Interior Announces $6 Million Grant for Blackwater Refuge


The US Department of the Interior announced yesterday that the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Dorchester County will receive just shy of $6 million to conserve 2,500 acres of habitat to protect migratory birds.

The funds were approved by the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission, which allocates funds to the Interior Department to acquire and conserve migratory bird habitat in the National Wildlife Refuge System.

The commission meets twice a year to allocate funds and Blackwater Refuge was one of only five projects nationwide to receive grants in the announcement.

The Blackwater grant is aimed at protecting “migrating and wintering American black ducks, mallards, Canada geese and greater snow geese, as well as habitat for black rail, salt-marsh sparrow and other wetland-associated migratory birds. The project will add over 2,600 acres to the refuge’s public hunt program, expanding public opportunities for white-tailed deer, sika deer, turkey, and waterfowl hunting,” according to a press release on June 19.

The funds are made possible from the Duck Stamp program and will go directly to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to manage the project. The stamp program was established in 1934 and 98% of the revenue goes to buy and protect wetlands.

Clean Chesapeake Coalition-funded Documentary Nominated for Local Emmy Award



The Conowingo Dam, the main target of the Clean Chesapeake Coalition’s lobbying efforts

In a press release dated June 18, the Clean Chesapeake Coalition announced that on Saturday, June 22, the National Capital Chesapeake Bay Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences will host its 61st Emmy Awards in Bethesda, Maryland. Among many worthy nominees are producers Thomas and Matthew Locastro of Locastro Design, LLC for The Conowingo Factor, which was funded by the CCC and distributed by Sinclair Broadcast Group. This is the fifth nomination the Locastro brothers have received for their documentary work and the second collaboration between the two and the Clean Chesapeake Coalition (CCC).

It was the summer of 2014 when the Locastro brothers discovered the situation at the Conowingo Dam. “We had never heard about the Conowingo Dam before, much less all of the controversy surrounding it. That’s what made it even more shocking when we learned that Exelon was about to renew the Dam’s 46-year operating permit,” says Matthew. “At that time, my brother and I were thinking about starting a video production business together and this seemed like a great project to kick things off,” explained Thomas. Working at breakneck speed, the two conducted interviews over a three-day period and 19 days later, released The Conowingo Scandal on YouTube. According to Matthew, “we weren’t really sure what to expect with taking on the project. We just knew we wanted there to be a bigger conversation about the issue. We were amazed at how fast things ended up taking off.” Within weeks, their 2014 video had electrified an online debate, received national coverage with the outlet Think Progress, and even got them an audience and screening with then-Gubernatorial candidate, Larry Hogan, and his team of advisors.

Since that time, the Locastro brothers have built a thriving documentary production company that has won a regional Murrow, three Emmys and has had films featured at various domestic and international film festivals. Their documentary, Saber Rock, was released in theaters and became one of 77 films that competed for the 2018 Short Documentary Oscar. This earned them a 7-minute interview on CNN. Thomas says, “As we developed the craft of documentary filmmaking, we would sometimes think about our first video on the Conowingo Dam and wonder if we would ever get a chance to remake it. We were thrilled when we got the opportunity to partner with both the Clean Chesapeake Coalition and Sinclair Broadcast Group to help get this story in front of even more people.”

Both the original and The Conowingo Factor were commissioned by the CCC whose member counties have, since its inception in 2012, advocated for prudent, fiscally responsible strategies to improve the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay. To that end, the CCC has been drawing attention to the threat it sees is posed by the Dam, whose reservoir has reached dynamic equilibrium and is no longer effectively trapping nutrient-laden sediment from loading into the Bay. The CCC has been at the forefront of this issue for years, long before the current surge of interest in the threat the infilled reservoir poses to Bay health, back when certain special interest groups were still calling the impacts of the Conowingo Dam a “red herring” in the context of saving the Bay. Says CCC Chairman, Ron Fithian, “Anyone who was around when Hurricane Agnes hit in 1972 knows that it signaled the end of the oysters in the Upper Bay. Though they didn’t end up having to use the explosives they placed in case they had to blow the Dam, the amount of sediment that came through those open spill gates smothered oyster bars and other aquatic life that still hasn’t recovered… almost 50 years and billions of restoration dollars later.”

