ForeFront Power and ESLC Announce Partnership to Expand Renewable Energy

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In the spirit of forming community partnerships that support local initiatives – while also spreading the benefits of renewable energy to local residents – Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ESLC) is excited to announce a new partnership with solar energy provider ForeFront Power. In the partnership, ForeFront will donate $100 towards the organization’s programs and initiatives for each new Community Solar subscriber obtained via ESLC’s network of constituents.

You can reserve your spot in one of ForeFront Power’s Community Solar farms by following the link below to review the various plans available to you. To ensure that your subscription benefits ESLC, just use the code ESLC100 during the formal enrollment process to ensure that your impact is achieved. ForeFront will then follow up with more details on next steps and what to expect.

Community solar projects give local energy consumers access to solar energy generated on smaller land footprints. For example, ForeFront Power’s Community Solar projects range from 12 to 22 acres.

Eastern Shore residents across Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia are acutely aware that the region is the third most vulnerable to sea-level rise in the nation, according to the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. Community Solar subscribers will be doing their part in supporting renewable energy adoption (while saving money) on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

Currently, approximately half of U.S. households are unable to install rooftop solar due to space, lack of sun exposure or ownership limitations, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). Community Solar gives these households – including those who rent – an easy way to benefit from solar without installing or maintaining any equipment.

Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ESLC), founded in 1990, is working to educate residents on these impacts while continuing their mission to protect farmland and natural areas. Through these efforts, ESLC has protected nearly 65,000 acres of the Eastern Shore’s important natural habitat areas and prime farmland through easements on more than 310 properties.

Questions? Feel free to reach out to ForeFront via email at MDCustomerCare@forefrontpower.com or by phone at (410) 442-6127.

Maryland Funds Washington College’s Natural Land Project

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Washington College’s Natural Lands Project (NLP), which is providing Eastern Shore landowners an innovative option for restoring wildlife habitat and improving water quality in the Chesapeake Bay, has earned a state grant of more than $535,000 to transform 200 acres of the Conquest Beach Preserve in Queen Anne’s County.

Partnering with Queen Anne’s County Department of Parks and Recreation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife program, the NLP will create 125 acres of meadows, 38 acres of wetlands, and 38 acres of forest within the preserve, which lies between the Corsica and Chester rivers. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources Natural Filters Program is providing $536,319 for the project, bringing to nearly $2 million to date total federal and state funding for NLP projects, says Dan Small, a field ecologist and coordinator of the NLP, which is managed by the College’s Center for Environment & Society (CES).

“This is the second project we have done on public land. The first was an 83-acre grassland we completed last year at the Sassafras Natural Resources Management Area,” Small says. “Working on public land is especially exciting because it gives us the ability to create large projects, which are really important for grassland birds, and also an opportunity to educate the public about the importance of these habitats for the wildlife that depends on them.

“The Conquest Preserve’s location between two rivers is also significant,” Small says. “While we’re going to be creating habitat to support native species like bobwhite quail, we’re also going to see fantastic benefits to water quality thanks to the buffering and filtering capacity of these habitats.”

A monarch butterfly in an NLP meadow in Betterton, Maryland

CES estimates that the new project at Conquest will remove nearly 43,000 pounds of sediment and 1,100 pounds of nitrogen from both watersheds annually. It will also provide critical habitat for pollinators and bird species including a variety of waterfowl and potentially the black rail, an elusive marsh bird that is in danger of extirpation in Maryland.

Conquest Preserve has 3.2 miles of waterfront along the Chester River and is a popular spot among local birders and boaters. The NLP project is inland of the beach area and will include broad meadows planted in native warm-season grasses and flowers to support pollinator and bird populations, as well as areas of native trees and shrubs. Public walking paths will be incorporated throughout.

“The ability to work in partnership with Washington College and its exceptional staff to achieve the objectives of the county’s master plan for Conquest Preserve is the best case in trying to balance the recreational needs of our community with the protection of natural resources and sensitive lands,” says Nancy E. Scozzari, Chief of Parks and Resource Planning for the county Department of Parks and Recreation. “This project development will provide acres of habitat, ensure protection of natural resources, and provide the public passive recreational opportunities unlike those found elsewhere in Queen Anne’s County.”

