Rethinking Coastal Development in Virginia Beach

The following first appeared in The Daily Caller late last week.

The Brock Environmental Center at Pleasure House Point in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Photo by Deanna Brusa/CBF Staff

Intense storms, winds, and waves increasingly threaten waterfront homes up and down the East Coast. But many communities refuse to recognize the risk. Instead, they are kicking the can down the road and leaving the problem to our children and grandchildren.

Even the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) seems to be looking the other way. NBC News reported earlier this year that FEMA has remapped more than 500 waterfront properties from the Gulf of Alaska to Bar Harbor, Maine, "removing" them (at least on redrawn maps) from the highest-risk flood zone. That saves the owners as much as 97 percent on premiums they pay into the financially strained National Flood Insurance Program.

This remapping amounts to expanding the subsidy to the rich for building expensive waterfront properties or luxury condominiums in environmentally fragile areas. This is one issue where environmentalists and conservatives who favor small government should agree – government subsidized flood insurance wastes taxpayer's dollars and harms local ecosystems.

Such policies seem perverse. Sometimes it takes local citizens and community groups to take matters into their own hands and find smarter, more commonsense solutions to coastal overdevelopment. Pleasure House Point in Virginia Beach, Va., could be a model for doing just that.

Pleasure House Point is a 118-acre peninsula of beach, marsh, and trees on the Lynnhaven River near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. One of the last undeveloped waterfront parcels in Virginia Beach, developers purchased it years ago and planned to build "Indigo Dunes," a massive development of more than 1,000 new high-rise condos and townhouses, despite the fierce opposition of nearby neighborhoods and the City of Virginia Beach. By 2008, Indigo Dunes and its thousands of new waterfront residents, cars, and streets seemed only a matter of time.

Then the housing market collapsed, the Great Recession loomed, and building plans came to a halt. Bankers eventually foreclosed on the property and took ownership of Pleasure House Point. "Indigo Dunes" was dead, but there was a silver lining.

Seizing the opportunity, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation partnered with the City of Virginia Beach, the Trust for Public Land, and the local community in a plan to buy Pleasure House Point. This public-private coalition rallied, raised $13 million and purchased the site from the bank in 2012, preserving it for passive recreation and education.

The City of Virginia Beach quickly designated Pleasure House Point as a natural area, creating a public green space of inlets, beaches, forests, and trails that today teems with wildlife. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation bought a small corner of the property, a sandy upland of old dredge spoils, and created the Brock Environmental Center. When this innovative environmental education and community center opens in November, it will be one of the most environmentally smart buildings on the planet. Our hope is that the Brock Center will be a model of energy independence, climate change resiliency, and super-low environmental impact. In fact, it's designed to complement the surrounding environment, not harm or fight it.

—Christy Everett, CBF's Hampton Roads Director

Pennsylvania Legislature Shouldn't Gut Streamside Protections

The following first appeared in the Patriot News.

Stream with strong forested buffers. Photo by Bill Portlock/CBF Staff.

We all count on clean water . . . But, with roughly 19,000 miles of polluted streams and rivers in our Commonwealth, too many of our waters are considered polluted. We all pay the price—lost jobs, human health risks, taxes, and fees to purify drinking water. And right now the Pennsylvania General Assembly and Gov. Corbett have a choice about protecting Pennsylvania's rivers and streams.

One of the most cost-efficient and well-established practices to clean up waterways and to keep them clean is to plant trees along stream banks—what some call forested buffers.

These buffers soak up water, reducing runoff and keeping any pollutants it carries from draining into streams. Their roots hold onto soil, keeping it from washing into and clouding the water. Their canopies lower water temperatures, improving wildlife habitat for fish like the brook trout, which is crucial in many local economies. And their green leaves convert carbon dioxide to oxygen, improving air quality and lowering our health risks from, for example, asthma. Trees are one of nature's best methods to stop pollution and maintain clean rivers and streams.

Pennsylvania has a Blueprint for clean water and as part of that Blueprint set a goal of planting 74,000 acres of forested buffers by 2013. Recently, our state reported that we have achieved only 17 percent of that goal. That leaves us a very long way to go before we realize the benefits of forested stream banks to our rivers and streams.

Why, then, would our elected officials even consider approving a bill that allows land developers to cut down existing streamside buffers along our last remaining pristine streams? It makes no sense at all and should not be done.

