90-Year-Old Volunteer to Save the Bay

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To Walter Zadan, 90, age is just a number. Zadan is an integral volunteer of CBF's Virginia oyster restoration team. Photo by CBF Staff.

Though Walter Zadan recently celebrated his 90th birthday, the Williamsburg resident keeps up a schedule that is unusual for a nonagenarian. Every week he stops by several Williamsburg restaurants to pick up heavy buckets laden with empty oyster shells. He then drives these shells a few miles away to dump into outdoor collection bins.

Zadan is part of a network of volunteers across Virginia that collects these shells for oyster restoration efforts by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. For Zadan, his routine at the restaurants incorporates the three things needed for a long and happy life.

"The first thing is to eat good food. The second thing is to exercise. The third thing is to stay connected to society, and feel like you are doing something good," Zadan said.

The volunteer job is a great match for someone who has spent decades both working with restaurants and as an environmental advocate. Zadan has lived in Williamsburg since 1998, but he was born in New Jersey and has moved around the East Coast. While in Pittsburgh in the 1960s, he became involved in fighting smog and pollution.

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Zadan assists CBF oyster restoration staff with baskets of oyster shell.

That interest carried over after he arrived in Norfolk in 1987 to work as a culinary teacher. Back then, when contacting seafood suppliers he was surprised at the lack of local fresh fish, crabs, and oysters in a city on the water. "I was shocked by what I was hearing compared to what I had been used to," Zadan said.

Zadan learned about sources of pollution to the Bay and resolved to do something about it.

"I got very concerned about it," he said. "Why should I, as a citizen, be abused by people who dump stuff into the Chesapeake Bay. I support the fishermen. People who work the Bay have a right to earn their living."

Since the early 1990s Zadan has been a member of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and volunteered with various projects, including public speaking on reducing pollution in waterways. He has worked on oyster shell recycling for about nine years.

The foundation has about 15 oyster shell recycling volunteers in Williamsburg and estimates there are more than 50 shell recycling volunteers in the state, spread out from the Charlottesville area all the way down to the city of Chesapeake.

The shell recycling process is a full cycle. Restaurants save shells after meals to become building blocks for new oyster reefs. Volunteers pick up these shells to deposit in designated oyster shell recycling bins around the state. Zadan normally recovers shells from Berret's Seafood Restaurant and Waypoint Seafood & Grill to drop off at a bin on the campus of William and Mary.

When the bins are full, Zadan and other volunteers help shovel the shells into a truck to be driven to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's oyster restoration center in Gloucester Point. There the empty shells are cleaned and placed into large tanks with free-swimming baby oyster larvae, called spat. The empty shells make great homes for spat, which must attach to a hard surface in order to grow into oysters. Just one empty shell can become the home for a dozen or more full-grown oysters.

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Zadan alongside Jackie Shannon, CBF's Virginia Oyster Restoration Manager.

The spat-laden shells are loaded onto a boat, where they are dropped onto protected oyster reefs to boost the wild oyster population. Just last year, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation planted 5 million oysters in the Lafayette River in Norfolk. 

Volunteers like Zadan are crucial to every step of the process, from gathering shells from restaurants to planting the baby oysters in rivers and the Bay, said Chesapeake Bay Foundation Oyster Restoration Specialist Heather North. "There is no way we could do this without our volunteers," North said. 

"Walter is a real inspiration. At 90, he is showing us all just what is possible." North added that Zadan's long career in the food industry has helped the program work better with restaurants.

For his part, Zadan said that being part of the process gives him hope. "I feel like I'm making a contribution," he said. "It's a good thing both from a moral point of view and because it encourages business activity." He hopes that he can continue to inspire younger generations to work toward a healthier Chesapeake Bay. "Someone who's only 65 may look at me and say 'if a guy who is that age can do it, I can do it too,'" he said.

—Kenny Fletcher, CBF Virginia Communications Coordinator

 


Leave Chesapeake Bay Oyster Sanctuaries Alone

The following first appeared in the Daily Times.

In the current hostile political climate, we can't seem to agree on any government policy.

But that's exactly what happened in Maryland this past month. A poll found about 90 percent of Maryland voters, across party lines, want the state to protect oyster sanctuaries.

The bipartisan poll was conducted by two polling companies, one Republican, one Democratic.

