Thursday, April 1, 2010

Marine Spatial Planning

By Monty Hawkins

Marine Spatial Planning has been the cause of much controversy, but inaccurate recreational catch data is the real problem and managers’ use of poor catch data is causing serious trouble in the sport fishing world.

Our Ocean Policy and Marine Spatial Planning is about ways to minimize conflict and to ensure that culturally important fishing grounds and fish habitat aren't needlessly lost as we press on with new energy for our nation. Ocean Policy, including Marine Spatial Planning, isn't about taking away fishing areas; it’s about preserving them as the US moves into a new era of energy development.

As a party boat operator in Ocean City with 30 years experience, I am fighting for my business' very existence because of recreational catch-estimate data rotten enough to make a menhaden processing plant blush.

As fishery rebuilding plans have advanced – often with great success – the effects of less than perfect marine science and data's complex illusions are creating havoc as we close in on some species' restoration. For example, in September and October 2007 shore fishers targeting flounder in Maryland are officially estimated to have caught what state party and charter boats will catch in 15 years.

We are often falsely accused of going over-quota and have repeatedly fought the data and lost. We lost because we could not prove guys fishing on the bank weren't catching like an Alaskan factory trawler; lost because 36,017 flounder from shore in two months seemed to regulators a reasonable number even if Maryland's professional crews caught well under 3,000 in a year; lost because although the data is astonishingly poor it is considered the “best science available”, is inarguable and must be used. We suffer shortened seasons, emergency closures, size limit increases and creel limit reductions because of statistical analysis that, literally, couldn't survive the light of day.

This bad data is building and is getting worse. Marine Spatial Planning is not the problem nor will it be. Fishermen would be foolish to allow big-energy in without some manner of safety-net. America does need to move forward with energy policy. Fishers need to look ahead as well.

Windmills will actually contribute to marine production and will create reef communities. However, as the Chesapeake's fishers learned with the closing of the gas-docks by Homeland Security, sometimes what's good for fish doesn't remain good for fishermen.

I'm proud to tell you Maryland's coastal anglers did not wait for the government. We had self imposed regulations on many species long before management--sometimes half a decade before regulations. We have privately funded much of our reef restoration and creation. We are staunch conservationists whose businesses are being destroyed by bad catch data, poor stock assessments and a general lack of flexibility. Even the skippers fishing after WWII never had ocean flounder fishing as we now do. We are still rebuilding' the summer flounder population though.

The challenges of rebuilding, fishing on rebuilt stocks, and finding those species left behind are not insurmountable, but bureaucratic rigidity is making it mighty difficult. All those fishermen, commercial and recreational, who recently rallied in DC, were there for the Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act.

Fishers need managers that can manage as we navigate and follow a compass course yes, but dodge a new sand-bar. Held rigidly to data sets of ill-found science, this math that would have made Madoff's staff envious, our regulators are running us hard-aground.

There's no flexibility in the Great Recession. It’s destroying the fishers. What fishermen need now is truth and wisdom. Truth in stock assessments, truth in catch estimates, truth in news reporting and wisdom in our governance. Strikes me we could use some of that near everywhere.

Monty Hawkins is Captain of the Morning Star Party Boat in Ocean City. He also writes a regular fishing report. He can be reached at

Friday, March 26, 2010

Berlin Spring Celebration Goes Green with GBG

Grow Berlin Green has taken its mission to establish Berlin as a model community for environmental protection, conservation and smart growth and put the concept into real projects that will have an a real and lasting on the community.

On April 3, Grow Berlin Green, along with the Berlin Main Street Program, is sponsoring this year's Berlin Chamber of Commerce Spring Celebration.

The event will include the same fun entertainment as previous years, including the pig races, Easter bonnet parade and egg hunt, but will also feature an environmental twist.

This year the event will also celebrate flowers, plants and green ideas. Free seedlings will be given out by the town of Berlin and the Chamber of Commerce will be passing out free seed packets for vegetables and plants. Some of the vendors will feature natural products or green services and one booth will be sponsored by a local landscaper who hopes to decorate the town with beautiful native plants and flowers.

Children who participate in the Easter Bonnet Contest and Parade can make theirs from home using recycled materials, which is a new category in the contest. It's a great way for children to learn that items once thought of as disposable can actually have other uses. For a detailed schedule of all the Spring Celebration festivities, click HERE.

Additionally, after months of effort on the part of GBG and the town leaders, businesses in downtown Berlin will soon have access to a free recycling service for their glass, plastic, metal and paper waste.

GBG and the Berlin Main Street Program have partnered to purchase a large multi-compartment container for recyclables, and the owners of the Globe have generously offered to site the container behind the restaurant.

Earlier this month town officials reached an agreement with Worcester County on a pickup fee. Next up, GBG will now coordinate with the town, the Main Street Program and the Berlin Chamber of Commerce to educate businesses about the new service and encourage all businesses to participate. The container could be in place as early as May.

This is a true breakthrough and GBG should be applauded for playing such an important role in making it happen.