Originating from the wildlife and habitat management on Washington College’s 4,700-acre River and Field Campus to help restore bobwhite quail to the region, the Natural Lands Project was launched in 2015. The project has steadily gained momentum as landowners and public entities have seen the benefits of taking marginal cropland and converting it to wildlife habitat. Since its inception, the NLP has created 540 acres of upland meadows and 49 acres of wetlands on 36 private properties in Kent, Queen Anne’s, and Talbot counties. On public land, so far the NLP has received funding to create 208 acres of upland meadows, 38 acres of wetlands, and 83 acres of trees and forestation.

In total, CES estimates that when this latest project is completed, all of the NLP sites combined will remove annually 12,042 pounds of nitrogen, 619 pounds of phosphorous, and 228,696 pounds of sediment from the Bay’s tributaries.

Collaborators with Washington College on these projects include ShoreRivers, Maryland State Parks, the Queen Anne’s County Department of Parks and Recreation, Partners for Fish and Wildlife, Ducks Unlimited, Tall Timbers Research Station, the state Department of Natural Resources, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF).

Floral Paintings by Lani Browning on View Through July at Adkins Arboretum

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So lush, delicate and exquisitely colored that you can almost smell them, Lani Browning’s floral oil paintings on linen fill the gallery in Adkins Arboretum’s Visitor’s Center. This Centreville artist is well known for her award-winning landscape paintings, but in her show Bloom, on view through July 26, she focuses exclusively on flowers. There will be a reception to meet the artist on Sat., June 22 from 3 to 5 p.m.

“I simply love flowers,” Browning said. “Always have. They make me happy. I’m enjoying a more intimate way of expressing myself by observing flowers and ‘listening’ to their stories.”

It’s a tribute to Browning’s exceptional skills as a painter that each of the flowers she paints is an individual. Each blossom in her “Casablanca Lilies” seems to reach out with its own particular animated gesture, and each is at a different stage in its development. The multicolored flowers in “Daffodils” appear to be engaged in a lively conversation, and every tiny, purplish floret in “Redbud” seems to be dancing with those around it.

Browning is a master at rendering exquisite shading and the subtleties of light and shadow with loose, deceptively casual brushstrokes. She deftly captures the intricacy and nuances of each five-petaled flower in the billowing branches of “Cherry Blossoms.” While the foreground blossoms catch the light on their delicate, pale pink petals, those behind fade back into the shadows, becoming more mysterious and impressionistic as they recede into the distance.

Browning explained, “I am interested in the flowers as personalities—the elegance of a rose, the perkiness of a daffodil, the romance of a peony—and playing with how they ‘emerge’ in my field of vision, thus the ‘pulling in and out’ of details.”

“Cherry Blossoms” by Lani Browning

There’s a glow to Browning’s flowers that makes them feel distinctly alive. Many are caught in the act of opening their petals, and the stems of those in full flower bend just a little, bringing to mind the phrase “heavy with blossom.”

“I paint the flowers from life,” Browning said. “It’s a challenge inside or outside. You must paint quickly! I rarely cut them unless there is an abundance of blossoms and/or a storm is coming. When I do cut them for a vase, it allows me to study them more closely, and my studio is filled with heavenly fragrance.”

Adding to a long list of honors, Browning recently won an award from the Oil Painters of America for her luminous painting “Hydrangeas,” which was included in its National Spring Online Exhibition, as well as in the Adkins show, and a People’s Choice Award from Chestertown RiverArts for her landscape “Chesapeake Environmental Center” in its Art of Stewardship Exhibit.

Despite her current focus on flowers, Browning continues to paint landscapes, finding particular inspiration in the Eastern Shore skies and water reflections and sometimes traveling to Cape Henlopen to paint the waves or even to Chestertown’s Downrigging festival to work on her series of paintings of the tall ship Kalmar Nyckel.

“The main thing is I like to change things up,” she said. “Tackle things I haven’t fully explored while still keeping my hand in those subjects that I’m more known for. I don’t like to repeat myself.”

This show is part of Adkins Arboretum’s ongoing exhibition series of work on natural themes by regional artists. It is on view through July 26 at the Arboretum Visitor’s Center located at 12610 Eveland Road near Tuckahoe State Park in Ridgely. Contact the Arboretum at 410–634–2847, ext. 0 or info@adkinsarboretum.org for gallery hours.

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 and gardening. For more information, visit adkinsarboretum.org or call 410-634-2847, ext. 0.