Oyster-Poll-FB-Link-Post-Art-1"This is about as overwhelming as you can get on any public policy issue," said Lori Weigel, a pollster with the Republican firm, Public Opinion Strategies.

There's just one problem. The future of Maryland oyster sanctuaries is at risk. A proposal presented by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to the Maryland Oyster Advisory Commission (OAC) would open up a net of nearly 1,000 acres of oyster sanctuaries to be harvested.

Maryland established the sanctuaries years ago as an insurance policy for the future of the oyster population in the Chesapeake Bay.

Fifty-one of these areas are scattered throughout the Maryland portion of the Chesapeake Bay. They represent a quarter of all oyster reefs.

In these underwater nurseries oysters can grow large, and reproduce. At least until now.

Opening the sanctuaries for harvest would be a major policy change for Maryland. DNR Secretary Mark Belton emphasized to a legislative committee recently that the proposal is preliminary.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation adamantly opposes any reduction in the oyster sanctuaries. So do 29 other conservation groups that signed a letter in opposition, which was submitted to DNR and the OAC, whose members are appointed by DNR.

The oyster harvest industry favors harvesting in sanctuaries. The number of licensed harvesters has doubled in recent years, and the industry wants more places to work. About three-quarters of the oyster reefs in Maryland already are open to harvest.

Nevertheless, the industry has proposed harvesting once every four years in some nurseries, the idea being that oysters would be allowed to grow in the years in between.

The current oyster population in the Chesapeake is estimated to be less than 1 percent of its historic size. The population has been devastated by overharvesting, water pollution, and disease.

Scientists say the sanctuaries are critical to safeguard against the unthinkable – losing the last remaining oysters in the Chesapeake – and to reverse the fate of the iconic bivalve.

Following those warnings, the state increased the area of sanctuary reefs in 2010 from 9 percent to 24 percent. At the same time, the state loosened regulations on oyster farming to help watermen increase their livelihoods.

The current policy is working.

A DNR report this past July concluded oysters are thriving in many of the sanctuary reefs. And oyster farming has surged, bringing added income to many watermen.
We must leave well enough alone.

Oyster-Poll-FB-Link-Post-Art-2The healthy sanctuary reefs are ecological engines of replenishment. Larvae from oysters on these reefs can float for miles, and then settle on more barren reefs, including those open to harvest.

The oysters on sanctuaries develop resistance to the periodic bouts of disease that flare up when water salinity increases, and spread that resistance to other reefs.

Given time, these reefs will grow vertically by many feet. Oyster reefs around the bay used to be so tall, colonial ships would go aground.

But centuries of harvesting and other assaults have collapsed the reefs into oyster "beds" – structures easily covered up by silt. Leaving sanctuary reefs alone will allow them to rise above this perpetual problem.

Permitting even occasional harvesting in these protected areas destroys the vertical growth, removes the large disease resistant oysters, and kills the nursery function.

Oysters can play a vital role in restoring the bay to health. Undisturbed oyster reefs are habitat for fish and other sea life. They also can filter millions of gallons of water – for no charge.

These structures literally can provide the building blocks of a restored Chesapeake Bay.

Marylanders are saying in no uncertain terms: Protect oyster sanctuaries.

—Alison Prost, CBF Maryland Executive Director

Take action right now to urge Maryland legislators to protect oyster sanctuaries and the value they provide to clean water and countless marine species.


Chesapeake Bay's Future Imperiled

The following first appeared in The Virginian-Pilot.

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An algal bloom in Norfolk's Lafayette River. The health of the Bay and its rivers and streams is improving, but if draconian cuts to the Chesapeake Bay Program are enacted, scenes such as this might become the norm. Photo by Christy Everett/CBF Staff.

I'm angry and I'm upset. President Donald Trump has proposed something terrible. I'm not willing to trade a healthy Chesapeake Bay for a wall on the Mexican border.

Trump's budget proposal zeroes out the EPA's funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program: from $73 million to $0. You don't have to take my word for this: Please read the president's statement at the top of "America First, A Budget Blueprint to make America Great Again," then skip to page 41.

The Chesapeake Bay is a national treasure.

In the late 1970s, headlines declared that the bay was dying. Since then, government at all levels, business, and individuals have rolled up their sleeves and worked hard to "Save the Bay."

The effort has been bipartisan and, when tested in federal court, declared a model of cooperative federalism. It's working. The bay is recovering, but our progress is fragile, and the Chesapeake is far from saved.

