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Federation Blog

April 8, 2011

Ever since we’ve moved to our new office, I’ve been watching the wildlife that is in and around Gingerville Creek.  I’ve been especially watching the two ospreys that have taken up residence in one of the flying bridges of a boat.    

Growing up in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, I have seen my fair share of ospreys, but this is different.  From my office window, I get the opportunity to observe their daily behavior and it is fascinating!  Since not everyone gets the chance to watch ospreys at such a close distance, I thought it would be fun to write a blog about their activities.  Frankly, I’ve grown quite fond of them. 

I started observing when the male showed up in Gingerville Creek.  He was perched in one of the trees outside of Erik’s office.  He would sit there for most of the day, leaving to take a quick trip around the river or to catch a fish, but for the most part it looked like he was waiting for someone.  And he was!  A few days later his lady friend showed up and they have begun building their nest. 

Being an osprey cannot be easy; every day brings a different challenge..  They have been building their nest little bit at a time.  Each day the male bird brings back branches of all sizes for her to use in their nest.  It’s fun to watch her decide what branches are best.  For example, if she likes it, then they will work the branch into their nest.  If she doesn’t like it, she will push it off their perch as if to say, “I don’t like it, go find me a new one!” 

They face other challenges, from eagles and crows encroaching in on their territory to human disturbances, such as boat traffic, construction, or human interference.  I can tell when activity is going on outside because they will begin to “talk” at loud volumes.  Now I’m not expert at osprey language, but there is a difference between their calls.  You can tell when they are calling to each other or when they are upset.  The almost hysterical chirping means something is going on that doesn’t make them happy! 

He has just brought back another branch, and we will see if she likes it or not.  I will be blogging about their status so check back soon for recent activity. 

For more background information on ospreys, check out these websites:

http://newyorkwild.org/osprey/osprey_info.htm

http://www.pandionhaliaetus.com/

http://www.dnr.state.md.us/irc/docs/00000260_20.pdf

 

Last week, Erik went into Annapolis to lobby in support of HB 1034, better known to me as the “bag bill.”  When I found this out, my interest was perked and I wanted to find out more information.  When it comes down to it, the gist of the bill is to reduce the amount of plastic bags that end up as trash in Maryland’s waterways, like the South River. 

Already, Washington D.C. has instituted a 5 cent tax on bags and it has had positive impacts on both the environment and business fronts.  I was reading over some of the stats and the figures were quite impressive.  For example, before the bill passed in D.C. plastic bags accounted for 47% of trash in the Anacostia River.  After the bill passed, 66% fewer bags were pulled from the Anacostia River in 2010 versus 2009.  Next, the number of plastic bags sold dropped from 270 million in 2009 to 55 million in 2010 that is an 80% reduction.  Since there was a concern that the bag tax would affect businesses, it was interesting to find out that 78% of businesses reported that the bag bill had either a positive effect or no effect at all on business. 

With Project Clean Stream this Saturday, it will be interesting to see the amount of bags we pull out from behind Home Depot.  I know it might sound funny to say “I like this tax”, but I do.  In my opinion, the bill will make people think twice.  They might think, do I really need this bag or maybe they will take into consideration the environmental impact bags have on the waterways and the wildlife living in it.  Either way, it makes a consumer pause and think even if it’s just for a moment. 

If you’re interested in finding out more information on the bill click here to read the entire HB 1034 bill or check out the Sierra Club website for more information on ways you can contact your representative. 

Perhaps you’ve heard it said that in Chinese, the character for “crisis” is the same as the one for “opportunity”.  I know I have.  A quick search of the internet, that great dasher of self-delusion, suggests that this assertion was probably wishful thinking guided by a poor translation. Nonetheless, I think there’s a great deal of merit to the idea of embracing turbulent times as a vehicle for positive change.   And, there’s little question we’re living in turbulent times. 


In the midst of a recession, with high unemployment rates and low consumer confidence, I think it’s easy for legislators to put their environmental concerns on the back burner, to focus on ways to create jobs, or to try to find ways to ease people’s economic burden.  This old way of thinking – that economic prosperity can be exclusive of environmental sustainability – is actually what has gotten us into our current position: a Bay on life support, a climate out of control, and an economy where the best jobs we create are far from our shores.

The truth is that the economy and our environment are intertwined – especially in Maryland, where the Chesapeake Bay is an enormous economic engine.  We are putting the pieces in place NOW, to make Maryland a leading innovator in the emerging green economy as well as a leader in improving environmental health. 


