“Most Important Fish in the Bay” Film at Library Oct. 23

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Join the Chesapeake Bay Foundation Monday, October 23, 6 p.m. at the Kent County Public Library (Yellow Building) in downtown Chestertown for an evening of all things menhaden. CBF is screening the short film Menhaden: The Most Important Fish in the Bay, followed by a discussion of the current state of the fishery in the Chesapeake. CBF’s Maryland Senior Scientist Doug Myers will describe the critical role that menhaden play in the Bay’s food web and answer questions from the audience.

Menhaden face potential new threats along the Atlantic coast. Right now, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) is responding by considering revisions to its fishery management plan. One proposed amendment to the plan could help keep more fish in the water by including important guidelines—called “ecological reference points.” These will help fishery managers ensure that enough of these essential fish remain in the water, serving their role as a vital food source for rockfish, osprey, and countless other Bay critters.

Any threat to this critical fish is also a threat to the numerous animals that rely on it. Learn more about the current state of this fishery and what you can do to help on October 23rd. This event is free and open to the public. Contact Hilary Gibson at hgibson@cbf.org or call 410/543-1999 with questions.

If you can’t make the event, you can still make your voice heard. Written comments on ASMFC’s Amendment 3 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Menhaden will be accepted through Tuesday, October 24, 2017. Comments can be sent to comments@asmfc.org (Subject line: Draft Amd. 3). More information on menhaden and what you can do is at cbf.org/menhaden.

 

CFF Preview: Tom Horton and the Rising Sea Levels of Dorchester County

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The Chesapeake Film Festival has gone out of their way this year to emphasize the important theme of conservation, and has consequently assembled a first rate collection of the most current documentaries on climate change, sea level rising, and other global warming issues to screen in the last weekend in October in Talbot County.

Ranging from Leonardo DiCaprio to short films on forestry and the fishing, the festival’s curatorial hand has carefully vetted out the the very best in international filmmaking, but it is suspected that the film that will have the most impact locally is case study of rising sea levels in Dorchester County.

The local dream team of filmmaker Sandy Cannon-Brown, photographer David Harp, and environmental author Tom Horton, who were responsible two years ago for the popular Beautiful Swimmers Revisited, a documentary inspired by William W. Warner’s classic book on of the Chesapeake Bay, have now reunited to tell the sobering tale of the disappearing landscape of Dorchester and the possible for the thirteen other Counties.

The Spy caught up with High Tide in Dorchester writer and narrator Tom Horton a week ago at Bullitt House to talk about the film and its mission to send an important warning to the entire Chesapeake Bay region.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about the Chesapeake Film Festival please go here

Gilchrest to Speak on Agriculture and Environment

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Join the League of Women Voters of Kent County for an evening with former Congressman Wayne Gilchrest on Tuesday, October 24, at 7 p.m. at The Kitchen at The Imperial, 208 High Street in Chestertown.

Gilchrest’s topic will be “Agriculture and the Environment: Our Legacy.”  As he explains, “Nature’s Artistry forges a legacy of a fecundity of life, from the soil beneath our feet, to the darkest depths of the oceans, to the clouds gleaming in the sunlight of a fleeting dawn.   Every molecule on earth is a part of this tapestry of regeneration.  Where do we fit in?  I will focus on one aspect of the complexity of Nature and human activity: Agriculture and the environment, our legacy.”

After his talk, Gilchrest hopes to engage the audience in an active discussion about the future of agriculture in Kent County.

Diners may come at 5:30 to join Gilchrest informally for a Dutch-treat meal – the restaurant is offering three special menus for the event: prix fixe dinner menu; light fare or appetizer menu; and/or dessert menu. Those not interested in having a meal may join the group at 7 p.m., when Gilchrest will begin speaking.

This meeting, the first in a “Trending Topics” series presented by the League, is open to the public; all are most welcome.  Please make reservations with the League of Women Voters, before October 20, by calling 410-778-0295 or 410-639-2149, or emailing lynn.thirdwish@gmail.com or pegmarkman@gmail.com.

The League hopes to host a series of these discussion-based evenings at local venues during the early evening hours, so that the public can enjoy the subject at hand in an informal setting. The next Trending Topics evening is planned for February.