The road to recovery, while clearly laid out, will not be easy and needs strong federal participation. The EPA Bay Program makes grants to states and municipalities to reduce pollution, monitors water quality, and coordinates the state/federal partnership that is the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. The bay program's participation is absolutely essential.

Fortunately, there are checks and balances in our government. Congress appropriates and passes the budget, and we have time between now and the new fiscal year (which starts on Oct. 1) to make sure Congress restores funding for the bay.

Those of us fortunate enough to live in Hampton Roads have a deep connection to the environment. The James, Nansemond, Elizabeth, and the Lynnhaven Rivers and the Chesapeake Bay flow back and forth into each other.

We cross bridges and crawl through tunnels to get from one place to another. The water defines us.

We have celebrated recent signs of recovery in our waters. Oysters and crabs are rebounding, lush beds of underwater grasses thrive in some areas, and the water was so clear last summer that you could see the bottom six to eight feet below the surface. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation's most recent State of the Bay Report gave the estuary its highest score in the report's 18-year history. But, that score, a C-, is a stark reminder that much work remains.

The bay's nascent recovery comes after years of hard work. In his 1984 State of the Union address, President Ronald Reagan said, "Though this is a time of budget constraints, I have requested for EPA one of the largest percentage budget increases of any agency. We will begin the long, necessary effort to clean up a productive recreational area and a special national resource — the Chesapeake Bay."

Since then, every administration has worked with the states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed (from Cooperstown, N.Y., to Virginia Beach), the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and many similar organizations to "Save the Bay."

Trump's proposed budget zeroing out the EPA's bay program is an outrage. If passed by Congress, this could drive a stake in the heart of the Chesapeake's recovery.

Cuts to the EPA program could cause the bay and our rivers to revert to the national disgrace they were in the 1980s: fouled waters, sickly fish populations, and threats to human health. Zeroing out efforts to assist in restoring the Chesapeake Bay in favor of a wall makes no sense.

This is important. Please join me in sending a serious message to Congress that the Chesapeake Bay is a priority for Hampton Roads and the states all around the bay.

This is not about politics, it's about being good stewards of our environment. It's not about negotiating; it's a moral issue.

For assistance in contacting your congressional delegation please go to www.cbf.org/findmyreps.

—Harry Lester, Chairman, CBF Board of Trustees

More than 8,000 Bay lovers have taken action by calling on Congress to stand up for the Chesapeake Bay watershed. If you have not yet signed our petition, please do so now. If you have already, thank you. Please be sure to go one step further and call your congressional representatives. Click here to find their phone numbers. A clean and healthy Bay now and for generations to come depends on your voice!


Yard Make-Over at No Cost

The following first appeared in The Talbot Spy.

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Rain gardens help reduce polluted runoff, a major contributor to poor water quality.

Residents of Cambridge, this spring you can win an unusual prize: a yard make-over at no cost. And in the process you can help clean up the waters around the city, and the Chesapeake Bay. Oh, and everybody gets a free 'rain barrel.'

The whole idea is the brainchild of the Cambridge Clean Water Advisory Committee. The group wants to encourage practical, low-cost activities that can improve water quality in the city.

The process is simple. Interested residents must first attend a workshop that's happening at the Dorchester County Public Library in Cambridge, Wednesday, March 22, 5:30-7:00 p.m. You will receive information about what possible changes could be made in your yard that treat polluted runoff.

For instance, "rain gardens" are a type of beautiful garden that also soaks up rain running off your property. This is helpful because this runoff often contains pollution from the air or the landscape. The pollution usually ends up in local creeks. You won't make any commitments at the workshops, just learn about possibilities for a make-over.

If you're still interested, next you will receive a free visit after the workshop from a professional landscaper who will look at your yard, talk with you, and come up with ideas such as rain gardens, native plants, pavement removal, and other possible modifications best suited for your yard.

You'll pay nothing for the make-over if you are selected. Only five properties will be chosen in the first year of the two-year program. In the second year, financial support drops from 100 percent to 90 percent as a way to encourage early participation.

Both homeowners and renters are eligible to enroll. Those of limited means are particularly encouraged to step forward as the project is intended, in part, to respond to needs in under-served communities. A community survey accessible online here will further help reveal how much people know about water quality and ways to improve it. All survey respondents are eligible to enter to win a $40 Jimmie & Sooks Raw Bar and Grill gift card.

