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We're Halfway There: Bellevue Farm

Drumheller April 2014 (Augusta Co CD6)

This is one in a series of articles about farmers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed who have implemented Best Management Practices (BMPs) to improve water quality and efficiency on their farms. As a result of these success stories, we're halfway to achieving the nutrient reductions needed to restore the Chesapeake Bay and its waters. View the rest of the series here.

Charlie Drumheller and his wife Vicki own and, together with their son Bobby, operate Bellevue Farm, a grazing operation in Swoope located in Virginia's beautiful Shenandoah Valley.

"Any successful business has to have a goal to continually improve," Charlie says, "and we've been doing that on this farm my whole life."

Their commercial cow/calf operation began with Charlie's father in 1944. "We knew long ago that the most effective use of the land was for grazing, and in order to have an efficient grazing farm, you have to have abundant water," Charlie said.

Supplying abundant clean water wasn't easy during several drought years. "I tried to partially fence out the creeks with 'T' posts and temporary wire, but we didn't have the alternative water to really make it work," Charlie recalls.

The farm's rotational grazing system is now fully operational, thanks to several Farm Bill programs and Virginia's Agricultural Cost-Share (VACS) program. "We started by getting the cows out of the stream in the barnyard. It was a mess," Charlie said. "Then when the CREP program opened up in Virginia, we used USDA technical support and funding to set up the watering system for the whole farm."

They now have 20 grazing units and 11 livestock watering stations, with plans to add four more, using a combination of programs including CREP, EQIP, and VACS.

"Prior to fencing the stream, you would have to go to church twice on Sunday to ask forgiveness about what you called the cattle trying to get them into the barnyard," Charlie remembers. "It's a whole lot easier to get the cows in now. When we open a gate, they come."

Charlie and Bobby offer a host of advantages for rotational grazing over their former continuous grazing system on the farm: ease of herd movement, better forage utilization, healthier cattle, no more muck and mud, better manure distribution, and reduced hay needs.

This 365-acre farm has also dedicated about 25 percent of the land to riparian buffer and wildlife areas. "Before we got into CREP, we never saw a turkey on this farm," Bobby says. "Now we see them regularly. And it's nice to see the water leaving our farm clear even after a rain."

—Bobby Whitescarver  

 Whitescarver lives in Swoope, Va. For more information, visit his website.

Learn more about how farmers throughout the Bay watershed are working to improve both water quality and efficiency on their farms through critical Farm Bill programs. 


Photo of the Week: Hooper's Island Fly Fishing

ByJohnRiordanPhoto by Jack Riordan.

I go to school in upstate New York and with the semester coming to an end, I can always look forward to the summertime fly fishing in the Bay! This photo was taken last year off of the Hooper's Island Bridge. To me, the Bay is a getaway where I can leave my worries on the dock and spend the day with my friends adventuring through this incredibly unique area. Some of my fondest memories have been forged around Hooper's Island, and I can't wait to get back for a visit later this year!

—Jack Riordan, Conservation Biology Student at St. Lawrence University 

Ensure that Jack and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary sights like these. Support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint!

Do you have a favorite Bay photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? Send your digital images to CBF's E-Communications Manager, Emmy Nicklin, at enicklin [at sign] cbf.org, along with a brief description of where and when you took the photo, and what the Chesapeake Bay means to you. We look forward to seeing your photos!

 


Photo of the Week: "My Very First Sunset"

IMG_0055Photo by Carol Clouser. 

"My very first sunset photo! I just purchased a camera [and] went to Solomons Island with the baby and took a few shots," says Carol Clouser of Lusby, Maryland. Not bad! And we look forward to seeing more inspiring shots of the Bay and its waters from Carol.  

Ensure that Carol, her baby, and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary sights like these. Support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint!

Do you have a favorite Bay photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? Send your digital images to CBF's E-Communications Manager, Emmy Nicklin, at enicklin [at sign] cbf.org, along with a brief description of where and when you took the photo, and what the Chesapeake Bay means to you. We look forward to seeing your photos!


Protecting the Brookie & Much More

Neil Ever Osborne 2010 trout 2Pennsylvania's brook trout live in small, high-quality streams. Photo by Neil Ever Osborne/iLCP.  

When it comes to the environment and wildlife, we seem to be drawn to specific places and critters. Some of us are drawn to the ocean; others to the mountains. Similarly, some love watching birds while others are fascinated by turtles. And for many of us, there's no one favorite--we're simply fascinated by all of it.

For whatever reason, one critter that could likely use a little more appreciation is the fish. For me, that appreciation started as a kid. I grew up in the Pocono Mountains, and on any given daily adventure you could find me, my sister, and a few others playing in or near a stream. The water was cool and clear and we thought nothing of drinking a scoopful.