Please call 410-639-2149 or 410-778-0295 for more information.

 

 

Maryland Oyster Season Opens with Bad News – Harvest Last Season down 42 Percent

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The public oyster harvest season began Monday, with Chesapeake Bay watermen no doubt hoping for a better haul this fall and winter than last. For Maryland watermen, though, there isn’t a lot of room for optimism.

Despite mild weather last winter, Maryland’s 2016-2017 harvest from public oyster bars was off nearly 42 percent from the year before, a steep drop from the modest decline seen the previous two years. Last season, 1,086 licensed watermen harvested 224,609 bushels of bivalves, down from a 384,000-bushel catch in 2015-2016, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

Chris Judy, DNR’s shellfish division manager, attributed the harvest decline last season to lower “spat sets” of juvenile oysters since 2012, the last year in which there was good recruitment or reproduction. Spat sets since then have been poor to middling.

Disease made a dent as well last season, at least in some areas. Intensity of Dermo, one of two parasitic diseases afflicting oysters, rose last year above the long-term average for the first time in 9 years and was the highest since the last major outbreak during a drought in 2002. The survey found elevated intensities from Pocomoke Sound north to the Wye and Miles rivers. Dermo-related mortalities also increased in some areas.

MSX, the other parasitic oyster disease, increased in prevalence on bars where it had been found previously, reaching a level 20-fold higher than what it was three years ago.

The DNR team that conducts annual surveys thought that the state’s oyster population last year had reached a crossroads, either pausing briefly before continuing to recover or on the cusp of another major decline. “Only time — and weather — will determine which direction Maryland’s oyster population will take,” the 2016 fall oyster survey concluded.

In Virginia, by comparison, harvest from public bars slipped 5 percent last season over the previous season’s take. The Virginia Marine Resources Commission tallied the harvest from public oyster bars at 246,000 bushels in 2016-2017, down from 259,000 bushels in 2015-16, according to Laurie Naismith, spokeswoman for the commission. The higher salinity of Bay water in Virginia tends to yield better oyster reproduction.

Maryland’s public oyster harvest season runs through March 31, 2018, while Virginia’s extends into April. The busiest portion of the oyster season will kick off Nov. 1, when harvest methods in Maryland expand from hand and patent tonging and diving to include power and sail dredging in designated areas of Calvert, Dorchester, Somerset, St. Mary’s, Talbot and Wicomico counties. Virginia’s public harvest is limited in early fall to the use of hand tongs and “hand scrapes,” a rake-like device; the fishery expands in November to include patent tonging and in December to power dredging.

Of course, for many consumers, the concept of an oyster “season” has blurred, if not faded altogether, as aquaculture has gained strength in the Bay. The output of Virginia’s private oyster farmers, who harvest bivalves year-round, has matched or exceeded the public oyster harvest most years. In Maryland, the growing but still fledgling industry produced 64,609 bushels last year, up from around 50,000 bushels in 2015.

Timothy B. Wheeler is managing editor and project writer for the Bay Journal. He has more than two decades of experience covering the environment for The Baltimore Sun and other media outlets.

Chesapeake Bay Foundation Join Other Groups in Suit Against EPA

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The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and six regional and national groups concerned with human health and a clean environment today filed suit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The organizations want federal action to stop 19 out-of-state power plants from harming Marylanders and the Chesapeake Bay.

“Last week the State of Maryland sued the EPA to force the agency to stop air pollution from hurting Marylanders. The lawsuit today supports the state’s decisive step. It also highlights how the same pollutants harming our children are degrading water quality in the Chesapeake Bay, its rivers and streams. Fish are having as much trouble breathing as people because of these 19 power plants,” said Jon Mueller, Vice President of Litigation at CBF.

The 19 plants are in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia and Kentucky. All are coal-fired plants. A total of 36 generating units at the plant are targeted by the lawsuit. Their air pollution emissions drift to Maryland and other downwind states. Maryland and other parts of the Chesapeake Bay region are vulnerable to emissions from a vast 570,000 square-mile Chesapeake “airshed” that stretches from North Carolina to Canada and as far west as the Ohio Valley.