Pre-registration is required to attend the workshop on March 22nd. Each workshop participant will receive a free rain barrel and instructions on how to install it. For more information and to register, contact Hilary Gibson at 410-543-1999 or hgibson@cbf.org.

Fertilizers, soil, oil, grease, and other contaminants run off private property when it rains. Until now, cities such as Cambridge have been left with the responsibility to deal with this problem. It's difficult and expensive, especially to manage runoff from private property.

The work in Cambridge seeks to treat runoff before it becomes the city's responsibility. Recognizing the burden of treating runoff once it reaches the city's drainage system, the Cambridge Clean Water Advisory Committee of private and public partners stepped in to try to demonstrate how runoff volumes and contaminants can be reduced before that point. Funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation was awarded to pilot a program that offers homeowners and renters incentives to install native plantings, swales and other practices that naturally filter runoff on private property – minimizing runoff volumes and pollutants for the city to handle later.

—Alan Girard, CBF Director of Maryland Eastern Shore


One-For-One Replanting Bill Will Help Preserve Maryland's Forests

The following first appeared in the Frederick News-Post.

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Photo by Justin Black/iLCP

Pit a bulldozer against a tree and the tree rarely wins. But for four years, fiscal 2007 to 2011, Frederick County found a way to stem the loss of forests to new development: insist that an acre be planted for every acre cut down.

It was a sensible move that saved county residents money and protected local rivers and creeks.

Forests are natural sponges. A forest soaks up tens of thousands of gallons of water during a rain storm, and thousands of tons of carbon dioxide from the air.

Without forests, runoff from storms flows into and pollutes local streams. We expect Frederick realized how expensive it is to fix that problem. It made sense not to lose any more forests than necessary.

What if forests were cut down and taxpayers had to pay to plant rain gardens and other devices to soak up the runoff forests used to hold? How much would that cost? A 2015 study by the Low Impact Development Center in Beltsville concluded that Prince George's forest reduces polluted runoff by 4.3 billion gallons a year in the county, a service worth $12.8 billion annually.

Frederick County has more forest than Prince George's. So the benefits could be worth even more.

Frederick County's 2007 action set standards higher than minimal state requirements for how much builders have to replant if they cut down forest on a development site. The state Forest Conservation Act requires builders only to replant one acre for every four cut down. Frederick's ordinance required one acre replanted for one acre cleared.

The results were immediate. While other counties continued to lose forests at alarming rates, Frederick actually planted more acres of forest — 424 acres — than developers cut down from 2008 to 2011.

Save forests. Save money. And protect clean water and air.

Then, suddenly in 2011 the next Board of Commissioners repealed the replanting ordinance. Since that repeal, forest loss in Frederick County has increased, according to annual reports the county submits to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, although other aspects of the county's FCA program have encouraged a relatively high replanting rate.

Now, only neighboring Carroll County has the one-to-one replanting requirement. Not surprisingly, Carroll is the only county where forests are actually increasing, according to the DNR data.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation believes this is unfortunate. Thankfully, legislation in the Maryland General Assembly this session, (Senate Bill 365/House Bill 599), offers a solution. It would strengthen the FCA by requiring one-for-one replanting across the state. The bill effectively mimics what Frederick County successfully did locally in 2007 — before the repeal.

The state legislation also would give counties the option to charge a builder more who wants to clear more forest and not replant. Currently, developers often avoid replanting by paying a small fee that doesn't always cover the cost of replacement.

Frederick County Senator Ron Young is the lead sponsor in the Senate. We urge all Frederick County residents who value trees to support these bills.

—Erik Fisher, CBF's Maryland Assistant Director

Speak for the trees! Send a message to your legislators today letting them know you want them to support strengthening the Forest Conservation Act.


Marylanders Agree: Hands off Our Oyster Sanctuaries

With more than six million residents, Maryland is a melting pot of diverse citizens, with different political leanings, religious beliefs, and racial backgrounds. Differences aside, all Marylanders are affected by the health of the state's rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay.

Integral to the health of the Bay is the mighty oyster. A keystone species of the Bay, a single adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day. In addition to their filtering prowess, oysters settle on one another and grow, forming reefs that provide shelter for other critters.