This week, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation released a peer-reviewed report detailing the economic benefits of cleaning up local rivers and streams and the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Public News Service featured that report: Putting a Price Tag on the Value of Clean Water to Pennsylvania (October 7, 2014). They said, "A new analysis of the potential financial benefits of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint finds a measurable return, with cleaner water adding about $6 billion a year in value to Pennsylvania's economy."

Pennsylvanian's own Thomas Hylton, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of the book "Save Our Land, Save Our Towns," was quoted in that article saying, "How much is something costing you, and how much benefit are you getting back? [CBF's] analysis indicates it's way less expensive to pay attention to Mother Nature and protect the environment, economically, than it is to let it go."

We need to protect our clean streams, as well as restore our polluted ones. It makes sense environmentally as well as, economically. We call on the General Assembly and Gov. Corbett to prevent this bad bill for Pennsylvanians from becoming law. Our waters will be cleaner and our legacy brighter if they do.

—Harry Campbell, CBF's Pennsylvania Executive Director

Tell your PA senator to vote "NO" on the devastating House Bill 1565! It will gut clean water protections across our state! 

On Mattawoman Creek, Old Habits Die Hard

Schlyer-cbr-9506Recreational fishermen try their luck on Mattawoman Creek. By Krista Schlyer/iLCP. 

It might come as a surprise that one of the mid-Atlantic's healthiest rivers lies less than 20 miles from the Nation's Capital. Mattawoman Creek, situated squarely in the middle of the fourth largest metro area in the U.S., still supports a world-class bass fishery and ranks 8th out of 137 on Maryland's list of most productive freshwater rivers. Some stretches of the creek are even entered on Maryland's dwindling list of highest quality (Tier 2) waters, which support a diverse assemblage of aquatic species, rare plants, and forest interior dwelling birds. 

It turns out that is what's possible when a mostly forested watershed is left intact.

The trouble is, it might not be forested much longer. Over the years, some Charles County leaders have drawn up plans to supplant about 9,000 acres of mostly wooded land with sprawling lawns and cul-de-sacs. In the end, such plans would drive a massive increase in impervious surface that state and federal agencies like Maryland's Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have said could devastate the creek.

Growth has to go somewhere, proponents of this super-sized development district argue. And it's true that failing to plan properly for growth can lead to all kinds of problems. But that is precisely why citizens across the county were shocked to see three years of hard work and consensus-building tossed aside: A rational plan to focus growth around existing communities, recommended by planning staff, was rejected by the county's Planning Commission in favor of an old-school sprawling proposal drawn up outside the public process by a lobbying group favoring development interests. 

This latter proposal earmarked far more land for development than the county says it needs, echoing outdated and oversized growth area boundaries from the housing bubbles of past decades. It also resurrected the Cross County Connector, a proposed road that landed Mattawoman Creek on American Rivers Most Endangered List in 2009 (in a major victory for clean water, permits for that roadway were denied by the Corps in 2012).

Through the tireless efforts of thousands of county residents, many of that lobbying group's proposals were rolled back by a unanimous County Commissioner vote April 29--a welcome change from a three-member majority that had consistently voted against stronger protections for Mattawoman Creek. 

We hope that vote sticks. Just a few weeks later, those same three commissioners were talking about spending $1 million in county funds to study options for reviving the Cross County Connector.

The bottom line is this: The commissioners need to take Mattawoman Creek out of their long-range plans for future growth. Because whether the sprawling growth strategy currently in place is driven by developer interests, or inertia, or even good intentions, the result will doom Mattawoman Creek to the same tragic condition as many other rivers in urbanized America. Charles County--and every one of our rivers--deserves better.

—Erik Fisher, CBF's Maryland Land Use Planner

Click here to take action to protect the lands, waters, and quality of life in Charles County!

Chesapeake Notebook: The Saunders Brothers Orchard and Nursery, Part Three

The following is the third in a series of blogs about how a third-generation family nursery, orchard, and farm market nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge is working hard to produce healthy and sustainable trees, plants, fruits, and vegetables while restoring our waters at the same time. Read the first and second parts of the series.

Boxwoods in Greenhouse
Saunders Brothers' boxwoods in one of the many greenhouses. Photo by John Page Williams/CBF Staff.