My dad enjoyed fishing and always brought my sister and me. He and a handful of fellas started a rod & gun club and built a fish hatchery on site. I remember the "cribs" teeming, seemingly spilling-over with fish; mostly rainbow and brown trout, along with a few exciting, rogue, palominos. My sister and I would sit on the edge of the cribs for hours just watching them swim. I wouldn't trade these experiences for anything. 

But not everyone has had that same opportunity; I sometimes wonder if people have a connection to, or interest in, fish. So I posed a simple question to approximately 30 people, an informal poll of sorts, and I'll ask you as well: Off the top of your head, how many types of fish can you name? Don't think about it, just off the top of your head, how many come to mind?

My hunch was that most people would say a handful, a half-dozen. And I was right. The average was six. The responses ranged from two to 33, but most people fell into the "handful" category.

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The brook trout, or "brookie," is Pennsylvania's only native trout. Photo by Neil Ever Osborne/iLCP.

One species that nearly everyone can name is the trout, with special interest in our beloved native brook trout. Of the four types of trout found in Pennsylvania streams only the brook trout was here when settlers first arrived.

The brook trout is a fish of legend. To see one, swimming wild, is a rarity. To catch one can be life-changing. The mystique of the brook trout, or the "brookie," makes it the treasure of fresh water fishing.

One of my colleagues is a master naturalist. His love of all things wild is extensive and profound, and he has a remarkable, romantic way of storytelling about everything from trout to moss that transports you.

He, John Page Williams, or "JP" is also an avid fisherman. Fly fishing, fresh water, salt water, you name it. I asked him about the brookie and he started out by saying that he was by no means an expert . . . but I knew better.  

He told me that today's brook trout is a descendant of the "Square-Tails." These massive fish were historically found throughout the northeast. These guys had it made. They lived in large rivers of clean, cool waters with plentiful food sources, and consequently, they grew to be massive in size--upwards of 12-pounds.

But as the human population expanded, we developed the land and sent our pollution into the waters, and consequently, changed the river-homes of the square-tail. The waters warmed, the food sources dwindled, and the water was no longer so clean.

Ultimately, that meant some pretty dramatic changes for the fish. And while you might still find a 12-pound square-tail in a few stretches of waters in the northeast, their numbers are few.  

Brookies are a much smaller fish. JP tells me that a 12-incher is a prize these days. And because it simply cannot survive pollution or drastic temperature change, its Pennsylvania range includes only a handful of exceptional and high quality watersheds; while its historic range spanned nearly the entire state.

Why does any of this matter? And why did I ask you how many fish you could name? It matters, and I'm asking because living in Pennsylvania's streams, rivers, and lakes right at this moment, there are 160 different species of fish!

160. Yet most of us can only name a handful.

Now, I'm not a numbers person. But I'm going to throw out one more that will, I hope, make you stop for a moment to contemplate. Of those 160 species--80 of them--half are endangered, threatened, or have already been wiped-out from Pennsylvania's waters completely.

So what can we do?

Optional stream photo
Pennsylvania’s high-quality, special-protection streams are home to brook trout and many other aquatic species. Photo by Neil Ever Osborne/iLCP.

We can start by protecting the brookie and the other 159 species. On April 28, Pennsylvania's House Game & Fisheries Committee is scheduled to review a version of previously introduced legislation, HB1576 or the Threatened and Endangered Species Bill.

The crux of the bill is this: For the past 40 years the scientists at the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission have overseen special protections for the brookie, all fish, reptiles, amphibians, and aquatic invertebrates. Similarly, the Game Commission oversees protections for birds and mammals. And finally, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) oversees the protection of plants as well as unique ecological and geologic features.

All three protect our wildlife and unique natural spaces from a host of threats including habitat changes and pollution. And they do so by making credible decisions based on scientific study. This Bill proposes to throw a wrench into that process by inserting government-appointed politicians to oversee the scientific decisions of the Fish & Boat and Game Commissions along with DCNR.  

Politicians have their expertise. Scientists have theirs. Let's keep it that way, and let our scientists be the ones to make decisions about science.

We'll have more details about this pending legislation, so if you are a CBF action-network member, keep an eye on your inbox. If you're not already an action alert member, you can easily become one.

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The author as a child along her father's trout hatchery.

When people ask me what I do, and I tell them that I advocate for clean water, I sometimes get a blank look in response. I then go on to tell them how I grew up drinking scoopfuls of clean stream water and that I want my niece Kate, who is five, to be able to do the same. Her dad now takes her to the trout hatchery that my dad built. The cycle is repeating itself, and that gives me hope.