One part of the emissions, nitrogen oxides (NOx), often turns to ozone in the hot summer months. Ozone, sometimes called smog, makes it difficult for many people to breathe. On 14 days this past summer ozone levels were so high a Code Orange Air Quality Alert was issued for the Baltimore area, meaning the air was unhealthy for seniors, children and others with sensitivities.

NOx, being a form of nitrogen, also harms the Chesapeake and the streams and rivers that feed it. Excess nitrogen fuels algal blooms that result in underwater dead zones where aquatic life can’t breathe.

EPA promised in the regional Bay clean-up plan called the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint that it would lower the amount of nitrogen emitted into the atmosphere yet is has refused to respond to Maryland’s petition. If it did respond nitrogen levels would come down.

In fact, if the 19 plants used their pollution controls effectively through the summer they would send about 39,000 fewer tons of NOx to Maryland each summer, according to the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE). That reduction would make the air and water significantly healthier in Maryland. Simply turning those technologies on fully, in fact, would bring all of Maryland and the Washington, D.C. area closer to compliance with clean air standards for ozone, according to MDE.
EPA is obligated by law to hold a public hearing and to timely respond to Maryland’s petition. EPA has failed in both respects and has shown no signs of acting. The six environmental and public health groups have no choice but to ask a federal judge to hold EPA accountable.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland. It requests EPA act on this interstate air pollution problem. The “good neighbor” provision of the Clean Air Act requires states to ensure that air pollution generated in their home states not harm downwind states.

Participating in the lawsuit are: CBF (lead counsel), Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund, Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility, Environmental Integrity Project, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, and Adirondack Council.
The State of Maryland filed a similar lawsuit against EPA last week.

Wanted: Landowners on the Upper Shore to Help Reverse Northern Bobwhite Declines by Dan Small

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The Natural Lands Project is looking for landowners interested in setting aside marginal cropland to help declining Northern Bobwhites. Since 2015 we have been working throughout Kent and Queen Anne’s Counties, in addition to these current efforts we would also like to target two areas that currently have small quail populations. These two areas, one each in Kent and Queen Anne’s, have some existing habitat, but we could have a major positive impact on the quail population by installing additional acres of nesting and brood rearing habitat. In Queen Anne’s we are looking to work with landowners along Lands End Road from Southeast Creek south to the Corsica River and in Kent, farms between Betterton and Still Pond (see accompanying maps).

Male Indigo Bunting in a wildflower meadow planted in 2016 by NLP.

People growing up on the Eastern Shore in the 60’s and ‘70s remember well the loud expressive whistle ‘BOB-white’ emanating from around the farm in late spring and lasting throughout the hot summer months. In the cooler months, bird dogs searched for the scent of nearby quail coveys through wooded edges, scrubby briar tangles, hedgerows and bean fields across property boundaries followed closely by their owners. This characteristic bird, the Northern Bobwhite, of Maryland’s agricultural landscape has disappeared from all but a few isolated areas throughout the Shore. Along with the decline in quail populations, we hear fewer grassland birds and see fewer pollinating insects and wildflowers.

There are myriad theories for the drastic decline in grassland biodiversity in such a short period of time and most, if not all, have a grain of truth to them. However, without a doubt the single largest driver of bobwhite decline on the Eastern Shore is habitat loss. Several factors have contributed to habitat loss; there are simply more people living on the shore and as a result we have more developed areas. Additionally, our farms have changed. The acceleration of farming technologies after World War II brought with it larger equipment and increased use of herbicides and pesticides, tools that allowed farmers to till more ground more of the time. This, in turn, led to larger and larger farms and fewer and fewer small fields. Suddenly the ‘back forty’ that was periodically fallow and permanently surrounded by a hedgerow was no longer. Today much of landscape on the Shore is defined by crops, forests, waterways and buffers of exotic cool season grasses—similar to lawns—with little in between.

Map showing target area in Queen Anne’s County, an area where additional habitat would substantially help Northern Bobwhite populations.

But all is not lost. In 2015 Washington College’s Center for Environment & Society (CES) partnered with the Chester River Association (CRA) and Tall Timber Research Station, the nation’s leader in bobwhite research and management of fire-dependent ecosystems, to launch the Natural Lands Project (NLP) with a $700,000 award from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Using the remarkable habitat restoration success at CES’s research station on Chino Farms in Queen Anne’s County and CRA’s success at promoting best management practices on local area farms, NLP set out with the goal of creating a balance between cropland and wildlife habitat to improve water quality. NLP promotes and installs native warm season grasses as best management practices that will help reverse bobwhite population declines and reduce excess sedimentation and nutrient runoff in our waterways.