What about nitrogen, phosphorus, and the other nutrients that growing plants need? First and foremost, Saunders Brothers, Inc. bases all nutrient applications on soil tests from an independent laboratory. Meticulously analyzing the results of those tests, they import many grades of bark soils and potting mixes with ranges of pH and particle size that fit the needs of the huge range of plants that they grow. A majority of the nutrients for field application come from Shenandoah Valley poultry manure. The cost has been considerably less than that for commercial grade fertilizers. Once composted, the product has worked extremely well.  

Keeping track of what’s going on in the greenhouses during the growing season is a critically important element in the business. One highly-trained (and fleet afoot) worker serves as the scout, inspecting the plants in the 375 greenhouses once a week (he does them all in three days!) and plotting the results on a custom spreadsheet. Yes, record-keeping and computer databases are very much a part of the Saunders Brothers, Inc. operation.

The scouting reports are especially important to determine when to apply pesticides in the greenhouses. This careful attention to plant condition results in selective Integrated Pest Management (IPM) spray pesticide applications and thus reduced environmental pollution. Once an insect infestation reaches an “economic threshold” of damage, based on the scouting reports, trained workers determine the linear extent of the affected plants and mix only the amount of pesticide necessary to match the spray distance. To accurately measure the spray, they use a water meter at the filling site. To improve the pesticide’s odds of working, they water the plants during the day before pesticide applications, with the next night’s irrigation cycle skipped for those plants. In addition, spray applications take place after hours to reduce the chance of contacting other employees. Most of the application takes place with an enclosed cab tractor using an airblast sprayer that is equipped with lights. 

For post emergent herbicide application, selective backpack spraying is the ticket. Targeting the weeds present in designated areas and preventing them from going to seed has been the “ounce of prevention” at the Saunders Brothers nursery. All application equipment is calibrated annually.  

Between the computer, the automated systems, and the skilled, hard-working personnel, it's easy to understand why Saunders Brothers customers see continuity in quality, even with a constantly evolving product mixture. Despite the current hard times for the landscaping industry, Tom says, “the phone keeps ringing if you sell quality.”

John Page Williams

Stay tuned tomorrow for more on how the Saunders Brothers work to produce healthy and sustainable trees, plants, fruits, and vegetables while restoring our waters at the same time.

Lots of Greenhouses
Rows and rows of greenhouses stretch across the Saunders Brothers' Farm. Photo by John Page Williams/CBF Staff.


Notes from the Field: October is National Kill Tall Fescue Month

The following appeared on field conservationist Bobby Whitescarver's blog. 

Progression of fescue to native prairieThe 12-month progression from invasive Tall Fescue to native prairie (starting from top left and moving clockwise). Photos by Bobby Whitescarver.

October is a good time to kill Tall Fescue. I like killing Tall Fescue because it is perhaps the most invasive non-native plant in North America. In my opinion it is more invasive than Purple loosestrife and Phragmites, yet why don’t we hear more about it? Not only is Tall Fescue invasive, but it is also toxic! 

We used a glyphosate product last week to start killing a pasture that is predominately Tall Fescue. We are doing this in preparation to replace the Tall Fescue with native warm season grasses next spring. When the new grasses get established, we will use them for pasture during the hot summer months of July and August when the rest of our cool season grass pastures on the farm usually go dormant. 

Research shows that killing Fescue in the fall results in only 20 percent of it coming back; whereas if you kill it in the spring, 60 percent of it will come back. We plan to spray again next spring just prior to planting the native grasses.

I also spray around the trees we planted several years ago because the Fescue is allelopathic to newly planted trees. That means the Fescue gives off a toxin that inhibits the growth of new seedlings. If you want to plant trees into a Fescue sod, you should kill the Fescue first.

Because of Fescue’s growth habit, it harbors mice and voles. Mice and voles eat tree seedlings. Mice and voles also attract hawks. Hawks kill quail. Introducing Fescue into our natural system here didn't work out very well.

—Bobby Whitescarver  

Whitescarver is a recently retired USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) conservationist who spent more than 30 years working with farmers on conservation practices. He now has his own private consulting business where he helps landowners create an overall vision and plan for their land. He also works with CBF to help famers install more Best Managment Practices (BMPs) in the Shenandoah Valley. He is the recipient of a CBF Conservationist of the Year award. For more information, visit his website


FinalProductThe resulting native prairie. Photo by Bobby Whitescarver.