Local Climate Advocates heading to D.C. to Push Bipartisan Carbon-pricing Bill

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With scientists warning that we must cut heat-trapping emissions by half in the next 12 years to avert climate catastrophe, members of the Chestertown chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) will travel to Washington, D.C., this June to join more than 1,000 volunteers pressing Congress to enact legislation that would place a fee and carbon and give revenue to households.

One of those volunteers, Hope Clark is particularly motivated to meet with her members of Congress. “I will be delivering the message that we need to work together to pass Bi-partisan legislation immediately to deal with this climate crisis.

The Chestertown CCL volunteers are heading to Washington for the 10th Annual International Conference and Lobby Day. Following two days of informational sessions and training, they will go to Capitol Hill on June 11 for meetings with the offices of Representative Andy Harris and Senator Van Hollen. They will seek support for the bipartisan Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (H.R. 763), which would put a fee on all oil, gas and coal we use in the United States. It will drive down carbon pollution because energy companies and Americans will choose cleaner, cheaper energy options. The money from the fee will be returned directly to people as a monthly rebate. Most American households will end up with more money in their pockets.

“As more and more people experience the impact of climate change, pressure is increasing on Congress to take action.” said Hope Clark, group leader of the Chestertown chapter. “Here on the Eastern Shore, we are feeling the impact in the form of water temperature and water salinity changes which is affecting the businesses of our waterman. Also, sea level rise and coastal erosion is affecting our coastal properties. Let’s work together. Act from home on June 5th, call your Representatives – details at www.cclusa.org/call and on June 11th, Tweet your Representatives – details at www.cclusa.org/tweet”

Citizens’ Climate Lobby is a national, nonpartisan advocacy organization working to bring Republicans and Democrats together on market-based solutions to climate change. The group has been the primary catalyst for the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, which now has more than three dozen cosponsors.

For more information please contact Hope Clark, chestertown.md@citizensclimatelobby.org 917 442 9424

Celebrate the Land with Music and More at LANDJAM!

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Want to get outside? Here it is – a fun and festive family-friendly event held on the permanently preserved Leigh Family Farm in Betterton, MD. Eastern Shore Land Conservancy’s (ESLC) event aims to get anyone who loves the outdoors to join them on this Kent County waterfront property, complete with hiking trails, live music, birding walks, and views of the Chesapeake Bay.

LANDJAM will take place on Saturday, June 1st from 1 – 5pm. Tickets are priced for everyone to join in the fun – $25 for a family (up to 5), or $10 for an individual. Attendees are encouraged to purchase tickets ahead of time online at www.eslc.org/events. The event is rain or shine.

To help celebrate a beautiful day on the farm, guests will be treated to live music by two of the Shore’s finest bands – the toe-tapping hillbilly boogie of The High and Wides; and the funk, jam rock, and soulful blues of Black Dog Alley. This celebration of the land will offer local foods, drinks, and wares, available for purchase from a variety of vendors marketing the bounties of their craft.

Fans of craft beer will enjoy Dogfishhead Brewing and Patriot Acres brews, while a selection of wines from Crow Vineyard will also be available for sale.

Many activities for land-lovers, such as guided birding walks, educational activities, truck tours of the farm, games, and much more will be offered to enhance appreciation of conservation, restoration, and ecology.

CBF Report: The State of the Blueprint

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A new Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) report examining the state of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint found both good and bad news.  While no state is completely on track, Maryland and Virginia are close to having the programs and practices in place to restore water quality and meet the 2025 goal. Pennsylvania, however, has never met its nitrogen reduction targets and its current plan to achieve the 2025 goal is woefully inadequate, detailing only two-thirds of actions necessary to achieve its goal.

“A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and that is also true for the partnership working to restore water quality across the region,” CBF President William C. Baker said. “Today, unfortunately, Pennsylvania’s link is not only weak, it is broken.”

After decades of failed voluntary efforts, in 2010 the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint was developed and a deadline for full implementation was set for 2025. Experts around the world agree it is our best, and perhaps last chance for success.

The good news is that the Blueprint is working: Grasses are increasing, the dead zone is getting smaller, and blue crab populations are rebounding. But recovery is fragile. And the road to finishing the job is steep.   However, many of the practices to reduce pollution will also sequester carbon and help slow climate change.