Map showing target area in Kent County, an area of small farms and hedgerows – the addition of nesting habitat would help Northern Bobwhites.

In addition to buffers and fields for bobwhite NLP also installs wetlands in poorly drained areas of marginal farm fields. Wetlands are phenomenal at reducing nutrients and preventing sediment from entering the Bay’s tributaries, with the added benefit of proving critical habitat for over-wintering waterfowl. Following up on the successful launch of NLP in 2015, CES was just recently awarded another round of funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to continue adding habitat for grassland biodiversity and to help improve the Bay’ water quality – see http://chestertownspy.org/2017/09/24/500k-grant-to-center-for-environment-and-society/

It is important to note that productive farming, vibrant wildlife, and healthy water are not mutually exclusive. By taking marginal cropland out of production and planting a mix of native warm season grasses and wildflowers we are creating areas for bobwhite, other grassland birds, and pollinators to find much needed food, shelter, and breeding sites.

Male Northern Bobwhite on Chino Farms.

On Chino Farms there is a thriving native bobwhite population, in fact, now the largest in Maryland. This is a result of well-managed grasslands and early successional habitat that weave throughout a for-profit conventional agricultural operation. Since 1999 when marginal areas of row crops were converted to native habitat, these grasslands have reduced an estimated 80 lbs phosphorus, 1200 lbs nitrogen and 40,500 lbs of sediment from entering our local waterways annually. Our experience and results on Chino make us confident that habitat is the key missing ingredient for quail to once again to thrive on the Shore. As an Eastern Shore community we now need to work on landscape-level change, installing and managing grasslands and wetlands alongside of our farming priorities.

If you would like to find out more about the project, arrange a farm visit or see/hear quail on Chino Farms contact Dan Small, dsmall2@washcoll.edu or 410-708-4479 or visit www.washcoll.edu/nlp. We are looking forward to working with many more of the Eastern Shore’s best land stewards as NLP grows.

 

Midshore Riverkeepers Receive Major Grant for Agricultural Conservation

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Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy (MRC) was recently awarded a grant of $451,960 from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund to create a regional program that advances the implementation of conservation drainage practices and tests new agricultural best management practice technologies that have great potential to reduce nutrient and sediment from entering the Chesapeake Bay.

Many local farms were initially drained using a system of drain tiles. Unfortunately, over the decades these structures have deteriorated. MRC will work with agricultural landowners to retrofit old and failing drain tile lines with the latest conservation practices and create a drainage water management plan to maximize the benefits of the new conservation drainage system. These innovations will reduce sediment, nitrogen, and phosphorus losses from agricultural land that has drain tile lines. A goal of this program is to accelerate the implementation of the outlet and infield best management practices by incentivizing farmers through offering the replacement of antiquated existing drain tile and surface inlets.

MRC Staff Scientist Tim Rosen installs an updated conservation drainage system at an agricultural site.

This work will create a framework for a conservation drainage program that can be used to justify the funding of a state-run program administered by the Maryland Department of Agriculture. In addition, the program will provide a blueprint for other Bay states to adopt their version of a conservation drainage program. This program will help bring Maryland to the forefront in addressing agricultural drainage pollution and help position our farm community to be more economically and environmentally sustainable. MRC’s program will focus on four watersheds—the Choptank, Nanticoke, Pocomoke/Tangier, and Chester—that span eight Maryland counties.

Completion of this grant will result in the installation of eight separate projects that incorporate either a denitrifying bioreactor, saturated buffer, or structure for water control and blind inlets. It is anticipated that 2 denitrifying bioreactors, 2 saturated buffers, and 4 structures for water control will be installed with an estimated 14 blind inlets. In total, this will reduce a total of 3,456 pounds of nitrate-nitrogen per year, 49 pounds of phosphorus per year, and 46,666 pounds of sediment per year.

MRC has obtained commitments from private and state sources to provide a match of $467,980, enabling the organization to devote a total of $919,940 to this important work.