Ask a Scientist: Understanding the Bay pollution diet and what it means for the Eastern Shore of Virginia

CBF_Kosek_1 Recently, we’ve had a lot of questions about why the Eastern Shore of Virginia’s required pollution reductions to meet the Bay TMDL or pollution diet are higher than the rest of the state. One individual asks, “What I don't understand is why the Eastern Shore of VA must reduce nitrates by 25 percent, but Virginia Beach by only 4 percent. The DEQ [Virginia Department of Environmental Quality] is placing an extreme burden on our locale by this mandate. Both our Board of Supervisors (Accomack and Northampton) are alarmed indeed.”

Because there have been so many questions surrounding this issue, we asked CBF’s Virginia Senior Scientist Mike Gerel to shed some light on the Bay TMDL or “pollution diet,” and what it means for Virginia:

Virginia made the decision (not the federal government) last November in their Virginia Bay-wide “Phase 1” Bay cleanup plan to assign a higher percentage level of effort to agriculture compared to other pollution sources. Since the majority of the nitrogen pollution load from the Eastern Shore is from agricultural lands (around 70 percent as of 2009), communities like Accomack were assigned more nitrogen pollution reductions compared to communities with fewer agricultural lands.

We believe there are several reasons Virginia chose to require more pollution reductions from agricultural lands in their Phase 1 plan. Mandated upgrades of sewage treatment plants serving urban communities have achieved substantial pollution reductions over the last 25 years (a 42 percent nitrogen cut, compared to a 28 percent cut for agricultural lands). Most large plants will be at or near state-of-the-art by later this year, so further reductions are not readily available with current technology. Next, the McDonnell Administration made it very clear during the Phase 1 plan development that they were going to pursue the most cost-effective solutions. The costs to install conservation practices to cut nitrogen pollution on agricultural lands (up to $100 per pound of nitrogen) are significantly less expensive than pursuing cuts on urban lands ($1,000s per pound of nitrogen). Lastly, as of 2009 across the Virginia Bay watershed, agricultural lands generate a greater percentage of the total nitrogen loading (32 percent) than do urban lands (10 percent), and thus, were assigned a comparatively higher percentage of nitrogen reductions moving forward.

Keep in mind that the percent nitrogen cuts noted in your question that were assigned to Accomack (25 percent cut) and urban communities like Arlington or Virginia Beach (4-5 percent cut) do not include additional nitrogen reductions required of some urban localities with large sewage treatment plants. For example, the Phase 1 plan requires seven large plants operated by the Hampton Roads Sanitation District that serve Virginia Beach and nearby cities—the majority of the remaining large plants that do not deliver state-of-the-art treatment—to complete upgrades by 2023 that will cut nitrogen pollution an additional 6 million pounds .

Virginia is currently working with localities to develop the “Phase 2” cleanup plan that will define local responsibilities under the Bay TMDL. The state has some flexibility in this plan to adjust locality-specific goals provided the overall Bay TMDL goals are met. Locality input on the Phase 2 plan is due to the state by October, with a final plan due for release in March 2012.

There is no question that the Chesapeake Bay system is complex, as are the new cleanup plans designed to restore it after more than 30 years of failure. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) has been actively responding to questions from localities and other local stakeholders who are newly engaged in the details of Bay cleanup planning. To further assist this process, we are working with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) to develop a series of workshops for Virginia’s Planning District Commissions (PDCs) in August. This will provide an opportunity for PDC and locality staff to voice concerns and seek answers to questions from the DCR staff who will prepare the final Phase 2 plan.

Some have said that pollution from individual communities represent “a drop in the bucket” for the Bay’s sad condition. The problem is there are drops into the Bay’s “bucket” from thousands of sources and communities across its massive 64,000 square-mile watershed that, in total, have led to an unhealthy Bay. The bottom line is that farmers, sewage treatment plant operators, towns and cities, developers, citizens—everyone—throughout the watershed will need to do more to help fully restore our local streams and the Bay. Virginia is working hard to pursue on-the-ground solutions that balance water quality, economic, and community needs across the 15-year implementation period of the new Bay cleanup effort.

We encourage you to contact your local officials and urge them to move forward on the steps necessary to ensure the cleanup effort delivers the healthy streams, productive shellfish waters, open beaches, clean water sources, and the restored Bay that is so important to Virginia communities, especially those on the Eastern Shore.