What makes the Blueprint different than previous attempts is that it has teeth. It includes pollution limits and requires the Bay states and District of Columbia to design and implement plans to meet them. It also ensures accountability and transparency through two-year, incremental goals called milestones, and sets a goal of having the programs and practices in place by 2025 that will result in a restored Bay.  Our peer-reviewed economic analysis found that the economic benefits provided by nature in the Chesapeake Bay watershed will total $130 billion annually when the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint is fully implemented.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has committed to providing oversight and enforcement of the Blueprint. If any jurisdiction fails to take the appropriate actions, EPA has said it will impose consequences. It has the authority to increase the number of farms that it regulates by extending permit coverage to smaller farms, review state-issued stormwater permits to ensure they are adequate, and condition or redirect EPA grants.

“Pennsylvania has failed to uphold its promise to reduce pollution to its surface and ground waters since the six state Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint was launched in 2009,” Baker added. “If EPA does not hold Pennsylvania accountable, CBF and others must consider legal action.”

CBF assessed Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia’s milestone progress to date and whether or not states are implementing the pollution-reduction commitments they have already made. Together, these three states are responsible for 90 percent of the pollution fouling the Bay and its rivers and streams.

Each of the states have drafted a new Clean Water Blueprint (formally known as a Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan) detailing how they will finish the job. Where we identified shortfalls, we are making recommendations on what is necessary in their new plans to achieve the goal.

To see our full report including the details of efforts to date, visit:   www.cbf.org/stateoftheblueprint

Virginia

Virginia is on track to achieve its 2025 goals, provided it accelerates efforts to reduce pollution from agricultural sources and growing urban and suburban areas, while continuing progress in the wastewater sector. Virginia has a strong roadmap for success; the key is implementation.

The Commonwealth released a strong but doable draft plan to reach the 2025 goals. However, the plan also underscores the additional work that lies ahead, especially to further reduce pollution from agriculture and stormwater

Virginia’s Blueprint shows exactly what actions are needed to accelerate the pace of reductions of all sources of pollution to our waters.   The plan relies on expanding existing programs that have proven successful, as well as new initiatives.

For farms, that includes keeping livestock out of all permanent streams and requiring detailed plans to reduce pollution from the vast majority of cropland. For developed areas, that includes strong support for programs that manage stormwater pollution, expanding protections for sensitive areas from development, and additional action to reduce pollution from lawn fertilizer. To address climate change, Virginia is a leader in the region by accounting for anticipated pollution increases from extreme weather.

“The State of the Blueprint report indicates overall progress in Virginia, especially by wastewater treatment plants,” said CBF’s Virginia Executive Director Rebecca Tomazin. “But a good plan is just the first step. We need to make sure that Virginia’s Blueprint remains strong, and that funding is in place to achieve these goals. Now is the time to let Virginia’s leaders know that implementing a strong Blueprint is our great opportunity to ensure clean water for future generations.”

The coming days are critical to success as Virginia finalizes its last update to its Blueprint. The public is invited to submit comments to: chesbayplan@DEQ.Virginia.gov

Maryland

Maryland is on-track to meet its overall nutrient reduction targets by 2025, due in large part to investments to upgrade sewage treatment plants, which have exceeded goals, and in farm management practices. Pollution from developed lands and septic systems continues to increase, challenging the long-term health of Maryland’s waterways.

Maryland has a long track record of investing in clean water, which has put the state on a path to reach pollution reduction goals for nitrogen, phosphorous, and sediment in the third phase of its Clean Water Blueprint. The reductions will mostly be made through a combination of wastewater treatment plant upgrades and reducing pollution from agriculture.

While the Blueprint provides a path to the 2025 goals, it is short on strategies to maintain them. The plan relies on annual practices that are less cost effective and don’t provide as many benefits for our climate and our communities as permanent natural filters.

In agriculture, the Blueprint relies heavily on annual practices such as cover crops and manure transport that require significant repeated investments. The state should transition its investments to increase long-term natural filters such as forested stream buffers and grazing livestock on permanent pasture. While the state is planning to subsidize farmers to plant nearly 500,000 acres of cover crops each year, it is only committing to plant 1,200 acres of new riparian forest buffers and move 2,500 acres of crop land into pasture.

Maryland is lowering expectations to reduce runoff from urban and suburban development in the third phase of the Blueprint. The draft expects Maryland’s 10 most developed counties and Baltimore City to treat runoff from impervious surface at about half the pace required over the previous eight years. The draft cautions that the reduced pace may even be slower because new MS4 permits for these jurisdictions have not yet been finalized. The effort is not making enough progress to reduce stormwater runoff from impervious surfaces—pollution from developed areas that is continuing to grow. By 2025, stormwater is predicted to contribute more pollution to the Bay than wastewater in Maryland.