Despite their hallmark status in the Bay's ecosystem, the native oyster population is just a fraction of what it once was as a result of disease, pollution, and overharvesting. In 2010, Maryland and other Bay states joined together to increase the native oyster population, establishing sanctuary reefs to allow oysters to proliferate unencumbered by harvesting. These reefs grew and expanded, with the estimated number of oysters in the Bay more than doubling between 2010 and 2014.

A recent poll conducted by a bipartisan research team found Marylanders understand and appreciate this success, with overwhelming support to maintain existing Chesapeake Bay oyster sanctuaries.

The numbers speak for themselves:Oyster Poll Results Graphic-1200

This strong support exists across party lines, as approximately 91 percent of registered Democrats, 89 percent of Independents, and 82 percent of Republicans support sanctuaries. Moreover, public support for the sanctuaries actually increased after the survey summarized the oyster industry's reasons for wanting to expand harvesting, rising from 88 percent to 91 percent.

This consensus is quite a contrast to the recently submitted proposal by the Maryland Oyster Advisory Commission to let the oyster industry harvest nearly 1,000 acres of oyster reefs which currently are off-limits to harvesting.

Currently, the Maryland General Assembly is considering a bill (HB 924) which would require the state to hold off on any alterations of the oyster sanctuaries until a scientific assessment of the oyster stock is completed in 2018.

The success of Maryland and the Bay, North America's largest estuary and a true national treasure, are mutually interdependent. Shaping more than just the state's coastline, Maryland's economy, culture, and history are covered with the Bay's fingerprints. No critter is more important to this success than the oyster. And while the recent State of the Bay report finds the health of the Bay is rebounding, it remains a system dangerously out of balance.

Those who call the Old Line State home might have their differences, but Marylanders across the board agree on this: Our oyster sanctuaries are worth protecting.

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate

Take action right now to urge Maryland legislators to protect oyster sanctuaries and the value they provide to clean water and countless marine species.


The View of an Oyster Sanctuary

The following first appeared in the Chestertown Spy.

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Maryland's oyster sanctuaries are under threat. Photo by Dave Harp.

The fate of Maryland's oyster population is being worked out in a church basement in Annapolis.

That's where the state Oyster Advisory Commission (OAC) meets the second Monday of each month. This is the group appointed by Governor Hogan to review the state's oyster management system, and to recommend changes, if necessary. 

This past Monday night was perhaps the most important OAC meet so far. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) presented a proposal to open up about 970 acres of 'sanctuary' oyster reefs to harvest.

As I have on several occasions, I sat in on the OAC meeting. But it was difficult to sit still.

The makeup of the OAC is controversial, filled mostly with watermen and those who sympathize with their views. The direction the OAC is taking also is controversial. 

The controversy brings out the crowds. The OAC meetings used to take place in a meeting room at the DNR headquarters right next door. So many people began showing up, DNR had to move the meeting to the fellowship hall of the Calvary United Methodist Church on Rowe Blvd. Now even that room is often jammed.

Watermen feel the state has cheated them. Under prior governor Martin O'Malley the state increased the acres of productive oyster reefs set aside as sanctuaries—those areas that can't be harvested. O'Malley himself was guided by scientists' warnings that so few oysters remained in the Chesapeake that the status quo was no longer viable.

With input from everyone involved with oysters, the harvest industry included, O'Malley increased from nine percent to 24 percent the portion of oyster bars protected as sanctuaries. Three-quarters of reefs were to remain open to harvest. He also relaxed decades-old regulations to give watermen more opportunities to farm oysters rather than harvest them in the wild. In Virginia, oyster aquaculture is a booming business, but at the time of O'Malley's new plan it was negligible in Maryland. The idea was to boost watermen's earnings, and simultaneously to take out an insurance plan for the future of oysters in the Bay.

There's no doubt short term watermen took a hit. They had fewer places to harvest, although fortunately for them Mother Nature provided strong oyster reproduction for several years, resulting in strong harvests. 

Scientists and groups such as the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) where I work sympathized with the watermen. But we believed someone had to take the long view before oysters were wiped out completely.

CBF, along with a host of western and Eastern Shore groups such as the Midshore River Conservancy, St. Mary's River Watershed Association, and others, believe the OAC proposal to shrink the sanctuaries is ill-advised. At a minimum, the state must wait till DNR finishes a stock assessment of the oyster population. You wouldn't start spending more money without knowing what's in your bank account. That's exactly what the proposal would do.