Thank you again for your interest in this important issue.

—Mike Gerel, Virginia Senior Scientist, Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Changing the Landscape

Day 2 from photographer Neil Ever Osborne's trek across Pennsylvania for the Chesapeake Bay RAVE.

_NEO2218 - Version 2

A water pipe lays in the land where trees once stood.

As part of the Chesapeake Bay RAVE, one of my goals was to create images that depict land disturbance in Pennsylvania. Covering this topic was important to connect the terrestrial environment with the issues of water quality in the watershed.

Bottom line: as the landscape changes, so does the flow of nutrients and sediments into the water, and that which enters the Susquehanna River could stand a chance of emptying into the bay.

As a focus point, I worked closely with some of the natural gas companies drilling within the Marcellus Shale to showcase how natural resource extracting is modifying the topography. In brief, the Marcellus Shale contains largely untapped natural gas reserves and companies have been flocking to this "play," the industry term for a rich area of natural resources, for over two years now. A local source in Pennsylvania told me there were over 25 individual companies working the land. Some, like Chesapeake Energy, are taking precautionary measures to minimize disturbance they cause, others seem not to be so keen.

As an example, gas companies need to use huge amounts of water during the drilling operation. In a process called hydraulic fracturing, water is pumped through serpentine like pipes that navigate through the landscape to a 4-5 acre drill site. Once there the water is then pumped into the well bore (pipes leading to the shale below the ground) at high pressures forcing the underground rock formation to fracture resulting in a more porous substrate for the gas to travel through.

Did I mention they need an insane amount of water to do this! A well blowout in Pennsylvania on June 3, 2010 sent more than 35,000 gallons of hydraulic fracturing fluids into the air and onto the surrounding landscape in a forested area.

As more and more permits for well sites are allocated, Pennsylvania counties like Bradford and Tioga, who seem to have the most drilling activity, will see more alterations to their countrysides.

- Neil Ever Osborne

Read all posts for the Chesapeake Bay RAVE

Find out more about the International League of Conservation Photographers

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Frank Rohrer by guest blogger Frank Rohrer, stream buffer specialist in CBF's Pennsylvania office.

Back in December of 2007, I made the trip to the gently rolling hills of southern Lancaster County, Pennsylvania for my annual deer hunt on the family farm. Since I moved north to the mountains of Clinton County, PA over three years ago I don’t get back to the farm much.  Each visit is special because I’m always overwhelmed with childhood memories of baling hay, feeding cows, driving tractors, hunting deer, and fishing in the stream…ah the stream!

As a youngster much of my free time (which is very little when you grow up on a dairy farm) was spent fishing, flipping rocks, catching crayfish, and looking for salamanders in and along Stewart’s Run and a small, meandering tributary that flowed through my grandfather’s farm. What a great way to be introduced to the outdoors. I didn’t know it then, but each time a trout swallowed my bait in that little stream I was actually the one getting hooked on a love for all things outdoors.

So much has changed on the farm during the thirty-two years of my life. My grandparents are long gone now, but Dad keeps the farming tradition alive though much less intensively. The milk house now sits silently through long winters and hot summers. Cows no longer enter the barn for their evening meal and the chores are far fewer. Yes, tobacco still hangs in the shed, corn still grows in the fields and heifers graze in the pasture, but the days of intensive farming for the Rohrer family are now gone. 

Of all the changes I know of on the farm, one of the biggest has been the stream itself. Back in 2002, when my wife Kathy and I lived in the little cottage along the stream, Dad decided to build stream bank fencing and plant trees with CBF’s Farm Stewardship Program. Of course, since I just happened to work for CBF as a stream buffer specialist, I was a major influence with that decision!

Newly planted buffer So, that year we hired contractors to build 5,400’ of fence, install three livestock crossings, and plant 575 trees and shrubs. The fence and crossing set up allow the livestock to cross the stream and drink in various locations, while at the same time it keeps them out of the majority of the riparian areas. This allowed the streambanks to revegetate and helped to keep the stream cleaner. When my grandfather still milked cows, the livestock had full access to the entire stream and the banks were severely eroded, the water was often muddy, and there was no fish or wildlife habitat at all. In total, 5,820’ of streambanks have been restored and 5.3 acres of forested riparian buffer have been created.

