Celebrate Heroes of Conservation with the Horn Point Laboratory

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The Horn Point Laboratory (HPL) invites you to join their 7th annual Chesapeake Champion celebration.  The Hutchison Brothers are this year’s Chesapeake Champion.The event takes place Thursday, May 30 from 5 to 7 pm at the Waterfowl Building, 40 S. Harrison St., Easton.  Proceeds benefit the research of HPL graduate students and faculty.

Imbibe! Savor delicious hors d’oeuvres, sip a Chesapeake Champion cocktail with old friends and new acquaintances while you explore inspired demonstrations by HPL graduate students and celebrate the Hutchison Brothers.

“The Horn Point Laboratory is delighted to honor the Hutchison Brothers for their innovative agricultural practices benefiting water quality and soil health. They have been leaders in sustainable agriculture and environmental stewardship while maintaining a successful business,” said Mike Roman, Horn Point Laboratory Director.

The Hutchison Brothers are true Champions of the ChesapeakeThey are farming advocates respected by farmers and environmentalists alike.  For four generations and 250 man years the Hutchison family has farmed their land. Today, the family’s farming operations are run by 3 of 5 brothers who farmed together, Bobby, Richard, and David, along with Bobby’s son, Travis, and Richard’s son, Kyle.  Their father, Earl, was a founding board member of Talbot County’s Soil Conservation District.  The family was inducted into the Governor’s Agricultural Hall of Fame in 2005.  Bobby is member emeriti of the Harry Hughes Agro-Ecology Center.

Hutchison Brothers family members working the farm today. Left to right; Kyle (Richard’s son), David, Richard, Bobby, and Travis (Bobby’s son).

Travis says, “Environmental stewardship has been the key to pass on the farm from generation to generation.  It is critical to success when a family wants the farm to continue.”  The Hutchison’s apply innovative conservation practices and the latest technology to their farming business.  Their outlook is, “to be a farmer you have to be an optimist – always plan for a good year, if you plan for a disaster you will get one.”Today the family farms about 3,400 acres in Talbot and Caroline counties.  They continue to explore new technologies and sustainable practices to leave the land better than they found it.

Past Chesapeake Champions include; Amy Haines the first recipient in 2013, followed by John E. (Chip) Akridge in 2014, C. Albert Pritchett in 2015, Alice and Jordan Lloyd in 2016, Jim Brighton in 2017, and Jerry Harris in 2018.

The Horn Point Laboratory (HPL) is an environmental research facility of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES). The Lab is located on 880 acres on the banks of the Choptank River, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. UMCES is the only institution within the University System of Maryland focused entirely on advanced environmental research and graduate studies. Its research primarily focuses on the Chesapeake Bay and restoring coastal health.

Mark your calendar and join us Thursday, May 30th to honor the Hutchison Brothers, 2019 Chesapeake Champion, and celebrate their leadership for sustainable agriculture and it benefits for a healthier Bay.

Tickets are $50/ person.  Sponsorship opportunities are available.

For more information, visit www.umces.edu/events/chesapeake-champion-2019 or contact Carin Starr at cstarr@umces.edu, 410-221-8408.

UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND CENTER FOR ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE

The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science leads the way toward better management of Maryland’s natural resources and the protection and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. From a network of laboratories located across the state, UMCES scientists provide sound advice to help state and national leaders manage the environment, and prepare future scientists to meet the global challenges of the 21st century. www.umces.edu

WC Bird Banding Lab Joins International Motus Wildlife Tracking System

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Washington College’s Foreman’s Branch Bird Observatory (FBBO) has become part of an international network that is revolutionizing scientists’ ability to understand the lives and migratory patterns of birds, bats, and even large insects. Two stations installed in late April, one atop a grain elevator at the River and Field Campus and another on the James Gruber Banding Laboratory, are among the first ten Motus Wildlife Tracking System stations in the state and the only ones associated with a college or university in Maryland.

Motus is Latin for “movement.” Developed in Canada, the Motus Wildlife Tracking System now has more than 500 stations—and counting—that can track animals tagged with nanotags, digitally encoded radio transmitters which emit a specific signal with an individual identifier. As it passes within range of a station, a tagged animal can be identified, and as the network expands, it’s giving scientists the opportunity to ask entirely new questions in their research into migration patterns and methods.

