warming?

Raise your river’s profile and help secure positive actions by nominating it for America’s Most Endangered Rivers™: 2009 Edition. The deadline for nominations is October 27, 2008.

Unfortunately, the link in the e-newsletter didn't work (been there, done that). So here's a link directly to the nomination form.

For more information email Heather Hamilton or call her at 202-347-7550.


NCLI Act Passes US House

This just in from Don Baugh, CBF's Vice President for Education:

Img_0946_lgIn a major victory for our young people, the US House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a landmark bill yesterday to support environmental education.

The bi-partisan vote of 293 to 109 for the No Child Left Inside (NCLI) Act is a show of support by the House of Representatives for the importance of outdoor education and environmental literacy.

This is a major victory for our nation’s environment and for the Bay. While this is an interim step towards our final goal of getting the No Child Left Inside Act embedded into the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (NCLB) when reauthorized next year, it is indeed an historic moment.  Here are the firsts:

1)       First time Congress voted in 18 years on environmental education

2)       First time Congress voted in 27 years for the US Department of Education to be involved in environmental education

3)       First time Congress voted for environmental literacy plans, that will be the road map for graduating environmentally literate students.

4)       First time Congress voted for an environmental education program whose signature is getting students outside involved in field investigations, integrated into the classroom

The Bay will benefit immediately from this vote yesterday, as a symbolic message was sent that the federal government expects that environmental education to be embedded into the formal education, including field investigations, of every student in the nation. This is a signal to our school systems, principals, and teachers.

A huge thanks to everyone out there who contacted their legislators and urged them to vote "Yes!"

Find out how your legislator votedLearn more about NCLI and the NCLI Coalition.

For a look at outdoor education in action, read or listen to Tom Pelton's story "Reading the Stream" or watch this video from WVEC TV-13 News


What Will Happen to Mattawoman Creek?

Bass fishermen in Mattawoman Creek. The period for comments on Charles County's proposed Cross County Connector closed yesterday. Thank you to all our members and friends who sent letters urging the wetland permit be denied. For those unfamiliar with the proposed highway project, Charles County would like to build a $60 million roadway connecting the malls in Waldorf with thousands of new houses planned in the Bryans Road area. The problem? The project would destroy dozens of acres of forests and wetlands in the Mattawoman Creek watershed.

Mattawoman Creek wanders for 20 miles through the forests and wetlands of Southern Maryland, from Prince George’s County across Charles County to the Potomac River.

In the springtime, the stream’s shady bends glimmer with golden strands of yellow perch eggs. Fishermen crowd the banks. Bass tournaments draw sportsmen from across the country every year to Sweden Point Marina in Smallwood State Park on the lower Mattawoman.

Herring_in_mattawoman More than 50 species of fish breed in the creek, including rockfish, catfish, bluegill and pumpkinseed sunfish. The creek’s wooded valley also boasts the richest variety of amphibians and reptiles in the state, including marbled salamanders and southern leopard frogs, according to a report by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

Because of its role as an important breeding ground for fish, the Mattawoman Creek has been recognized as “the best, most productive tributary” in the Chesapeake Bay by the state natural resources agency.

But now all of this life – and the sports fishing culture of the whole region – is threatened by the proposed four-lane highway.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, along with a number of local and statewide organizations, opposes the highway, called the Cross County Connector, because it is the opposite of “Smart Growth.” The road would spur low-density development, roughly one house per acre, in a largely forested area, away from established cities and towns. All the construction would create runoff pollution that will imperil an important watershed with exceptional biodiversity and biological productivity.

Kim Coble, Maryland Executive Director of the foundation, wrote to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Maryland Department of the Environment in September 2008 asking them to deny permits to allow Charles County to destroy more than seven acres of wetlands to build the road.

“The loss of these natural filters through construction of the road and subsequent development spawned by construction of the road will result in additional loads of nutrients and sediments into Mattawoman Creek,” Coble wrote.  “Thus, the proposed permit will significantly degrade water quality in violation of the Clean Water Act.”

CBF believes that if the state and federal agencies are to consider granting the permits, the Corps must require a thorough study – called an Environmental Impact Statement – to be conducted. The study should examine how the runoff from the road and housing construction would affect water quality, natural resources and fish in the creek.

So far, Charles County has underestimated how much development – and therefore, how much pollution – would come from the Cross County Connector. 