It would open up 1,277 acres of sanctuaries for harvest in the following rivers and Bay segments: Upper Chester, Miles, Wye, Upper Choptank, Hooper Strait, Upper Patuxent, and Tangier Sound. It would expand sanctuaries by 300 acres in: Mill Hill/Prospect Bay, Eastern Bay, Lower Choptank, and Nanticoke River. The net result would be 977 fewer acres in sanctuaries, an 11 percent reduction in those sanctuary acres.

It's only 11 percent, you might say. But it's 11 percent of the most productive, healthy sanctuary bars in the Bay. And it is giving away these protected areas before we have any idea the true size of the oyster population. That's not scientific. That's not sound judgment. Harvesting oysters on those 977 previously protected acres could do irreversible damage to the fragile population.

A bill in the Maryland General Assembly, HB 924, would freeze any alterations in the sanctuaries till after the stock assessment. Oyster harvesting is the only major fishery in Maryland that isn't managed with a science-based plan. It pays us to wait till we have the science before we implement a major change such as OAC is considering.

The bill will be heard this Friday, Feb. 24, at 1 p.m. in the House Environment and Transportation Committee. We urge people concerned about the proposal to shrink sanctuaries to make their voice heard.

—Tom Zolper, CBF's Assistant Director of Media Relations

Stand up for oysters now! Ask your legislators to support a new bill that would stop changes to oyster sanctuaries from happening before there is sound science to back them up.


Forest Conservation Law Needs Bolstering

The following first appeared in the Capital Gazette.

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Maryland's forests remain at risk if the Forest Conservation Act is not strengthened. Photo by Tom Zolper/CBF Staff.

Thanks to the controversial Crystal Spring development project, Annapolis residents probably know more than most Marylanders about the state Forest Conservation Act, or FCA. They know that in a battle to save trees, the law can feel about as forceful as a wiffle ball bat.

Enacted in 1991, the law is intended to minimize how much forest a developer cuts down. The Crystal Spring developers proposed to clear about half of the woods on the property on the ironically named Forest Drive. They argued the FCA allows such large clearance.

The City of Annapolis is rewriting its own forest conservation ordinance, so it is stronger than the state law.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation feels the state law itself needs to be strengthened. It's time for Anne Arundel County and other jurisdictions across Maryland to realize the law isn't working as intended. Too much forest is coming down and not being replaced. State records show Maryland lost a net 14,480 acres of forest to development projects in the past eight years.

Inspired by Annapolis' effort, CBF is pushing the state legislature to amend the FCA. Just as it was passionate citizens from the Annapolis Neck, Eastport, and other neighborhoods in and outside Annapolis who educated city officials, we now need Marylanders to tell their state delegates and senators they support Senate Bill 365 and House Bill 599.

The legislation, scheduled for a hearing Wednesday before the House Transportation and the Environment Committee (with a rally at Lawyers Mall beforehand), would require developers to replant an acre of forest for each acre they cut down. It also would give local governments flexibility to charge builders higher fees when they claim they can't replant. Currently, those fees are so low in some places that they don't cover the cost of replanting.

The Crystal Spring project got substantial scrutiny in the past few years for proposing to cut down 43 acres of forest. But development projects beyond the city limits in Anne Arundel have received little scrutiny as they cut down forest — 410 acres in fiscal 2016, according to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

It's difficult to determine the total forest loss to development in Anne Arundel over a longer period. The county did not submit annual reports about its FCA implementation in five of the past eight years. The reports are required by the FCA. Maryland did not enforce the reporting requirement.

But the three reports available show Anne Arundel County allowed builders to clear an average of about 45 percent of all forests on their properties prior to construction, or 682 acres. The county required builders to replant only 61 acres in those years.

Many Anne Arundel developers have paid the fee-in-lieu instead of replanting what they cut. It's unclear how much of those funds the county has used to replant trees that were cleared.

The state legislation, SB 365 and HB 599, offers a better solution: require developers to replant more than they do now and give localities the right to charge higher fees if developers want to avoid replanting. Taken together, these changes will finally reflect the true value of trees to Anne Arundel citizens.

Forests provide enormous health, environmental, and economic benefits to communities. A single acre of forest absorbs six tons of carbon dioxide annually, and produces enough oxygen in a day to support 18 people, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service. A 2015 study by the Low Impact Development Center in Beltsville calculated the forests of Prince George's County provide at least $12 billion in public benefits. Anne Arundel forests likely provide comparable services.