The Conowingo Dam is currently owned by Exelon Generation Company, a Fortune 100 company with 2018 revenues of $35.9 billion dollars. Since prior to the Dam’s operating license expiring in 2014, Exelon has been seeking a new, 46-year license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Part of this process calls for a Water Quality Certification from the State of Maryland under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. Serious concerns voiced by the State resulted in Exelon voluntarily withdrawing its application and re-submitting it for several years running, while they sought to address the issues raised through the process. In April 2018, the State of Maryland was finally able to issue a Water Quality Certification but did so with conditions, as is their federally mandated right through their jurisdiction over the navigable waters of the State. Exelon responded by suing Maryland in two courts and administratively.

CCC member counties and their county officials remain disappointed at the lengths Exelon is willing to take to shirk environmental responsibility associated with the operation of this lucrative power station. This private, for-profit corporation claims that the Maryland Department of the Environment’s qualifications for a Water Quality Certification are “impracticable.” Meanwhile, Maryland counties with annual budgets that are a tiny fraction of Exelon’s revenues are spending enormous amounts of taxpayer dollars to develop and implement their Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs) and help Maryland meet its Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) goals. At the same time, local economies of Bayside counties are hurt by the Conowingo Factor impacts on the seafood and tourism industries.

Last week the Chesapeake Bay Program, quoting the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), reported that in the spring of this year, 2019, the Susquehanna delivered 102.6 million pounds of nitrogen to the Bay. To put that into perspective, consider that the Maryland Department of the Environment calculates that a single conventional septic system releases 23.2 lbs. of nitrogen annually into the groundwater; if they are upgraded, this figure is cut in half. There are approximately 420,000 septic systems in Maryland. Based on the USGS figures, this means that in a few months, the Susquehanna delivered the same amount of nitrogen that 4,422,414 conventional septic systems, or 2,211,2017 upgraded systems, deliver in a year. How many billions are we spending to upgrade septic while ignoring the upstream problem posed by decades of pollution collecting behind the Dam waiting for spill gates to open?

Well-supported by science and enforceable under the law, the Hogan Administration has embraced the once-in-a-generation opportunity to impose licensing conditions requiring the owner of Conowingo Dam to properly manage the vast quantities of nutrients, sediment and other contaminants that are accumulated in the reservoir above the Dam and scoured into the Bay, not just during major storm events but now, with increasing frequency, because of the loss of trapping capacity in the reservoir. The CCC remains supportive of these crucial efforts and to that end, in March of this year filed a Motion to Intervene in the Petition for Declaratory Order by Exelon Generation Company now pending before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). County officials realize that, in the event of a 25-year storm (which has an 80% chance of occurring over the life of the new operating license), the efforts financed through billions of taxpayer dollars and charitable contributions will be as dead as the oyster reefs that flourished in the Upper Bay before they were smothered by the sediment scoured from behind the Conowingo Dam during Hurricane Agnes. In the event that The Conowingo Factor wins an Emmy later this month, it may provide a further boost to the State’s efforts to require that Exelon not only receives lucrative benefits from the public waters of the State, but also plays a part in protecting this valuable resource.

Residents Question Funding of Clean Chesapeake Coalition


The Conowingo Dam, the main target of the Clean Chesapeake Coalition’s lobbying efforts

During the June 4 public hearing by the Kent County Commissioner on the county budget for Fiscal Year 2020, Grenville Whitman of Rock Hall and William Herb, a retired hydrologist who lives on Fairlee Creek, raised questions about the county’s donation to the Clean Chesapeake Coalition. The draft budget includes a $17,000 donation to the Coalition, an amount matched by five other Shore counties, for a total of $85,000. Since 2013, the first year of the Coalition’s existence, the county has donated $159,000 to the Coalition. In addition to Kent, Caroline, Carroll, Cecil, Dorchester, and Queen Anne’s counties are members of the Coalition. Kent County Commissioner Ron Fithian is chairman of the Coalition.

The objective of the Clean Chesapeake Coalition, according to its website, is “to pursue improvement to the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay in the most prudent and fiscally responsible manner – through research, coordination, and advocacy.” It specifically identifies the reservoir of the Conowingo Dam, which is owned and operated by Exelon Corporation, as “the largest single point source of pollution to Bay waters.” The Conowingo Dam is located on the Susquehanna River just before it enters the Bay.