“It’s reassuring to see Maryland has developed a path to meet its pollution reduction goals by 2025,” said CBF’s Maryland Senior Scientist Doug Myers. “But the state is putting an emphasis on costly annual practices such as cover crops and street sweeping to meet the goals when it should be focusing on sustainable efforts that will reduce pollution long-term. Those efforts include converting row crops to permanent pasture, reducing stormwater runoff in our cities before it erodes streams, and creating streamside forest buffers and wetlands to absorb and treat what does run off the landscape. Bigger goals for long-term, permanent practices will reduce climate change impacts and maintain clean water beyond 2025.”

The public is invited to submit comments to: Maryland Watershed Implementation comment form

Pennsylvania

The Commonwealth is signficantly behind in implementing the pollution reducing practices necessary to achieve the 2025 goals, particuarly from the agricultural and the urban/suburban stormwater sectors.

Wastewater treatment plants have met and exceeded goals and targets for making reductions by 2025. But agriculture and stormwater efforts have fallen significantly behind. While most farmers embrace conservation, a lack of financial and technical support has stifled progress. Keeping soils, nitrogen, and phosphorus on the land instead of in the water is good for soil health, farm profitability, and life downstream.

Pennsylvania’s draft Blueprint to reach the 2025 goal does not achieve the nitrogen pollution reductions necessary to meet its obligations. The draft plan would achieve roughly 22.7 million pounds of nitrogen reduction each year, or about 67 percent of the goal of achieving 34.1 million pounds.

Also, the resources to implement the plan do not currently exist. As drafted, the plan estimates the need for $486 million a year to implement it. Compared to existing resources, there is a shortfall in annual funding of nearly $257 million. Although the plan contains several proposed funding sources, none have been passed. The Administration and Legislature must act.

“Agricultural activities are the largest identified source of stream pollution. The limited success has been due to a lack of adequate technical and financial assistance to farmers,” said CBF Pennsylvania Executive Director Harry Campbell.  “Now is the time for the Commonwealth to show leadership and make the necessary investments to ensure that Blueprint goals are met.  If it does not, EPA must enforce the Blueprint and impose consequences.”

Pennsylvania has also not established a programmatic milestone accounting for growth and new sources of pollution such as population growth and conversion of forest and farmland to development.

The public is invited to submit comments to:  ecomment@pa.gov

Blackwater NWR to Hold Youth Fishing Fun Day on June 1

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In partnership with the Friends of Blackwater and the Harriet Tubman State Park, Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge will hold their 17th Annual Youth Fishing Fun Day on Saturday, June 1, 2019 from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm.  This family-friendly event will be held at “Hog Range” Pond behind the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center, located off Route 335.  Young people 15 years old and under can pre-register for the event by calling 410-228-2677, or register at the event on June 1.  Fishing will begin at 9:00 am and end around 1:00 pm.  Bait and fishing equipment will be provided, or you can bring your own.  The number of “loaner” fishing rods is limited, so it is recommended you bring your own if you have one.  Experienced adults will be available to assist the young fishermen in catching his or her fish.

Parents should note that this is a non-competitive, catch-and-release event, meant to introduce children to the fun of fishing.  Each registered youth will receive a free lunch ticket (hot dog, drink, and chips), and other “freebies” while supplies last.  The first 100 registered kids will receive a special gift.  Participants should also note that no pets are allowed at this event.

Directions to Hog Range Pond:  From Route 50 in Cambridge, turn onto Route 16 West.  Travel approximately 7 miles to Church Creek.  Turn left onto Route 335.  Travel approximately 5 miles.  Once you pass Key Wallace Drive on your left, turn right at the entrance to the Harriet Tubman Visitor Center.  Park in the secondary parking lot next to the pavilion behind the Tubman Visitor Center.  For further information and pre-registration, call 410-228-2677.

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, located on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, protects over 29,000 acres of rich tidal marsh, mixed hardwoods and pine forest, managed freshwater wetlands and cropland for a diversity of wildlife.  To learn more, visit our website at www.fws.gov/refuge/blackwater or @BlackwaterNWR.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov. Connect with our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/usfws, follow our tweets at www.twitter.com/usfwshq, watch our YouTube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/usfws and download photos from our Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwshq.

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.

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