For more information contact MRC Staff Scientist Tim Rosen at 443.385.0511 or trosen@midshoreriverkeeper.org.

Adkins Arboretum Hosts Jill Jonnes for Urban Trees Talk Oct 5 at Academy Art Museum

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Jill Jonnes, author and historian

Nature’s largest and longest-lived creations, trees play an extraordinary role in our landscapes. They are living landmarks that define space, cool the air, soothe our psyches and connect us to nature and our past. Learn about the fascinating natural history of the tree in American cities when Adkins Arboretum hosts author and historian Jill Jonnes speaks about Urban Forests on Thurs., Oct. 5 at the Academy Art Museum in Easton. The talk begins at 4 p.m. and will be followed by a book signing.  The academy Art Museum is located at 106 South Street, Easton, MD, 21601.  Call the museum during business hours at 410-822-2787.

Jonnes’s latest book, Urban Forests: A Natural History of Trees and People in the American Cityscape, celebrates urban trees and the Americans—presidents, plant explorers, visionaries, citizen activists, scientists, nurserymen and tree nerds—whose arboreal passions have shaped and ornamented the nation’s cities. Ranging from Thomas Jefferson’s day, to the postwar devastation of magnificent American elm canopies by Dutch elm disease, to the present, Jonnes lauds the nation’s arboreal advocates, from the founders of Arbor Day, arboretums and tree surgery to the current generation of scientists who engage technology to illuminate the value of trees as green infrastructure and their importance to public health.

Urban Forests: A Natural History of Trees and People in the American Cityscape by Jill Jonnes

Jonnes holds a Ph.D. in American history from Johns Hopkins University. She is the author of numerous books, including Eiffel’s TowerConquering Gotham and Empires of Light. Founder of the nonprofit Baltimore Tree Trust, she is leading the Baltimore City Forestry Board’s new initiative, Baltimore’s Flowering Tree Trails. As a staff member of the 2010 Presidential National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, she wrote the first chapter of the report Deep Water: The Gulf Oil Disaster and the Future of Offshore Drilling. Jonnes also has been named a National Endowment for the Humanities scholar and has received several grants from the Ford Foundation.

The talk is $15 for Arboretum members and $20 for non-members. Advance registration is requested at adkinsarboretum.org or by calling 410-634-2847, ext. 0.

Adkins Arboretum is a 400-acre native garden and preserve at the headwaters of the Tuckahoe Creek in Caroline County. Open year round, the Arboretum offers educational programs for all ages about nature, conservation and gardening. For more information, visit adkinsarboretum.org or call 410-634-2847, ext. 0.

Adkins Arboretum    12610 Eveland Road     Ridgely, MD 21620     adkinsarboretum.org     info@adkinsarboretum.org

Adkins Arboretum’s Enchanted Fairyfest is Oct. 14

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Bring your wings and wands for a day of magic at Adkins Arboretum! The Arboretum’s second annual Fairyfest, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sat., Oct. 14, celebrates fancy, fantasy and fun in the forest. Follow a trail of fairy houses along enchanted forest paths, and join in a meadow maypole dance. Search for gnomes in the Funshine Garden, craft magical treasures to take home, and wave to the Billy Goats Gruff from atop a hay wagon.

The event includes live entertainment throughout the day in the woodland theatre, shimmering fairy face painting, rainbow bubbles, archery and fairytale games. Unicorn rides provided by Snapdragon Stables and refreshments will be available for purchase.

Kicking off the fun, Master Naturalist Beth Lawton will offer a special Fairy Makers crafting program for ages 12 and up on Fri., Oct. 13. Crafted of felt, silk flowers, wooden beads and seed pods, the tiny acorn fairies made in the workshop will delight fairy lovers of all age. Each participant will create a one-of-a-kind fairy to take home. The workshop is $10 for members and $15 for non-members; spots are limited, and advance registration is required at adkinsarboretum.org.

Admission to Fairyfest is $10 for adults and children ages 3 and up. Children ages 2 and under are admitted free.

Fairyfest is sponsored in part by Garden Treasures of Easton and Soistman Family Dentistry. For more information, call 410-634-2847, ext. 0 or visit adkinsarboretum.org.