Herb, who testified first, said, “The Coalition wastes taxpayers’ money by pursuing a campaign against Exelon, and erroneously blames future contamination threats on the Conowingo Dam. The Coalition’s website identifies no staff or contract support with technical expertise. Members of the Coalition are public officials whose resumes demonstrate no scientific or engineering capability. Commissioners Jacob and Mason would be unwise to seek my advice on how to run a business. Commissioner Fithian would be equally unwise to ask me how to harvest oysters. The Commissioners should not unwisely get advice on complex hydrologic and environmental issues from those with no qualifications.”

He went on to note, “The Coalition purports to be in favor of a clean Chesapeake, but documents no successes in reducing even one ounce of contamination to the Bay. […] The Coalition’s budget for 2020 projects 78% for Legal, including lobbying, 11% for General Administration, and 11% for Communication, but not one cent for pollution reduction.”

Kent County Commissioner Ron Fithian – Photo by Jane Jewell

Herb said, “All of the sediment, nitrogen, and phosphorus that have entered the Bay in the past, or that will enter the Bay in the future via the Susquehanna River have their origins in Pennsylvania and New York, and not in the operation of the Conowingo Dam. If the Commissioners and the Coalition are really serious about protecting the Bay, they should seek to collect from these two upstream states, and not from a private entity, whose major environmental transgression seems to be having deep pockets.”

Finally, Herb asked that Fithian, as Chair of the Coalition, should recuse himself from any discussion, action, or vote regarding the Coalition to avoid a conflict of interest. He offered to present his technical analysis of the Conowingo Dam and the Bay to any or all of the commissioners.

Grenville Whitman at the Kent County Commissioners’ budget hearing, June 4 – Photo by Peter Heck

Whitman referred to a letter he and Herb wrote to the commissioners on April 29, which made two requests: that the commissioners conduct a public hearing “to determine what actual, tangible, real benefits Kent County residents have received from their substantial investment so far;” and that Fithian recuse himself from any discussion and abstain from any vote on his group’s funding request. He went on to list the kinds of questions the commissioners should ask before continuing the funding: what benefits have Kent County residents received for their $159,000 donations since 2013? What are the Coalition’s three most notable accomplishments in that time? And have the Coalition’s records been audited after it has received nearly $1 million in public funding?

Whitman said, “Until these questions—and others—are put to the Coalition and the Coalition responds, this funding request has not been subjected to due diligence. I ask that this request be denied, and that $17,000 be re-directed to a program that directly benefits Kent County residents. The county school system comes to mind.”

Whitman also questioned the ethics of the commissioners in allocating county funds to a group chaired by one of their members. “Perhaps the county Ethics Commission should be invited to look into this arrangement and rule on it,” he said. He questioned the ethics of the county “doling out public money” to a group that lobbies against federal and state programs and policies. He said the Coalition was within its rights to so lobby, but for them to use public funding for the purpose was questionable.

The commissioners did not respond to either Herb or Whitman at the budget hearing. At their regular meeting Tuesday, June 11, the commissioners voted unanimously to adopt the FY2020 budget. All three commissioners took part in the vote.

Large Summer ‘Dead Zone’ Forecast for Chesapeake Bay


Ecologists from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and the University of Michigan are forecasting a large Chesapeake Bay “dead zone” in 2019 due to well-above-average river flows associated with increased rainfall in the watershed since last fall.

“The forecast this year reflects the high levels of precipitation that have been observed across the Bay’s watershed,” said report co-author Jeremy Testa of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. “The high flows observed this spring, in combination with very high flows late last fall, are expected to result in large volumes of hypoxic and anoxic water.”

The bay’s hypoxic (low oxygen) and anoxic (no oxygen) zones are caused by excess nutrient pollution, primarily from agriculture and wastewater. The excess nutrients stimulate an overgrowth of algae, which then sinks and decomposes in the water. The resulting low oxygen levels are insufficient to support most marine life and habitats in near-bottom waters, threatening the bay’s crabs, oysters and other fisheries.

This summer’s Chesapeake Bay hypoxic or “dead zone,” an area of low oxygen that can kill fish and other aquatic life, is expected to be about 2.1 cubic miles, while the volume of water with no oxygen is predicted to be between 0.49 and 0.63 cubic miles during early and late summer.

The predicted volumes are larger than the dead zone observed during the summer of 2018 and would be among the four largest in the past 20 years. Measurements of the Chesapeake Bay’s dead zone go back to 1950, and the 30-year mean maximum dead zone volume is 1.74 cubic miles.