“While this system probably won’t replace banding in the near future because of economics, it will clearly play a role in tracking a single bird’s migratory pathway from start to finish and return, now and in the future. It will require numerous towers throughout the country to accomplish that,” says Jim Gruber, founder and master bander of FBBO. “With the antennas in place, Washington College students could potentially develop their own localized studies using not only birds, but insects, bats, and other small flying organisms.”

“Once you let a bird go from [traditional] banding, only a handful are picked up,” says Luke DeGroote, avian research coordinator at Powdermill Nature Reserve and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh. “But the Motus network can detect 50 percent or more of the birds we tag.”

The new stations at Foreman’s Branch are part of a $500,000 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grant, coordinated through a collaboration of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the Pennsylvania Game Commission, and eight organizations, to dramatically expand—by 46 stations—the Motus network in Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. This expansion is aimed specifically at eight species deemed in need of conservation in the mid-Atlantic—Bicknell’s, Swainson’s, and wood thrushes; blackpoll and Canada warblers; rusty blackbirds; American woodcock; and northern myotis bats.

An American woodcock that was stunned after hitting a building in Baltimore. Credit: Lights Out Baltimore

“These two stations will provide a whole new way for our students to understand bird migration, life cycle, and how what we do at Foreman’s Branch contributes to that knowledge base,” says Maren Gimpel, field ecologist and outreach coordinator at Foreman’s Branch. “Maps at the banding lab already show where birds we have banded have been recovered, but Motus takes this data to a much more detailed resolution for some individual birds, and students and faculty can use the Motus website to see examples of these migratory pathways for birds that we band here.”

The Foreman’s Branch stations are supporting DeGroote’s first-of-its-kind, three-year study into the long-term effects of what happens to birds after they’ve survived a collision with a building. While the greatest threats to birds include habitat loss and climate change, billions of birds are killed every year directly by cats and buildings. According to a 2014 study led by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, approximately 600 million birds are killed annually in the U.S. in building collisions, a direct human threat second only to birds killed by feral and domestic cats.

Still, thousands of birds that hit buildings survive, and many are found and brought to rehabilitation centers and then released. No one knows, though, how well they survive after rehabilitation, DeGroote says.

Along with Gruber and Gimpel, DeGroote is working with Lights Out Baltimore and the Phoenix Wildlife Center in Phoenix, Maryland, which rescue and rehabilitate birds injured in building collisions in Baltimore. Specifically, he’s studying American woodcock and wood thrushes, two of the species identified as in need of conservation.

When a wood thrush or woodcock that’s been hurt through a building collision is ready to be released from Phoenix Wildlife Center, it will get a Motus network nanotag. At the same time, Gruber and Gimpel will similarly tag a woodcock or wood thrush at Foreman’s Branch. Since the birds are likely on the same migratory path and timing in the same region, DeGroote will be able to track differences in their behavior.

“It makes sense that birds may be affected by this terrible collision, not unlike concussions in humans,” he says. “The question is, are the rehabilitated birds surviving, are they migrating, how many days does it take until they migrate, and when they do migrate, do they have a normal migration?”

Foreman’s Branch Bird Observatory, on Washington College’s River and Field Campus, is part of the College’s Center for Environment & Society. It’s the only bird banding station on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. In 2018, staff and student interns banded 16,064 new birds of 135 species; as of the end of 2018, the station’s 20th year in operation, it had banded 272,446 birds of 174 species.

Lights Out Baltimore is a nonprofit project of the Baltimore Bird Club, a local chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society. Its mission is to make Baltimore safe for migratory birds by turning out decorative lighting in the city during peak migration months, between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., and to advocate for bird-safe building design that makes glass and windows visible to birds. Each migration season, volunteers walk downtown Baltimore to rescue injured birds from collisions and collect the dead. Injured birds are taken to Phoenix Wildlife Center and dead birds are taken to Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and John Hopkins University School of Medicine for research. Since 2008, 4,000 birds have been collected and more than 1,000 have been rescued and released.

Click here for more information about Foreman’s Branch Bird Observatory, here for theMotus Wildlife Tracking Network, and here for information on Lights Out Baltimore.