But ultimately, we have to protect the things that we care about because not everyone cares for the same things. So I hope that even if fish are not your "thing" that you understand the value of clean water and will join CBF in protecting the brookie and the streams where they live.  

—Kelly Donaldson, CBF's Pennsylvania Communications and Media Coordinator

 


Photo of the Week: Sunset on Crab Alley Bay

DSC00959Photo by Doug Edmunds. 

Another stunner from photographer Doug Edmunds! "I have enjoyed all that the Bay has offered for many years including the wildlife, boating and fishing, spectacular views, and great photo opportunities," says Edmunds. "Many thanks to CBF for their continuing efforts to maintain the overall health and beauty of the Bay!" 

Ensure that Doug and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary sights like these. Support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint!

Do you have a favorite Bay photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? Send your digital images to CBF's E-Communications Manager, Emmy Nicklin, at enicklin [at sign] cbf.org, along with a brief description of where and when you took the photo, and what the Chesapeake Bay means to you. We look forward to seeing your photos!


PA Students Explore Our Local Waterways with CBF's Susquehanna Watershed Education Program

 

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Students explore Pennsylvania's waterways and the critters that live in them.

Susquehanna Watershed Education Program (SWEP) kicks-off the Spring Season and Honors a Local Teacher

For the past 24 years, teams of CBF educators have taken to the Susquehanna River and other Pennsylvania waterways to explore the vast watershed with students and teachers from 85 different middle and high schools. The mission of the Susquehanna Watershed Education Program (SWEP) is always the same: to teach students about the importance of clean water, to show how stream systems function, and to conduct hands-on experiments that engage and excite a student's sense of exploration.

SWEP Spring Education Season Started March 24 

Nearly every school day SWEP Educators Tom Parke and Alex McCrickard hit the water with their traveling fleet of canoes, 12 in all. Affectionately named by students, In a Pickle, Peas-in-a-Pod, and Tippa-Canoe, and the others have become far more than just boats--each one is a part of the team and of the experience. Through them, students get to feel and connect with the water. And for students who may have never been in a boat--the SWEP canoes can also help to instill trust and lessen their fears of the water. 

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SWEP canoes are a part of the team and the experience of learning outside.

The spring season runs through June, with each of the day's lessons--whether it's a hands-on experience with the critters living in the water or the technical water chemistry component--promoting active learning in a way that goes way beyond the classroom. Yet, each one is by-design a compliment to in-class studies.

Honoring a Teacher's Commitment

After 35 years of teaching science at Lower Dauphin Middle School, Mr. Ben Cooper will be retiring. For 19 of those years he has been taking his students out on the water with SWEP, and says "We study freshwater and watersheds, what better way to learn about them than to be in one."

On Tuesday, April 8, Mr. Cooper and 22 of his 6th grade science students joined Tom and Alex for a day on the water at Memorial Lake in Lebanon County. They had planned to explore the Swatara Creek but high-water levels led them to the calmer lake waters.

This was certainly not the first time Tom has been on the water with Cooper.

IMG_1192
CBF Educator Alex McCrickard (left), Lower Dauphin Middle School Teacher Ben Cooper (center), CBF Educator Tom Parke (right).

"I first met Mr. Cooper, Ben, when I was in 5th grade. As a student at Lower Dauphin Middle School, I participated in one of his summer stream study camp programs. Now as an adult, and educator myself, it has been an honor to lead Ben and his 6th graders on the same waterways that I grew up exploring--some with Ben."

Mr. Cooper may be retiring, but there were no signs of somberness as the group paddled into shore. Singing "row, row, row your boat" and counting down "21 bottles of milk on the wall," their songs and laughter could be heard from the shore.

One of the students proudly shared, "I had to do all of my homework, and get it right, just to be able to come today." She was proud of her achievement, as well she should be. And, while brief, her words speak volumes about the value of the program and of student recognition of the rewards of hard work.

IMG_1179
Loading the canoes is just part of the daily wrap-up.

After the canoes were loaded back onto the rig and gear put away, Tom surprised Ben by presenting him with a special gift of gratitude and recognition of his commitment to clean water, to his students, and to education. Local TV and newspapers covered the award presentation, with one naming Mr. Cooper a "Hometown Hero."

Tom said, "I asked Ben what he was going to miss most about teaching. He said, 'The kids, I will miss my sixth graders, and the canoe trips, too. But I will continue getting out on the water on my own.'"

Dan Berra, Principal at Lower Dauphin Middle School shared, "Mr. Cooper's commitment to environmental education has touched the lives of literally hundreds of students over his career. We are thrilled that the Chesapeake Bay Foundation has chosen to recognize his work in educating our students that we all have a responsibility to care for the watershed in which we live."