Are we prepared to pay the piper for losing those benefits?

Let forests continue to help us. Support SB 365 and HB 599.

—Erik Fisher, CBF's Maryland Assistant Director

Speak for the trees! Send a message to your legislators today letting them know you want them to support strengthening the Forest Conservation Act.


Conservation Efforts Support Healthier Farms, Cleaner Water

The following first appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

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Before a farm restoration project was completed with cost-share funding. Photo by CBF Staff.

Until last year, cattle would wade into streams and ponds to cool off on David Surratt's farm in the Shenandoah Valley. Unfortunately, this led to a host of problems. Trampled streambanks muddied the waters, while manure would flow downstream to the Shenandoah River. Calves would pick up infections from bacteria in the water, and two cows died after being stuck in the mud.

But all that has changed since Surratt placed three miles of fencing along the streams and ponds on Meadowdale Farm in Fishersville last year, a project supported by Virginia's agricultural cost-share program. Thirsty livestock now drink from several new watering stations across the farm installed as part of the project. The fences keep cattle out of the waterways, so water in the streams is now much cleaner. Importantly for Surratt, all calves were free of infections last year.

"It's really a win-win deal for us as well as the cattle," Surratt said. "Farmers have a responsibility to keep their cattle out of the streams and improve the water quality." State funding was key to making the project a reality. "There is no way I could have done it without the program funds, especially with cattle prices the way they are today," he said.

Addressing pollution from farms is the most cost-effective way to improve the health of local streams and rivers, as well as downstream in the Chesapeake Bay. It is also a key part of Virginia's plan to clean up the region's waterways under a federal-state partnership called the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. The state cost-share program funds a variety of conservation practices that lead to cleaner waterways, from cattle fencing to planting trees along streams to protecting soil with cover crops.

But in order to maintain progress, Virginia's farmers need robust and stable state investment in both the agricultural cost-share program and technical assistance from the local Soil and Water Conservation District staff who help implement these projects. In recent years, funding for the program has seesawed dramatically.

Providing ample and predictable levels of funding helps give farmers greater confidence when they consider adding conservation projects. It also gives local Soil and Water Conservation Districts the infrastructure and resources to put practices on the ground. Consistency ensures the program is carried out as effectively and efficiently as possible.

This month Virginia's legislators are making funding decisions that will decide the future of farm conservation efforts. The Virginia Senate is proposing a total investment of $46 million in agricultural cost-share. While a decrease from last year, that level that would still lead to continued success.

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After a farm restoration project was completed with cost-share funding. Photo by CBF Staff.

A separate proposal being considered would bring together a group of stakeholders to determine how to best ensure consistent and reliable funding for agricultural cost-share. This common-sense next step is sorely needed in the face of significant funding fluctuations.

Without continued state support for agricultural practices, Virginia will not be able to meet goals it has set for reducing pollution to waterways by 2025 under the Clean Water Blueprint. While Surratt's project is already making a difference in local streams, the impact grows as more farms do their part. "This project would really work great if all the farmers pull together on this," Surratt said.

However, though many farmers are eager to participate, they need state support to install these projects. In fact, two years ago so many farmers signed up that Virginia is still working through the backlog. Without funding, these farmers will be left waiting another year to install conservation practices.

It is important that Virginia live up to the commitments made to both healthy waterways and its farmers. But the heart of the matter is the fate of our rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay.

Our waters have been slowly and steadily improving, thanks to a host of efforts. People all across Virginia are starting to benefit.

Good farm practices could lead to native brook trout returning to streams in the Shenandoah Valley. In Richmond, locals and visitors enjoy swimming, fishing, and paddling on the James River since it has become much healthier in recent years. In Hampton Roads, efforts to reduce bacteria levels have allowed for the resurgence of the oyster industry in places like the Lynnhaven River.

But this recovery can easily be reversed. Supporting farm practices that reduce pollution will maintain momentum. Let your legislator know that the decisions being made now will help ensure successful farms and clean water for future generations.

—Rebecca LePrell, CBF's Virginia Executive Director & Kendal Tyree, Virginia Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts Executive Director

Virginian legislators are meeting this week to discuss investing in these critical clean water programs. Take action now to ask them to make the necessary investment in programs that keep the Bay cleanup on target.