ShoreRivers Presents the State of the Sassafras River May 17

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Sassafras Riverkeeper Zack Kelleher

ShoreRivers will host the annual State of the Sassafras River on Friday, May 17, 2019 in the “Jewel of the Chesapeake,” Betterton, Maryland. The event takes place at the Betterton Volunteer Firehall located at 2 Howell Point Road. Doors open at 5:00pm for the Sassafras Riverkeeper’s casual monthly Sassafras Sips happy hour, featuring beer from Chesapeake City’s Bayheads Brewing Company, wine, and delicious light fare from local restaurants. Admission is free and open to the public.

The presentation begins at 6pm and will report on the current state of the Sassafras River and major new water-quality projects in Betterton. Also presented will be ShoreRivers’ plans for expanded coverage to four creeks in northern Kent County flowing directly into the Bay: Fairlee Creek, Worton Creek, Churn Creek, and Still Pond Creek.

Refreshments for the State of the Rivers program will be provided by favorite Betterton restaurants Barbara’s on the Bay, Marzella’s by the Bay, the recently re-opened Fish Whistle at the Granary, and the Kitty Knight. Thank you to supporting sponsors John and Ellyn Vail, Dock Street Foundation and The Easton Group and the Easton Branch at Morgan Stanley.

ShoreRivers welcomes and encourages the community to join this evening of conversation and informative discussion as it releases its 2018 River Report Card. The report card reflects data collected at nearly 200 sites by ShoreRivers’ scientists, Riverkeepers, and more than 100 volunteers in ShoreRivers’ water quality monitoring program. This is an opportunity for the community to learn about the health and challenges of our local waterways and how the most recent grades compare to previous years.The State of the Sassafras River will feature ShoreRivers’ Sassafras Riverkeeper, Zack Kelleher, who will give interpretations of 2018 water quality results.

“The Sassafras was under siege from both ends this year,” Kelleher states.“Record-setting levels of nutrients and sediment washed into the river from throughout the watershed, as well as trash and pollution that entered the mouth of the river from the Conowingo Dam. The good news,” he adds,“is that the data shows resiliency, thanks in part to our restoration and outreach efforts. I look forward to discussing our beautiful river, as well as how each and every one of you can play a part in protecting and restoring it.”

The Betterton event will be the fifth and final event in a series of ShoreRivers presentations that began in April and continued through May, unveiling the results of extensive water quality monitoring in the region. For more information, visit ShoreRivers.org/events or contact Julia Erbe at jerbe@shorerivers.org or 443.385.0511 ext. 210.

ShoreRivers protects and restores Eastern Shore waterways through science-based advocacy, restoration, and education. We work collaboratively with our community yet maintain an uncompromising and independent voice for clean rivers and the living resources they support.

ShoreRivers Presents the State of the Wye and Chester Rivers and Eastern Bay

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ShoreRivers will host the annual State of the Wye and Chester Rivers and Eastern Bay as well as the 2018 Report Card Release on Thursday, May 16, 2019. The event takes place in the Green Building of the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center, at 600 Discovery Lane in Grasonville, Maryland. Doors open at 5:30pm, presentation begins at 6pm. ShoreRivers staff will report on the current state of the Wye and Chester Rivers and Eastern Bay. Admission is free and open to the public. Light fare and refreshments will be provided. The event is sponsored by Dock Street Foundation and The Easton Group and the Easton Branch at Morgan Stanley.

ShoreRivers welcomes and encourages the community to join this evening of conversation and informative discussion as it releases its 2018 River Report Card. The report card reflects data collected at nearly 200 sites by ShoreRivers’ scientists, Riverkeepers, and more than 100 volunteers in ShoreRivers’ water quality monitoring program. This is an opportunity for the community to learn about the health and challenges of our local waterways and how the most recent grades compare to previous years. This presentation will feature ShoreRivers’ Chester Riverkeeper Tim Trumbauer and Miles-Wye Riverkeeper Elle Bassett giving interpretations of 2018 water quality results.

Riverkeepers Zack Kelleher (Sassafrass), Tim Trumbauer (Chester), Matt Pluta (Choptank), and Elle Bassett (Miles-Wye).

“This is an opportunity for community members from these local watersheds to come together and learn more about what we can do as a group to improve our local water quality,” said Bassett. “Our goal is to clean our rivers, and we can only do that with the steadfast support of our members, volunteers, staff, and fellow river stewards.”