To highlight the importance of energy conservation, this spring GBG will be giving away free CFL light bulbs to students at Stephen Decatur High School and Middle School, and Berlin Intermediate School students. This giveaway will hopefully encourage the parents to purchase these energy saving light bulbs in the future. GBG purchased some of the bulbs, while others were donated by local businesses.

In an effort to spread the word about the group's efforts, and to educate and mobilize citizen action, as well as promote various Berlin activities and events, last week GBG began a major public service announcement campaign on Public Radio Delmarva.

This type of outreach, which reaches thousands, is invaluable to a small community such as Berlin and it's a very exciting initiative.

Managed by a coalition of the Maryland Coastal Bays Program, the Lower Shore Land Trust and the Assateague Coastal Trust, Grow Berlin Green is driven by community education, empowerment and action.

The success of this program depends on the commitment of Berlin citizens, businesses owners, educators, students and policy makers. It seems clear that GBG has worked with all of the above to make the town of Berlin a better place to live, work and visit.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sustainable Communities Act of 2010

A three-year, $50 million program proposed by the O’Malley administration would award tax credits for transit-oriented development, the renovation of eligible Main Street districts such as Berlin, as well as other types of non-historic commercial revitalization to encourage communities to promote sustainable living.

The Sustainable Communities Act of 2010 calls for the authorization of a tax credit, improvements to the Community Legacy and Designated Neighborhood programs, and changes to the governor’s Smart Growth cabinet. The act calls for broadening the 14-year-old Heritage Tax Credit program as the Sustainable Communities Tax Credit to help stimulate local economies, create construction jobs and support ecologically friendly development. The Maryland Historic Tax Credit Program is well established as a key element in downtown areas and older communities throughout the state.

State officials say the upgraded program will attract and sustain private investment in revitalization areas and projects, preserve the authentic historic character of Maryland communities, advance green and sustainable development practices, and streamline and align government programs and resources. The previous program was restricted to historic properties. The proposal asks that up to 40 percent of the credits be made available to people where they live and work. Revitalized Main Streets and attractive storefronts are vital to the public health of any community and for the cash registers of small business owners.

Although not traditionally thought of as a job stimulus, most work done for historic renovation is labor-intensive. According to a recent study, every dollar of rehabilitation tax credit generates $8.53 in economic activity and each million dollars in tax credits conservatively is estimated to put about 73 skilled trades people to work on labor-intensive projects in the construction industry.
Based on previous successes with the old program, state planning officials say the new program can be expected to leverage more than 3,600 jobs over the next three years without impact to the 2011 and 2012 State operating budgets, adding that because eligible projects will be approved more quickly, developers and contractors will be able to expedite the hiring process.

Credit certificates will be given to projects that are considered exceptional based on criteria developed with the governor’s Smart Growth subcabinet. Developers will receive a credit certificate to secure funding for their projects.

The bill also calls for cooperation among state agencies, including Planning, Transportation, Housing and Community Development, and Business and Economic Development. The Energy Administration is involved to tie historic renovation to green building standards, making it one of the first programs in the country to do so. Bringing in experts on health, labor and energy will help us sharpen the focus on sustainable communities, says Richard Hall, Maryland’s Secretary of Planning.
The proposed Sustainable Communities Act of 2010 would put Maryland in line with federal changes that focus on improved coordination of transportation, environmental protection and housing investments. A new partnership between the Department of Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and the Environmental Protection Agency was announced by the Obama administration last year.

A Sustainable Community is one that encourages good health and reflects the concept that economic, environmental, and social issues are interdependent and that regions, cities, towns and rural lands must continue into the future without harming the natural resources that support them. Housing, transportation and resource conservation are managed in ways that retain the economic, ecological and scenic values of the environment. These are also communities where the use of fossil fuels, emissions of greenhouse gases, water resources and pollution are lessened.

Reinforcing sustainable communities and making existing towns and cities more attractive for future growth, rural, cultural and historic resources will be better preserved, local economies will be stronger and the state will gain more efficient and economical use of its investments in existing infrastructure such as roads and schools.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Let's Luau!!!