“The forecast is not surprising considering the near-record high flows in 2018 that have continued into 2019,” said Bruce Michael, director of the Resource Assessment Service at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. “That said, bottom dissolved oxygen concentrations are improving over the long-term in Maryland’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay, indicating our efforts to reduce nutrient pollution throughout the entire watershed are improving water quality conditions, helping to support fish, shellfish and our aquatic resources.”

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources will conduct bimonthly Bay water quality monitoring cruises June through August to track Bay summer hypoxia. Results from each monitoring cruise will be available on the Department’s Eyes on the Bay website at

The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Chesapeake Bay Report Card released earlier this spring gave the Bay a grade of “C” in 2018, in part due to the extreme precipitation. Spring rainfall plays an important role in determining the size of the Chesapeake Bay “dead zone.” This year, exceptionally high spring rainfall and streamflow is transporting nitrogen to tidal waters in amounts above the long-term average, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, which provides the nitrogen-loading estimates used to generate the annual hypoxia forecast.

In spring 2019, the Susquehanna River delivered 102.6 million pounds of nitrogen into the Chesapeake Bay. The Potomac River, as measured near Washington, D.C., supplied an additional 47.7 million pounds of nitrogen, according to USGS. This is well-above long-term averages of 80.6 million pounds from the Susquehanna and 31.8 million pounds from the Potomac. Loads from the Susquehanna have not been this high since 2011.

“Managing estuarine responses to changing conditions on the landscape continues to be one of the nation’s environmental challenges,” said Joel Blomquist, hydrologist for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). “The science partnership in the Chesapeake Bay is setting the standard for supporting environmental managers with observation-based science.”

“This year’s forecast is for the fourth largest dead zone in the past 20 years, illustrating that more work needs to be done,” said University of Michigan aquatic ecologist and report coauthor Don Scavia. “The Chesapeake Bay dead zone remains considerably larger than the reduction goals, and we’ll never reach those targets unless more is done to reduce nutrient pollution.”

The bay outlook is based on models developed at the University of Michigan and the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, with funding provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and data generated by the United States Geological Survey and Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

Throughout the year, researchers measure oxygen and nutrient levels as part of the Chesapeake Bay Monitoring Program, run by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. This year’s findings will be released in the fall.

Chesapeake Report Card: Bay Health Decreased Last Year due to Rainfall but General Trend Improving


The Chesapeake Bay score decreased in 2018, but maintained a C grade, according to the 2018 Chesapeake Bay Report Card issued today by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES). This was due to extremely high precipitation over the year. Despite extreme rainfall last year, the overall trend indicates that Chesapeake Bay health is improving over time.

“While 2018 was a difficult year for Chesapeake health due to high rainfall, we are seeing trends that the Bay is still significantly improving over time. This is encouraging because the Bay is showing resilience to climate change,” said Bill Dennison, Vice President for Science Application at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.

Almost all indicators of Bay health, such as water clarity, underwater grasses, and dissolved oxygen, as well as almost all regions, declined in 2018. In particular, chlorophyll a and total nitrogen scores had strong declines due to very high rainfall causing nutrient runoff that then fed algal blooms. However, the overall Bay-wide trend is improving. Since 2014, all regions have been improving or remaining steady.

“Our administration is pleased to see continued improvement in the health and resilience of our most precious natural asset, the Chesapeake Bay. Since taking office, we have been focused on improving the health of the Bay, investing a record $5 billion toward wide-ranging restoration programs. This report, along with the great news that Maryland’s crab population has grown 60%, is yet another promising sign of ongoing improvement of the Bay and that our continued investment is making a difference,” said Maryland Governor Larry Hogan.

Of the many factors that affect Chesapeake Bay health, the extreme precipitation seen in 2018 appears to have had the biggest impact. The Baltimore area received 72 inches of rain in 2018, which is 170% above the normal of 42 inches. As a result, the reporting region closest to Baltimore—the Patapsco and Back Rivers—saw a decline in health, decreasing to an F grade in 2018. The strongest regional declines were in the Elizabeth River and the Choptank River. The two regions that remained steady were the Lower Bay and the York River.

“The extreme precipitation in 2018 was a key issue, and current science shows that with climate change this area is going to be warmer and wetter,” said Peter Goodwin, President of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. “The Bay is in fact showing resilience in the face of climate change and extreme weather events, underlining that the restoration efforts must remain vigilant to continue these hard-won efforts.”