The Kent Island event will be the fourth of five ShoreRivers presentations throughout April and May, unveiling the results of extensive water quality monitoring. The final presentation of the series will take place in Betterton, Maryland, detailing the state of the Sassafras River. For more information, visit ShoreRivers.org/events or contact Julia Erbe at jerbe@shorerivers.org or 443.385.0511 ext. 210.

ShoreRivers protects and restores Eastern Shore waterways through science-based advocacy, restoration, and education. We work collaboratively with our community yet maintain an uncompromising and independent voice for clean rivers and the living resources they support.

ShoreRivers and Washington College Present State of the Chester May 2

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Chester Riverkeeper Tim Trumbauer

ShoreRivers and Washington College’s Center for Environment & Society will co-host the annual State of the Chester River and 2018 Report Card Release on Thursday, May 2, 2019, in the Hynson Lounge of Washington College, located at 300 Washington Avenue in Chestertown, Maryland. Doors open at 5:30pm, presentation begins at 6pm. Admission is free and open to the public. Light fare and refreshments will be provided, including local oysters by Orchard Point Oyster Company. The event is sponsored by Dock Street Foundation, The Easton Group and the Easton Branch at Morgan Stanley, and Dukes-Moore Insurance Agency, Inc.

ShoreRivers welcomes and encourages the community to join this evening of conversation and informative discussion as it releases its 2018 River Report Card. The report card reflects data collected at nearly 200 sites by ShoreRivers’ scientists, Riverkeepers, and more than 100 volunteers in ShoreRivers’ water quality monitoring program. This is an opportunity for the community to learn about the health and challenges of our local waterways and how the most recent grades compare to previous years. The State of the Chester will feature ShoreRivers Chester Riverkeeper Tim Trumbauer, who will give interpretations of 2018 water quality results. Notably, Trumbauer will discuss pollution reduction and the record-setting rainfall experienced in 2018.

“At ShoreRivers, we’re working hard to reduce pollution and protect the fragile Chester River ecosystem; but we face significant challenges such as the recent record rainfall,” says Trumbauer. “I invite the community to come learn about the latest Chester River water quality trends—good and bad—and hear about our latest restoration efforts, as well as ways the community can help.”

The Chestertown event will be the second of five ShoreRivers presentations throughout April and May, unveiling the results of extensive water quality monitoring. Subsequent presentations will take place in St. Michaels, Grasonville, and Betterton. These events will detail the state of the Choptank, Sassafras, Miles, and Wye Rivers, and Eastern Bay, depending on location. For more information, visit ShoreRivers.org/events or contact Julia Erbe at jerbe@shorerivers.org or 443.385.0511 ext. 210.

ShoreRivers protects and restores Eastern Shore waterways through science-based advocacy, restoration, and education. We work collaboratively with our community yet maintain an uncompromising and independent voice for clean rivers and the living resources they support.

ShoreRivers Presents the State of the Miles, Wye, and Choptank May 3

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Miles-Wye Riverkeeper Elle Bassett collects water quality samples.

ShoreRivers will host the annual State of the Miles, Wye, and Choptank Rivers and 2018 Report Card Release on Friday, May 3, 2019, in the Small Boat Shed of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, located at 213 North Talbot Street in St. Michaels, Maryland. Doors open at 5:30pm, presentation begins at 6pm. Admission is free and open to the public. Light fare will be provided by Blue Heron Catering. Local oysters will be provided by Valliant Oyster Company and refreshments by Hair O’ the Dog Wine & Spirits.The event is sponsored by Dock Street Foundation and The Easton Group and the Easton Branch at Morgan Stanley.

ShoreRivers welcomes and encourages the community to join this evening of conversation, informative discussion, and release of its 2018 River Report Card. The report card reflects data collected at nearly 200 sites by ShoreRivers’ scientists, Riverkeepers, and more than 100 volunteers in ShoreRivers’ water quality monitoring program. This is an opportunity for the community to learn about the health and challenges of our local waterways and how the most recent grades compare to previous years.The presentation will feature ShoreRivers Director of Riverkeeper Programs and Choptank Riverkeeper Matt Pluta, as well as Miles-Wye Riverkeeper Elle Bassett. Bassett and Pluta will give interpretations of 2018 water quality monitoring results. Notably, Bassett will discuss new restoration and outreach opportunities that mitigate the decline in water quality in surrounding communities.

