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May 2007
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July 2007

Promise of the Blue Heron on the Elizabeth River

"We’ve been following the Intracoastal Waterway for two days and have reached the point where the Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal meets the southern branch of the Elizabeth River, a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay. And as we enter the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, into which flows the Quittapahilla, I realize that I’ve never simultaneously seen two herons along the creek’s banks." Read the rest of Marie Bongiovanni's expedition in the Lebanon Daily News.


The Tides They Are a Risin'

More than half of Virginia's wetlands could be underwater by the end of the century, according to estimates released by Wetlands Watch, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting and conserving Virginia wetlands. For details on their work, check the Wetlands Watch Web site.

Rising tides aren't, of course, limited to the Virginia coastline. At CBF's bi-annual all-staff meeting on Wednesday, several staff members shared their experiences growing up on Smith and Tangier Islands, following family traditions as watermen, and watching a way of life they love struggle for survival. Among their concerns was the ever-encroaching Bay, which threatens the very existance of their homes. Their stories brought the reality of climate change and rising sea levels into painfully sharp focus: ballfields played on as children now submerged under ten feet of marsh, main roads regularly flooded, neighborhoods of 20 and 30 homes now underwater.

Have you experienced the creeping tides? If so, share your story here.


Farm Bill Politics Gaining Mainstream Traction

If you're looking for information about the Farm Bill, check out the Blog for Rural America and its latest post that the internet has resulted in the Farm Bill being written about, bantered about, and ultimately paid attention to by a lot more people than ever before.

Why the booming interest?

Brian Depew offers this quote from Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), who is on a campaign to make his case to a larger non-farm, non-rural community:

Why devote the time and effort to reform U.S. farm policy, you ask?

Here is an area that doesn't just touch rural America but has profound effects for small towns, suburban communities and bigger cities across the country as well.

It impacts the people working hard to produce the food we eat each day. Sixty percent of America's farmers and ranchers get no support while a great bulk of subsidies and federal support go directly to big special-interest corporations. [snip]

It impacts energy and the environment, affecting water quality and our landscape. Farming is the dominant water user in the United States and farms have room to be a greater generator of energy, not just a huge consumer. [snip]

It impacts our trade policy and how we are viewed in the world. [snip]

We're with Depew on this -- "No matter where you stand in the farm bill debate, I would argue that more transparency, and more people paying attention to this important legislation is ultimately a good thing."


Standardized Test Demands Hinder Environmental Education

A recent article in the Bay Journal reveals the struggle that environmental education is facing in our public schools.

Today, more teachers are eagerly taking advantage of programs like NOAA's Bay Watershed Education and Training Program and CBF's field trips and Chesapeake Classrooms program to provide students with compelling environmental education opportunities. Unfortunately, their ability to pursue these lessons in the classroom continues to shrink.

“If it’s not tested, it’s often not being taught,” says CBF Vice President of Education Don Baugh. “We see everything from teachers who have almost abandoned the environmental science program they’ve been teaching for 30 years to new teachers who just aren’t able to get support.”

Why?

Because environmental education faces stiff competition from subjects related directly to standardized tests – namely math and reading. Many school systems spend a minimum amount of elementary school class time on science in order to expand their emphasis on these two areas. And even though the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act will require testing in science at the elementary and high school levels by the end of the 2007-2008 school year, environmental science remains all but ignored.

What kind of science will students be required to learn for these tests? Most elementary schools focus on biology and earth/space systems science. Most high school science programs also emphasize these two curricula, along with physics or chemistry; biology most often being required for graduation. Environmental science might be offered as an elective.

Of these four subject areas, which is most likely to have a long-term impact for virtually every student as he or she becomes a responsible, contributing member of society? Our children face a future where resource management and environmental sustainability may be inextricably linked to global economics. Yet, our current educational system is not providing the foundation they will need to deal with the crucial environmental challenges facing them.

Should environmental science play a larger role in our children's education? Let us know what you think.


Average Stinks

Understanding the science behind the Bay's problems is crucial if we are going to make any inroads. But sometimes, you just need to say it like it is.

On Friday, CBF Senior Naturalist John Page Williams took Annapolis Capital reporter Pamela Wood out on the Severn for a look at the river's oxygen levels. Their monitoring cruise, along with tests from other local rivers, shows oxygen levels that are frustratingly low. And as the summer goes on, Williams expects worse.

"Is it better or worse? I don't give a damn. It's just bad," Williams is quoted saying. "Even if it's average, average stinks."


6,000 Turn Out for "Clean the Bay Day"

VA Delegate John Cosgrove pitched in to collect debris during CBF's 19th annual Clean the Bay DayThe Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Hampton Roads office thanks everyone who turned out for the 19th annual Clean the Bay Day last Saturday. The preliminary (not complete!) results indicate that volunteers pulled over 82 tons of litter and debris from some 275 miles of streams, creeks, and rivers emptying into the Bay. Coordinated by CBF with assistance from local municipal partners and corporate sponsors, cleanup sites stretched across Hampton Roads to the Eastern Shore, Northern Virginia, and the Shenandoah Valley.

Since CBF's first Clean the Bay Day in 1989, more than 81,350 volunteers have removed over four million pounds of debris from 3,913 miles of area shoreline.