Fish populations received a B grade, showing a steep decline from the previous year’s score of A. Striped bass numbers sharply declined in 2018, while blue crab and bay anchovy scores declined somewhat (although blue crab are showing a revival in early 2019). These drops in scores are a cause for concern as smaller populations could lead to further declines in the future.

“This is not the time to put the brakes on efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay. Our progress has been hampered by extreme weather events, but we must keep fighting,” said U.S. Senator Ben Cardin. “The health of the Chesapeake Bay depends on all of us in the region—federal, state, local, and private partners—working together toward a common goal: the preservation and restoration of the watershed, which in turn ensures better health for our citizens, economy, and local wildlife.”

“Improving the health of the Bay doesn’t happen overnight, or even in a month or a year. We must be constantly vigilant in our efforts to restore the Bay, and that starts with providing adequate funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program and other cleanup efforts,” said U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen. “I will continue working through my role on the Appropriations Committee to prevent attempts to cut funding and to provide the Bay with the resources it needs to thrive.”

Actions that individuals can take to contribute to a cleaner Bay include reducing fertilizer use from all sources, carpooling and using public transportation, and connecting with people across the entire Bay Watershed to work together.

This is the 13th year that the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Integration and Application Network has produced the report card. It is the longest-running and most comprehensive assessment of Chesapeake Bay and its waterways. This report card uses extensive data and analysis which enhances and supports the science, management, and restoration of the Bay. For more information about the 2018 Chesapeake Bay Report Card including region-specific data, visit

View The Chesapeake Bay Report Card here.

Bees, Quail Disappear While Ticks Spread by Al Sikes


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


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

ESLC’s Darius Johnson Would Like Your Attention on Bay Bridge Traffic Solutions


While the Mid-Shore has been fixated on issues related to a third Chesapeake Bay bridge possibly landing in their backyard, The Eastern Shore Land Conservancy’s Darius Johnson would politely suggest that the region turn its focus on the problems that exist now with bridge traffic and the real consequences for our communities along Route 50.

As the recently hired project director with ESLC, Johnson has been tasked with managing one of the organization’s oldest traditions; its annual planning conference, now in its 19th year. And the one day program, suitably named “ReRouting,” will place most of the attention on “here and now” traffic and transportation challenges.  How appropriate it that it will be held at the base of Chesapeake Bay Bridge to the The Chesapeake Bay Beach Club.

The Spy caught up with Darius at the Eastern Shore Conservation Center last week to chat about the conference.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. For more information about the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy’s ReRouting Conference on April 18 please go here.





ESLC’s Jim Bass Reports on Eastern Shore’s Preparedness for Rising Seas Levels


Given the nature of things – literally – it won’t be surprising for the Eastern Shore to have several studies prepared in the decades ahead that record and evaluate the dangers facing its rural communities as sea levels continue to rise throughout the century.

With the Delmarva Peninsula being one of the country’s most vulnerable landscapes for flooding and erosion as the result of global warming, there is an ever growing concern on the part of local government staff, conservation organizations, agricultural associations, and state agencies on what is being done, and what could be done, to prepare the Shore for this extraordinarily dramatic shift in climate.

One of the first of these has just been prepared by the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy with a new study to assist local governments to plan for the impacts of sea level rise. Titled “Mainstreaming Sea Level Rise Preparedness in Local Planning and Policy on Maryland’s Eastern Shore,” the study is centered on sea level rise projections for the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries in the years 2050 and 2100.

This report was written on behalf of the Eastern Shore Climate Adaptation Partnership  – a regional workgroup of local government staff, partners from the State of Maryland, academic institutions, and nonprofits for that very reason.

The ESCAP assists communities in reducing climate vulnerabilities and risks; collects and shares information among communities and decision makers; and educates members, residents, and elected leaders on risks and adaptation strategies. It also serves to raise the visibility and voice of the Eastern Shore and rural regions in conversations about adaptation and resilience.

The Spy sat down last week with Jim Bass, ESLC’s Coastal Resilience Specialist, who helped manage the study, last week to find out what the significant takeaways were and what must be done in the future to protect and defend the Mid-Shore from this dangerous new future we face.

This video is approximately six minutes in length. For more information regarding this study, ESCAP, or ESLC’s coastal resilience program, please contact ESLC Coastal Resilience Specialist Jim Bass at study is available to view and download at

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