“Based on last year’s water quality results, which showed interesting declines in the Eastern Bay region,” Bassett explains, “we focused our efforts on new projects in the Kent Island and Prospect Bay region. We secured funding for multiple new projects that emphasize River-Friendly Yard stewardship practices, as well as nutrient and sediment pollution reducing practices. Considering the latest data from last year’s sampling, we will continue to focus our efforts in these regions and seek new opportunities in the headwaters of the Wye East and Miles rivers.”

The St. Michaels event will be the third of five ShoreRivers presentations throughout April and May, unveiling the results of extensive scientific water quality monitoring across the Eastern Shore. Subsequent presentations will take place in Grasonville on May 16 and Betterton on May 17. These events will detail the state of the Chester, Sassafras, and Wye Rivers, and Eastern Bay, depending on location. For more information, visit ShoreRivers.org/events or contact Julia Erbe at jerbe@shorerivers.org or 443.385.0511 ext. 210.

ShoreRivers protects and restores Eastern Shore waterways through science-based advocacy, restoration, and education. We work collaboratively with our community yet maintain an uncompromising and independent voice for clean rivers and the living resources they support.

Bees, Quail Disappear While Ticks Spread by Al Sikes

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The rabbit fit into the palm of my hand. It was stunned when I took it from the soft mouth of my Labrador Retriever; it invited rescue. I can recall other wild things that I have rescued, some reluctantly. Snakes lead the list. But this tiny bunny was right out of a children’s storybook.

My wife took the bunny and put it into a 12 inch tall cardboard box with water and lettuce and inserted the box into a sink on a kitchen island. The island was approximately 36 inches above the floor. We were reasonably optimistic that we were giving the bunny a chance to grow up to be a rabbit.

The following morning the bunny was gone. He had climbed up the slick surface of the box and had jumped to the floor. We and most importantly our two dogs looked everywhere. We felt certain they would scent the bunny. No luck.

Four days later the bunny reappeared, animated the dogs and after a short chase I caught it and took it outside where it quickly disappeared in the tall grasses just off our lawn.

Rabbits face predators from all sides and above. They are a prime source of calories for foxes, raptors and their tiny offspring are hunted by snakes among other predators. A rabbit has to have wild senses and the agility to elude the hungry. So too, Quail.

Quail have almost disappeared from much of their native grounds they shared with us. For many they are an abstraction. Their habitat has largely disappeared under the blade of heavy equipment and the toxins of herbicides. When is the last time you heard a quail sing or were startled by a covey rise? And we shouldn’t forget that quail are part of the food chain and lunch on ticks.

Several years ago I looked into a shortcut—releasing pen-raised quail on my farm. The story of the rabbit accentuates the folly. A rabbit purchased at a pet shop would not have escaped the box or rebounded from the fall. Pen-raised quail do not have nature’s defense mechanisms to avoid death.

A glimmer of hope has developed in recent years. Both State governments and private organizations have begun efforts to revive the wild quail. They are learning what works and doesn’t and getting better and better at their mission. But, fighting chemicals, heavy equipment and the desire, by some, to leave no dollars on the table is not easy work.

In a sense this is one more battle between irrepressible forces and immovable objects. Yet, in this case the immovable object is, well huge—industrial strength. It is underwritten by bottom lines that leave nature out of the equation. Try to find quail on an Excel spreadsheet.

Quail are fortunate in one respect. They have important allies—pollinators. Pollinators—bees and butterflies principally–depend on many of the same plants that provide protection and food for the quail. On a strictly utilitarian level we can do without quail, but not pollinators. Nature gives us life, including a mix of plants, grasses, trees, shrubs and of course wildlife; they comprise a virtuous circle. When we declare war on the natural systems, we are declaring war on ourselves. We convert a virtuous circle to a perverse one. Adults need to understand the birds and bees.

This is not a new story; humans become preoccupied with wants only to lose what we need. We need buffer filters for clean water. We need pollinators. And the loss of quail is the loss of an important inheritance, forgotten over time. The quail sings a captivating tune and then it is gone.