But even the county’s own documents report that the road will “facilitate” the construction of 1,113 residential units at a density of about one unit per acre and add other developments that are “dependent” on building the road. The actual number of new housing units in the area may be much higher, reflecting the southward march of sprawl from suburban Washington.

The Bay Foundation is not the first organization to come to the conclusion that the county’s development plans in the area around the Cross County Connector would pollute the Mattawoman Creek.

The Corps, in a August 2003 report, said that runoff pollution into the stream would rise by 50 percent by the year 2020 because of all the development planned in the northern section of the county. That would have a “severe” impact on the creek because of all the additional impervious surfaces like blacktop or roofs, according to the Army Corps report.

Experts at the Center for Watershed Protection have demonstrated that covering more than 10 percent of a stream’s watershed with blacktop and other impervious surfaces causes environmental degradation. The 2003 Army Corps report projects impervious surface percentages in the Mattawoman watershed to rise to substantially more than 10 percent.

Charles County, one of the fastest growing jurisdictions in Maryland, has a population of 145,000 and county officials predict that the number will grow by nearly 50 percent by the year 2030. Since the 1990’s, county officials have been trying to direct 75 percent of this growth into a development district that takes up most of the northern section of the county around Mattawoman Creek.

The problem is, the county’s designated growth area is larger than Washington DC in a largely forested area – and it threatens one of the most biologically productive areas in the Bay watershed.  This sensitive area should not be exploited for growth.

The state and county governments have been working in opposite directions around the Mattawoman Creek. Recognizing the stream’s value as a breeding ground for fish and a filter for pollutants that would otherwise run into the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland has purchased or protected about 5,900 acres of land around the creek or in the stream’s watershed in Charles County. The protected lands include the Mattawoman Natural Environment Area, immediately south of the proposed location where the Cross County Connector would be built across Mattawoman Creek.

In 1998, the state, under former Gov. Parris N. Glendening, spent $25 million to buy and preserve 2,225 acres of forested land threatened by a project called Chapman’s Landing near the western end of the proposed Cross County Connector.

Now environmental gains like this – protecting lands that serve as a natural filter for pollutants and habitat for wildlife – are at risk of being overwhelmed by the proposed highway and associated  development.

That’s why CBF has asked the state and federal agencies to deny the permits necessary to build the four-lane highway that would severely damage one of Maryland’s natural treasures – the Mattawoman Creek.

“CBF believes this wetland permit should be denied,” Coble wrote to the government agencies.  “We are not confident that the impacts to the natural resources that will be affected by the current proposal have been adequately quantified, nor avoided or minimized.”   

By Tom Pelton, Senior Writer, CBF
Photos courtesy Mattawoman Watershed Society


Bringing the Stories of the Bay to Your Laptop

Wypr_logoThe sounds and stories of the Bay are now as close as your laptop. CBF has entered into a partnership with WYPR 88.1 FM, the public radio station in Baltimore, to produce a series of monthly podcasts called Natural Maryland. The podcasts will feature stories that highlight the diversity of the Bay, both biologically and socially.

The first podcast, Nature's Bounty, has been posted on wypr.org. It explores in rich detail the annual drama of the horseshoe crab spawning on the Delaware Bay. For anyone who hasn’t been knee-deep in mating horseshoe crabs on a starry night in the shallow waters off Pickering Beach, Delaware, download the experience from WYPR. Jonas said her next podcast will be a trip with CBF naturalist John Page Williams to witness a stretch of the Severn River that captures both the hope and the tragedy of the whole Bay. Stay tuned, er, connected. 

To download the Natural Maryland podcasts, visit the Podcast page on WYPR's website. Scroll down the page to see the Natural Maryland series.


Charles County: Stop Sprawl That Threatens the Bay

One of the most fertile fish breeding grounds in the Chesapeake Bay is threatened by a  proposed four-lane highway that would pave wetlands and ignite sprawl in a wooded section of Southern Maryland.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation is urging people to write the Maryland Department of the Environment and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and ask them to deny permits that would allow Charles County to destroy wetlands to build the highway, called the Cross County Connector.

The deadline for public comment is Monday, Sept. 15. Please send a letter now opposing the permit.

The $60 million Cross County Connector would run east-to-west across northern Charles County, replacing dozens of acres of forest with a strip of blacktop as the roadway connects the malls in Waldorf with new subdivisions. 