For several years, Maryland has been a member of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI for short), and has collected revenues, a share of which are targeted at energy efficiency and conservation programs.   These are dollars aimed at reducing our reliance on coal and natural gas, and other polluting sources of energy by employing contractors to go into the homes of low and middle income individuals, install insulation, new windows and doors, and energy efficient appliances.    This is the kind of program that creates installation jobs that can’t be shipped offshore, manufacturing jobs across multiple sectors, and helps drive down electricity rates for everyone in the state.  This is but one instance where our economic goals are perfectly aligned with our environmental ones.   Another is the case of promoting renewable energy, like offshore wind.    By beginning to harness the natural wind resource off the coast of the Atlantic, we can decrease our reliance on fossil fuels, create jobs in the manufacturing and installation of turbines, and set the example for states throughout the region.  


But what about the cost?  Much is made in the popular media of the “subsidies” that renewable energies receive, and it’s popular in some circles to ridicule government support of solar or wind energy, but I ask you: what is the “subsidy” that each of us grants the coal industry every time that the top is blown off another mountain in West Virginia, or a stream is filled with toxic sludge in Kentucky, or a landfill is plugged with heavy metal-laden fly ash in Crofton?   What is the subsidy that the taxpayers of Pennsylvania provide to the natural gas companies each time the poisonous wastewater from hydraulic fracturing operations is discharged into their rivers and streams?   We’ve all been paying those subsidies since time immemorial.  If we’re going to talk about costs, let’s talk about the TRUE costs of these methods, including their environmental impacts.  It’s time we finally start subsidizing activities that benefit us, and that improve our quality of life without at the same time deteriorating the quality of those living at the site of extraction. 


To my mind, there is no bigger crisis, or opportunity, than the current condition of the Chesapeake Bay.  Popular accounts might lead you to believe that the Bay’s health is the product of 40 or 50 years of rough use and a few nasty hurricanes.  The truth is, we find ourselves with our current opportunity because of over 350 years of intensive use and abuse.    The feds have given us 15 years to get things back on track, the Governor has shortened that time frame to 10.  I would hate for him to think that I don’t appreciate his optimism, but with that ambitious goal comes a vastly shortened time line.   By the State’s own estimates, we need to invest something on the order of $1 billion per year, for the next decade, into on-the-ground practices that are going to improve the water quality of our streams, creeks, and rivers.   From what I can tell, the current statewide expenditures for this effort are a small fraction of that amount, and constantly under threat.   We need to ensure, starting this year, that we have the revenue streams in place to guarantee that our wastewater treatment plant upgrades across the state can occur without delay, and that each county in the state has a dedicated funding source in place to repair the damage that uncontrolled stormwater runoff has wreaked from western Maryland to the eastern shore and everywhere in between.  Think about it, a billion dollars a year for the Bay.  How many engineering, design, and construction jobs, as well as jobs in the resource conservation, aquaculture, and tourism industry do you think that translates into? 


We’re in the midst of a crisis, of that there’s no doubt, and we have the opportunity to choose one of two paths: doing things the way we’ve always done them and praying for a different result, or embracing clean energy, a clean Bay, and a healthy environment as the roadmap to a healthy economy.   I think you know which path you’ll find me on.  I hope you’ll join me. 


Little Johnny Trumbaurer- Snapshot Sampler - too cute!

The South River Snapshot is a fun-fill event for eveyone in the family.  From 9-12am on Saturday April 9, 2001 you can volunteer to perform water quality sampling, looking at wildlife, basic stream assessments at one of 50 stations in the South River Watershed.  My training dates are April 3 and April 6, 6pm at the LondonTown Community Center.
---Diana


I would like to welcome everyone to our new Chesapeake Conservation Corps Volunteer, Jennifer Carr.  She will be working closely with me on all aspects that the South River Federation does from water quality monitoring, to the up coming South River on a Half Shell auction (Feb. 26,2011 5-9 at Homestead Gardens).


But, she is also more that just our volunteer for 40 hours/week.  She also volunteers with refugees from Serbia, she started helping out after volunteering teaching English in Serbia.  The refugees are legal residents of the US and I have just learned that they are in need of some help.  Remembering that we were all refugees at one point in our history - (my family from Ireland and Norway in the early 1800s), I have helped by donating the one family clothes for their 9 year old boy.  I was touched when I learned that the baseball mitt my son given to this other little boy was something that he always wanted, he had never touch a mitt before and now has one of his own - the American game.


Now this family is in need of a bassinet (used) and baby clothes.  If anyone can help out with Jennifer's other volunteer duties by donating a gently used bassinet, we will be truly honored.   Please contact either Jennifer or me at the office 410-224-3802
Thank you,
Diana