Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Coming Soon - Coastal Bays Book & Report Card
In a few weeks the Maryland Coastal Bays Program will host an event to celebrate the release of two important and long awaited projects – A book focusing on the environmental and cultural changes in the watershed and the first ever report card grading the health of the coastal bays.
The book, Shifting Sands, is a collaborative effort from the Coastal Bays Program, the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Coastal Bays Executive Director David Wilson Jr. and staff scientists Dr. Roman Jesien and Carol Cain are among the 80 authors from 24 different organizations and agencies who contributed to the book. This team assessed the condition of the Coastal Bays ecosystem, reviewed the history of the area, current management strategies and upcoming concerns for the watershed and documented their findings in this 225-page book.
Shifting Sands is aptly named considering the dynamic nature of the watershed, but it also refers to the “sands of time, both the geologic and recent history of this region,” and to the changing perceptions regarding Maryland’s Coastal Bays, which differ among groups and individuals and have transformed over the years. The ongoing ecological transitions and rediscovery of the watershed inspired the book’s subtitle, Environmental and Cultural Change in Maryland’s Coastal Bays.
The book provides vital information relevant to our six sub watersheds – the St. Martin’s River and Assawoman, Chincoteague, Newport, Isle of Wight and Sinepuxent bays – with discussions on overall management issues, geologic and hydrologic information, and water quality and habitats concerns. Also contained in Shifting Sands is a rich history of the area, as well as insight on the watershed in a national and international context.
Along with the release of the book will be the release of the first-ever Coastal Bays Report Card. Also a collaborative effort, it is a scientifically and geographically detailed assessment of the health of the ecosystem.
The Report Card assigns scores for seven indicators that reflect water or habitat quality, and uses those indicators to formulate an overall Habitat Health Index that is then used to assign a grade. The document will provide a clear, concise and timely assessment of the health of the Coastal Bays, but the details and grade will be kept under wraps until the June 8 release.
Our coastal bays are a unique and dynamic ecosystem, with a variety of wildlife and habitats. These factors are the very foundation for the success of our agriculture, recreation and tourism industries that support the local and state economies. Moreover, the very legacy we will leave future generations depends on the health of our watershed, but nutrient pollution and habitat destruction have put more pressure on this already vulnerable ecosystem.
The early June release of the book and the report card is timely considering county officials have proposed zoning regulations that could compromise water quality and sound land management practices. These two important documents will serve as additional resources for officials as well as the public to ponder before such changes are cemented.
As Sen. Paul Sarbanes wrote in the preface of Shifting Sands, “the continued economic prosperity and the quality of life that the citizens of Worcester County, and indeed, citizens throughout the region, enjoy will depend in large part on our ability to manage the Coastal Bays in a sustainable manner.”