IMG_1190
SWEP educators with Lower Dauphin Middle School's Ben Cooper and his 6th grade science class after a day on Memorial Lake.

CBF would like to extend our gratitude to Mr. Cooper for 35 years of teaching his students the importance of science and water studies, and for encouraging them to love and explore the world around them. We are especially grateful for the 19 years that he has shared those experiences with us.

Before getting onto the school bus to leave, Ben confidently shouted back to us that he would be seeing the team out on the water, another day.

If you are a teacher who wants to get involved with CBF, please visit our website to learn how. 

 —Kelly Donaldson, CBF's Pennsylvania Communications and Media Coordinator


Photo of the Week: Photo Contest Ends Friday!

ChrisTanner_BlindBirdcopyThe 2013 Save the Bay Photo Contest's third-place winner. While kayaking on the upper St. Mary's River estuary, photographer Chris Tanner observed this Great Blue Heron perched on a decaying bird blind. Photo by Chris Tanner.

Our 2014 Photo Contest is coming to a close! You have just four days left to submit your photos of the Bay and its rivers and streams. We want to see what inspires you across the Chesapeake watershed—from Pennsylvania to Virginia, from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Eastern Shore. All photos must include water from the Chesapeake Bay or river or stream within the Bay watershed. 

Click here to submit your photo and enter to win a prize!

A panel of CBF employees will judge entries on subject matter, composition, focus, lighting, uniqueness, and impact. The public will also have the opportunity to vote online for their favorite photo in the Viewers' Choice Gallery. Winners receive cash prizes!

  • First Prize: $500
  • Second Prize: $250
  • Third Prize: $150
  • Viewers' Choice: $100 

All winners will also receive a one-year CBF membership and will have their photos displayed on CBF's website, in CBF's e-newsletters, and in CBF's Save the Bay magazine. (The first-prize photo will be featured in CBF's 2015 calendar.) All winners will be notified of the outcome, and their images will be posted on the CBF website by May 30, 2014.

All photos must be received by 5 p.m., Friday, April 11. So snap to it (no pun intended) and send us your photos!

—Emmy Nicklin, CBF's E-Communications Manager


We're Halfway There: Augusta County, VA

Wise March 2014F (Augusta Co CD6)This is one in a series of articles about farmers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed who have implemented Best Management Practices (BMPs) to improve water quality and efficiency on their farms. As a result of these success stories, we're halfway to achieving the nutrient reductions needed to restore the Chesapeake Bay and its waters. View the rest of the series here.

Dr. John Wise is a large animal veterinarian and one of the founding partners of Westwood Animal Hospital in Staunton, Va. He's also a beef cattle producer in Augusta County, Va., in the headwaters of the South Fork of the Shenandoah River.

"Abundant clean water is essential for the health of cattle," he stresses. "Lepto, E. coli, and mastitis are the main health problems with cattle drinking dirty water."

Lepto is short for Leptospirosis. This infectious and contagious disease causes abortions, mortality in young calves, and decreased milk production. Producers commonly vaccinate against several strains of Lepto twice a year. It's a bacterial disease transmitted from the urine of infected animals into open wounds, mucus membranes, and the eyes and mouths of susceptible animals, including humans. The causal organisms survive in surface waters, streams, and moist soil. Infected animals can include cattle, deer, pigs, raccoons, opossums, and rats.

The best treatment for cattle to prevent Lepto is immunization followed by "eliminating access of cattle to surface water or streams used by other livestock," according to leading university and animal science experts. E. coli infections and mastitis can also be reduced by keeping livestock out of infected wet areas and streams.

Knowing this, Dr. Wise keeps his own cattle out of farm ponds and streams.

"We fenced the ponds off years ago and recently fenced the springs and a really steep area," he said. "Streams and the river on our home place were especially dangerous during calving, so we fence them off, too. I recall pulling a calf out of Middle River almost every year, many of them dead."

Dr. Wise participated in Virginia's Agricultural Cost Share Program more than 10 years ago to help pay for excluding the livestock from farm ponds. Today he has a Natural Resources Conservation Service EQIP contract that excludes additional streams, provides watering stations for rotational grazing, and funds to over-seed pastures with clover.

"These programs have helped us a great deal, and I think producers should visit their local [Soil and Water Conservation District and USDA] offices to find out what is available for them. They have helped us improve the animal husbandry on our farms, and I hope its helped the environment, too."

—Bobby Whitescarver  

 Whitescarver lives in Swoope, Va. For more information, visit his website.

Learn more about how farmers across the region are working to restore and protect their lands and waters.