When my wife and I bought a small row crop farm, we were attracted to its topography and a farm setting on the upper Miles River. We did, however, plant corridors of warm season grasses and developed a five acre wetland.

Quail have not appeared but we have an abundance of very interesting species that crop fields eliminate. Turkey, rabbits, woodcocks and even a Eurasian wading bird called a Ruff have shown up. When the Ruff flew in to wade around our wetland, cars piled up along our right-of-way as Birders from hundreds of miles away came to catch sight of this rare bird.

Our grasses also started a number of interesting conversations. Many could not fathom fields left unmowed; our property was not patterned after a golf course. It became easy, however, to change the conversation as my wife and I are beekeepers and that attracts a lot of questions.

I wish our weekly visuals could be easily shared. A woodcock at sunset is thrilling. A turkey flush as my Labrador and I were walking a pathway got our attention and when we take an evening walk in the fall we often see ducks landing against an orange sky. But, no sighting of quail.

I did one day hear the quail song. It must have been a mockingbird, but then where did the mocking bird pick up the tune? A bit of hope, a distant time remembered.

The distant time was my first hunt with my Dad. We shot a quail or two, but the memory is in the pointing dogs work and the covey flush. So yes, I am a dreamer.

But let me go back briefly to my first hunt. Quail have not been hunted out and I have no intention of hunting them again. Quail have fallen to indifference.

While some are working to bring the Bobwhite Quail back, even more are working to protect pollinators; without habitat that supports quail, they too will decline and then disappear.  The thrills of nature are important, but the pollinators are crucial and that is where my native optimism is encouraged.

Wildlife habitat should be a part of every farm and large-scale commercial development. Studies show that farm edges and other marginal yield acres can be used for wildlife to economic advantage. And wildlife habitat should be in the equation as developers seek to convert large tracts of land. Federal and State programs exist to help private landowners reclaim any economic losses. In this respect, Missouri leads the way; it has 47 “private land conservationists” working with landowners on plans and funding alternatives.

Most farmers I know prize wildlife almost as much as their way of life. But many are caught in one of these endless cycles of economic scale and the debt that underwrites its growth. And there is certainly no end of industrial behemoths selling equipment, chemicals, and seeds and then buying the resulting harvest.

Yet, quail in many ways are the “canary in the coal mine”. A canary’s death told miners that the air was too polluted to go any further. As water cascades across parking lots, highways, and fertilized fields it gathers pollutants that wash directly into the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries unless there is habitat that filters water. And buffer habitat is the home of pollinators, songbirds, small mammals and potentially quail. Distilled down it is simple: if quail return, our watershed will flourish and not at the expense of the farmer.

Reclaiming our inheritance— clean water, quail, rabbits, pollinators, is our burden.

Remember the rabbit whose wild genes saved him from my Labrador, a cardboard box and a three foot fall? Tall Timbers, an organization that you have likely not heard of is making a difference—it is translocating wild quail, 5,400 to date and is working with a variety of partners to share research and best habitat practices.

It works with both private and public partners that can devote enough acres of habitat to make translocation work. Projects in the Mid-Atlantic include working collaboratively with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. One study site is Chino Farms in Queen Anne’s County and other Maryland sites are referred to as “habitat cooperatives” comprised of both private and public lands.

And on the northern fringes of quail territory Tall Timbers is working with New Jersey Audubon at the Pine Island Cranberry property where they are in their third year of translocating quail.

Several weeks ago I talked to Tall Timbers Czar of quail restoration, Theron Terhune, Ph.D., Director Game Bird Program. I joked with him that he has the power that most Czars of this or that lack. Terhune assesses a potential translocation site and its habitat and management practices must measure up or it will not receive wild quail.

I would love to hear the quail song from my front porch. I dream about being startled again by the thunderous covey flush. Maybe my neighborhood will someday support quail but only if I act. Leaving a land ethic to others should not be an option.

Interviews for this essay included: Dan Small, Field Ecologist and Natural Lands Project Coordinator, Washington College; Christopher Williams, Professor of Wildlife Ecology, University of Delaware; Dave Hoover, Small Game Coordinator, Missouri Department of Conservation; Bob Long, Wild Turkey and Upland Game Bird Project, Department of Natural Resources, Maryland; Dr. Theron Terhune, Game Bird Program Director, Tall Timbers; Ned Gerber, Wildlife Habitat Ecologist, Jerry Harris and Bill DAlonzo, dedicated private landowners.

Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al recently published Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books. 

Mid-Shore Public Transportation: Shared Mobility Coming to Chestertown

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One of the best highlights of the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy’s recent conference on traffic and public transportation last week, and there were many, was the discovery that Washington College is very close to offering a shared mobility program in Chestertown.

Working with the New Jersey-based Greenspot, which offers mobility solutions using an electric charging station infrastructure,  the College’s Enactus team to develop what it’s hoped to be the first of many stations throughout the Mid-Shore.

Last week the Spy sat down with Greenspot’s Brett Muney, its locations development manager, for a brief introduction to the for-profit company and its plans with Washington College. The net result of which would bring an exciting new option in the region’s efforts to expand its public transportation capacity.

This video is approximately six minutes in length. For more information on the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy please go here

Maryland Officials Join Opposition to Seismic Tests in the Ocean

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Maryland officials have joined a host of congressmen in opposing the Trump administration’s plan to start underwater seismic testing along the Atlantic coast, operations that could lead to increased domestic production of oil and gas, but also could be harmful to marine animals.

The offshore seismic testing would be part of oil and gas exploration from Florida up the East Coast to Delaware, including the coast of Maryland.

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh and eight other attorneys general joined as parties to a lawsuit aimed at stopping the testing, which they said would subject marine creatures such as whales, porpoises and dolphins to extremely loud sounds.

“While the (Trump) administration continues to place the interests of the fossil fuel industry ahead of our precious natural resources, attorneys general up and down the Atlantic coast will continue to fight these and other efforts to open the waters off our shores to drilling for oil and gas,” Frosh said in a statement. “Our filing seeks to prevent any seismic testing going forward while our lawsuit is pending.”

Frosh’s coalition includes attorneys general from Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, and Virginia.

Governor Larry Hogan, who called for President Donald Trump to remove Maryland from the states involved in seismic testing, authorized the lawsuit against the federal government.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland, also supports the suit against the administration.

“Seismic testing that blasts the ocean floor with high powered air guns threatens marine life, including commercial fisheries that are vital to the economy of Maryland’s coastal communities,” Van Hollen said in a statement to the Capital News Service. “That’s why I have repeatedly opposed proposals to allow this practice – and subsequent oil and gas drilling – off the Atlantic.”

The Trump administration’s plan was initially challenged by National Resources Defense Council, which said the testing violated the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act.

Seismic testing includes underwater blasts that would occur approximately every 10 seconds for weeks or months at a time, the NRDC said. Right whales, a species that has seen its population dwindle to roughly 400 in the Atlantic, could be fatally harmed, according to the organization.

“Should (seismic testing) go forward, this blasting will irreparably harm marine species, from tiny zooplankton—the foundation of ocean life—to the great whales,” the NRDC said. “The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has authorized one company to harm more than 50,000 dolphins and another company to harm 20,000 more.”

The NFMS, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, gave clearance to these companies under the condition that there be guidelines to protect nearby marine life. Stipulations require acoustic monitoring in the area where seismic testing is being conducted as well as a crew of observers onboard to alert operators if a protected species comes within a certain distance.

“NOAA Fisheries is clear in the documentation related to (authorizations) that we do not expect mortality to occur as a result of these surveys,” said organization spokeswoman Katherine Brogan.

The agency also requires testing to be shut down when “certain sensitive species or groups are observed” in the area.

Michael Jasny, director of the Marine Mammal Protection Project for the NRDC, told Capital News Service that the lawsuit is currently awaiting a decision from the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina.

While the administration and environmentalist groups wait for a decision on the lawsuit, seismic testing has yet to begin. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) hasn’t issued the necessary permits, but those permits could come out “any day,” according to Jasny.

If the BOEM issues permits to these companies, they would be required to give 30 days notice before beginning seismic testing. If the 30-day grace period passes and no decision is reached on the lawsuits, the companies would then have the green light to begin testing.

Five companies – ION Geophysical, Spectrum, TGS, WesternGeco, and CGG – have received clearance from the Trump administration and now await permits from the BOEM, Jasny said.

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