Three Examples Show How Ripples Can Become Waves to Save the Bay

The following first appeared in the Bay Journal.

The saying goes: "It takes a village." To fully implement the Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint, governments, businesses, and citizens all must do their part. Every day, I meet people working to reduce pollution and restore local rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake. What I have learned is that Bay's village is huge. Few get the credit they deserve. As we enter the new year, I would like to share three stories. There are many thousands more.

Brad Seeley

Chesapeake Bay technician Brady Seeley is on the frontline, conducting farm inspections in Cumberland County as part of Pennsylvania's renewed effort to get pollution reduction back on track. The state Department of Environmental Protection asked conservation districts to inspect 10 percent of farms in Pennsylvania's portion of the Bay watershed for the required manure management and erosion and sediment plans.

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Technician Brady Seeley’s familiarity with farmers and his experience growing up on a small dairy farm serves him well during his farm inspections in Cumberland County, PA.

Some conservation districts opted not to do inspections, fearing they might strain relations with farmers.

But the process has gone smoothly in the Cumberland County Conservation District, thanks to Seeley's familiarity with farmers and his experience growing up on a small dairy farm in the Keystone State. He has been with the district nearly three years.

He is finding areas that need to be improved. After meeting with one farmer, Seely said, "He had a conservation plan but not a manure management plan and agreed to seek technical assistance to get it written. You can go out and tell the farmer he is in violation and then it's not hard in the next sentence to tell the farmer let us help you get those plans."

Mark Foster

Mark Foster is the founder and executive director of Second Chance, Inc. in Baltimore. His nonprofit aims for a "triple bottom line." It strives to give people, material, and the environment a second chance at new life. Second Chance provides green collar jobs to some of the city's residents who find job seeking most difficult, including those coming out of prison and those recovering from drug and alcohol addictions. The workforce deconstructs houses and salvages materials for sale at a Ridgely Street warehouse near M&T Bank Stadium.

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Mark Foster, founder and executive director of Second Chance, Inc., hires those whose past makes it difficult to find a job. They deconstruct houses to save materials from going into landfills.

Foster started Second Chance 13 years ago. He was a homeowner trying to refurbish a house built in 1902. He found it difficult to find replacement pieces and parts. Most old homes were simply demolished, and the remains dumped in landfills. Now, Second Chance workers demolish more than 200 homes a year, saving nearly everything for resale and have kept 10,502,118 pounds of post-construction waste out of landfills so far in 2016.

Foster is determined that Second Chance stretch its environmentalism even more. Next year, Second Chance plans to install rain gardens in its parking lot and solar panels on its roof. Inspired, in part, by volunteering with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation when he was in high school, Foster said that he wants to help the Chesapeake get a second chance.

The Carcamo Family

In Richmond, Efrain Carcamo and his three children walk the banks of the James River several times a month to hunt litter. On each trip, they fill bags with beer cans, plastic bottles, and other trash. For years, Carcamo has repeated this routine in a personal effort to clean up the river.

Growing up on a farm in El Salvador, Carcamo learned to respect the environment. Since moving to the United States as a teen, he's been drawn to restoring the rivers and streams that flow to the Bay.

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In Richmond, Efrain Carcamo, a single father, has passed on his love of nature to his children (l-r), Elysha, Emaya and Eljah, who pick up trash along the James River.

Carcamo's contribution to clean water stretches beyond the untold amount of trash he has removed from the James. He's inspiring others to take action. That starts with his three young children, who eagerly join in efforts to fight pollution.

By being out regularly along heavily used stretches of the river, he's also an example to the many people who see him cleaning up. "I meet a lot of people from different backgrounds out here, from all levels of society, different races," he said. After speaking with him, some follow in his footsteps. "When they realize there is someone doing it, they get courage and they start doing it themselves," Carcamo said.

We all know that the Bay's problems are larger than trash or inadequate manure management. Nonetheless, these individuals are demonstrating the difference they can make and the good they can create. They are Chesapeake Bay stewards.

As we reach the midpoint of the Clean Water Blueprint, we are seeing progress. The water is clearer, the dead zone is getting smaller and Bay grass populations are up significantly. But there is much more work that needs to be done.

In 2017, it will be more important than ever that our elected officials know that we value our rivers, streams and the Bay. So please contact them to let them know that clean water is not a luxury, it is a right.

—Will Baker, CBF President