Since I only get back to the area a few times a year, I don’t always get time to check out the buffer that I had put so much care and effort into several years ago. This year as I was hunting I decided to take a leisurely stroll along the buffer to really see how it was faring. Although there were trees that didn’t survive, I was so proud to see that there were many trees growing—quite a few of them were well above my six foot tall head. Some ash, maple, and tulip poplar stretched more than twelve feet above the ground.  Dogwoods and viburnums were thriving as well, providing cover and berries for birds and other wildlife.

The thing that struck me the most was the numerous songbirds that were along the stream. A tremendous diversity of birds flitted about all around me as they grabbed seeds from the tall grass, landed on the growing trees, and swooped down to the water. Chickadees, tufted titmice, sparrows of all kinds, and more. The stream buffer has gone from a grazed area with little habitat to a birder’s paradise in a very short time. Being a birder, I was thrilled.

As I walked and gazed over the pasture and farmstead, I was awed by the memories that flooded me…the big hill that we would ride our plastic and metal runner sleds on every winter, thinking nothing of running back up to the top and doing it all day long just as I’m sure my Dad did when he was young…the “deep hole” as we have always called it, where every year the neighbors and Dad and I would gather during the dawn hours of April’s opening day of trout season to try to hook those brown, rainbow, and brook trout, which were courtesy of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission…the old stone farmhouse built in the 1700’s, where every day my grandmother would make grilled cheese sandwiches for my grandfather and I as we rested from the morning barn chores…bringing in new born calves from the meadow as their mother trailed along behind…baling hay in the sweltering 100 degree heat of August…harvesting corn in the much cooler days of November as a hint of old man winter blew into the air…and of course, those delicious dinners served by my grandmother as the family gathered around the coal stove on those snowy Christmas days.  My simple buffer tour had stirred up so many memories from a 120 acre piece of ground! 

As I neared the end of my walk, my mind gradually got back to the real task at hand—hunting deer! One year I filled my deer tag right there in the buffer (I was doing my part to ensure those new trees would survive) but my luck was not to be this year. I went back north that weekend without a deer but I took home something more valuable—new memories and the knowledge that the stream that hooked me so many years ago was healthier than it has been for several generations. As I left the farm that day, I realized that my career today with CBF has brought me full circle with my childhood of yesterday.

To learn more about streamside buffers in Pennsylvania, you can contact the Chesapeake Bay Foundation at 717-234-5550.  If you live in Clinton, Centre, or Lycoming Counties, PA, you can contact the author directly at 570-295-6164.

Saving the Bay from the Bench

Nanticoke_015_3 Excerpt of a Baltimore Sun Op/ed written by Kim Coble, Executive Director of CBF's Maryland Office.

When citizens want to change how the government protects the environment, they generally work toward changing legislation, regulations or government leaders. Rarely do people think about judges.

But they should.

Maryland's judges are thoughtful people whose primary experience is with criminal and business law. But they are often unaware or insufficiently educated about the environment and the laws meant to protect it. Too often, these judges do not have a fundamental understanding of the complexity and importance of our natural resources...Lacking a larger understanding, they can be overly sympathetic to claims that protecting our water, air and land should be subordinate to an individual's property rights...As a result, in recent years, we have seen cases in which the legislature had to go back and rewrite legislation to repair damage done to environmental laws through misinterpretation by the court system.

...The courts and other judicial institutions (as well as many local planning offices) have chosen to ignore the cumulative impact of the next shopping center, apartment complex or industrial park. Each case is reviewed independently, and thus the courts look only at the impact of just this "one" case: One parking lot. One gazebo. One bed of underwater grasses destroyed. One wetland lost.

It's an argument developers routinely deliver, with amazing success. But the cumulative effects of these "ones" is death by a thousand cuts for our environment, our rivers and streams, and our bay.

...Sadly, the cost of mounting a legal challenge to each case is beyond the financial ability of most citizens. And special-interest organizations, willing to act on behalf of concerned individuals, are rarely even allowed to appear because of an overly narrow interpretation of who has "standing" - that is, who has the right to appear before the board or court.

...Judges who respect our natural resources and the common good, who have a demonstrated record of protecting the public interest, can help preserve and restore the land, air and water that belong to all citizens.

Maryland has good environmental laws. They could be stronger, but even the strongest and most well-crafted laws are only as good as those who enforce them.

Read the complete Op/Ed here...and recommend it when you're done.