The massive construction project is the opposite of "Smart Growth," in that homes would be spread out and distant from existing cities or towns. County documents report that the highway will "facilitate" the construction of 1,113 homes at an average density of one acre each, and add other development that is "dependent" on construction of the road.

A preliminary August 2003 report by the Army Corps of Engineers predicted that all the additional blacktop and roofs proposed for the area would have a “severe” impact on the Mattawoman Creek, increasing runoff pollution into the creek by 50 percent.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources has described the Mattawoman Creek as “the best, most productive tributary in the bay.” More than 50 species of fish, including yellow perch and largemouth bass, breed in the creek, which empties into the Potomac River.

To build the road across Mattawoman Creek, Charles County must first obtain permits from the Maryland Department of the Environment and the Army Corps of Engineers to destroy more than seven acres of wetlands.  The MDE must certify that runoff pollution will not violate water quality standards in the creek.

CBF urges the MDE and the Army Corps to say no and protect not only the creek, but also the quality of life in Southern Maryland -- and the fish that are so vital to the Chesapeake Bay.


On the Road With Chesapeake Local Bounty

A Very Clever Local Lunch Menu

Crab_soup_2Melon Salad
Maryland Farm Salad with Crab Louise Dressing
Untraditional Maryland Vegetable  Crab Soup
Sweet Zucchini Bread

We got plenty of crab for this Locally Grown Lunch as not only was it the base for the soup but also graced the salad dressing along with chopped hard boiled egg. It was very ingenious to add the crab to the Crab Louie dressing. You can make the soup at home and use a recipe loaded with seasonal vegetables like corn, baby potatoes and summer squash.

Maryland Vegetable Crab Soup
Makes 1 gallon

3 pounds fresh crab claws
2 quarts water
2 bay leaves
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 cups diced celery
3 cups halved baby potatoes
4 cups combinations of corn and diced summer squash
sea salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon marjoram
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon seafood seasoning
1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
1 pound special or claw crab meat

In a large, heavy bottomed kettle, combine crab claws water and bay leaves. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes to make broth. Add  tomatoes, celery, potatoes, vegetables cook approximately 30 minutes, until vegetables are tender. Add remaining ingredients, bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes at a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 1 hour. Leftover soup should be kept in refrigerator not more than five days. Makes about 1 gallon.

Posted by Rita Calvert. Rita is a chef, educator, and writer and a founding member of Buy Fresh Buy Local Chesapeake Region. Visit her website On the Road With Chesapeake Local Bounty.

Continue reading "On the Road With Chesapeake Local Bounty" »


House to Vote Next Week on Environmental Education

Action Alert: Support Environmental Education I was at my son's Back-to-School night last night, and while sitting in his biology classroom I couldn't help but wonder about what our education requirements tell our children about our priorities as a society.

In Maryland, high school students must pass biology and the Biology High School Assessment Test in order to graduate. Now don't get me wrong, biology is an important science. But with the energy and environmental challenges this generation will need to address, I personally think they'll contribute to society more with an understanding of environmental issues than with an understanding of osmosis. (Yes, I know, I've terribly oversimplified the matter.)

In a 2003 report, the National Science Foundation's Advisory Committee for Environmental Research and Education noted that "in the coming decades, the public will more frequently be called upon to understand complex environmental issues, assess risk, evaluate proposed environmental plans and understand how individual decisions affect the environment at local and global scales. Creating a scientifically informed citizenry requires a concerted, systematic approach to environmental education..."

No one is advocating a change in Maryland's education policy. However, the national No Child Left Inside Coalition, of which CBF is a member, is advocating for environmental education to be included in reauthorizations of the No Child Left Behind Act, along with resources necessary to implement such a change. (Want more info? Go here.)

"Okay," you say, "so what do you want me to do about it?"

The United States House of Representatives will be voting on the No Child Left Inside Act of 2008 this upcoming Tuesday or Wednesday. If you believe that it is important for every student to learn about their connection to nature and their impact on the environment, send an e-mail now and urge them to vote "Yes" on H.R. 3036.

The Coalition has generated strong bipartisan support for this legislation thanks to the efforts of individuals like you. Check and see if your representative is actively supporting NCLI and, if so, send them a thank you with a request for continued support.