Get out your grass skirts and Hawaiian shirts and mark your calendars for Sunday, March 21 when the Maryland Coastal Bays Program and the Ocean City chapter of the Surfrider Foundation present the first ever Live Aloha – Taking Care of the Earth spring luau.
The event is designed to serve two purposes. The first is to provide a fun and unique event to lift our spirits after a winter that was like no other in our area. Toward that end we are pulling out all the stops to make this Hawaiian feast a memorable and authentic luau. Second, and just as important, the luau will help us raise funds for the first the annual Earth Day community cleanup in Ocean City on April 17. (Details regarding the Earth Day cleanup will follow in the coming weeks.)
Our Live Aloha Luau will be a big, fun, family-friendly party at Seacrets featuring traditional Hawaiian food. Polynesian entertainment, including dancing hula girls in grass skirts and flowered leis, and an exotic and amazing Samoan fire dancer, will make the day even more authentically Hawaiian.
The Diamondheads – named after a volcano that cuts along a piece of Hawaiian coastline famous for its surfing – will bring their surf music style to the party. Ocean City’s own BARCODE will also perform. Both bands are waiving much or all of their performance fees for the occasion.
Singer, guitarist and DJ Glen “Honu” Mihalik will serve as the event’s emcee. Mihalik has recently relocated to the area from Hawaii so he brings another layer of authenticity to the luau. Seacrets is graciously providing the perfect venue and many local businesses are donating goods and services that will be auctioned at the event.
The Live Aloha theme is based on a movement in Hawaii that began in the early 1990s on the belief that a community is the sum of the attitudes and actions of its individuals. A cooperative spirit then flows from the individuals whose attitudes and actions are community-concerned, caring and responsible. The movement is guided by values that underlie the spirit of Aloha – respect for others and respect for the land. The Aloha Spirit calls on people to leave places better than they found them, to plant something, to enjoy nature, pick up litter, share with neighbors and create smiles.
The Live Aloha movement encourages sharing and community building to form a common set of actions that all could accomplish regardless of power or income and this community bond would provide a source of togetherness and strength. The Coastal Bays Program and the Surfriders have collaborated for this event because we believe the people who live here truly embody the Live Aloha spirit. Our hope is that the luau will bring people, ideas and resources together for the benefit of our watershed that will carry through to our April 17 Earth Day cleanup.
Much like the Coastal Bays Program, the Ocean City chapter of the Surfrider Foundation works to protect and improve coastal shores and water quality through hands-on projects, education programs, and outreach campaigns. We hope to see you at our first ever Live Aloha – Taking Care of the Earth Luau on Sunday, March 21 from 1 – 5 pm at Seacrets on 49th Street and the bay in Ocean City. Advance tickets cost $25 per couple or $12.50 for an individual and will be $15 each at the door. Children under 12 are free. To purchase advance tickets contact Sandi Smith at 410-213-2297 or

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Wetlands Reserve Program

Landowners in the Coastal Bays watershed may be interested in a program that provides technical and financial help toward protecting, restoring and enhancing forested wetlands, coastal marshes, and former wetlands on agricultural lands.

The goal of the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) is to achieve the greatest wetland functions and values, along with optimum wildlife habitat and long-term conservation practices on every enrolled acre. This voluntary program is open to private property owners and is offered through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). NRCS has worked together with farmers and landowners for more than 70 years to conserve and restore natural resources on private lands.

Land considered for the program must be considered restorable and suitable for wildlife habitat. Land types that are eligible include forest, woodland and other lands where hydrology has been significantly degraded, farmed wetlands, prior converted cropland, farmed wetland pasture, riparian areas and land that has been significantly changed by recent flooding. In 2008, nearly 6,000 acres were enrolled in the state’s program.

There are three options for enrollment. The first is a permanent conservation easement in perpetuity. Easement payments are usually based on a cap, but the landowner cannot receive more than the land’s fair market value. All costs with this easement type are paid for by the USDA, which also pays 100 percent of the costs of restoring the land and required maintenance.

The second option is a 30-year easement, in which payments are 75-percent of what would be paid for a permanent easement. USDA also pays for up to 75-percent of restoration costs. The third type is a cost sharing agreement. This is a 10-year agreement to re-establish wetland habitat and functions. USDA pays up to 75-percent of the cost. This option does not place an easement on the property and the landowner is responsible for maintenance.

As an added bonus for permanent and 30-year easement holders, USDA pays all costs associated with recording the easement in the local land records office. These costs could include charges for abstracts, recording fees, appraisal and survey fees and title insurance.

Although the land is protected from development and agricultural and timber production the landowner retains access control and can still utilize it for compatible uses, including hunting and fishing. These easements result in increasing fish and wildlife habitat, improving water quality, reducing flooding and protecting groundwater and biological diversity.

Participants voluntarily limit future use of the land, but retain private ownership. Landowners benefit by receiving financial and technical assistance in return for restoring and protecting wetlands, reducing problems associated with farming potentially wet and difficult areas, and developing wildlife and recreational opportunities on their land. Wetlands benefit us all by providing fish and wildlife habitat; improving water quality by filtering sediments and chemicals out; reducing flooding; recharging groundwater; protecting biological diversity; as well as providing opportunities for educational, scientific, and recreational activities.

Even after the completion of restoration the NRCS and its partners will continue to help, often through reviewing restoration measures, clarifying technical and administrative aspects of the easement and project management needs, and providing basic biological and engineering advice on how to achieve optimum results for wetland dependent species.

The Wetland Reserve Program was established by Congress in the 1990 Farm Bill and reauthorized in 1996 and again in 2002. The 2002 bill raised the national aggregate cap to 2,275,000 acres nationwide, up significantly from the previous 1,075,000 maximum. The 2002 Farm Bill also authorized continuing the program by enabling the Secretary of Agriculture to enroll up to 250,000 additional acres each year.
Maryland landowners can learn more about how to submit an application to the WRP by contacting NRCS Maryland through USDA Service Centers or by visiting the NRCS Maryland homepage at

WRP and similar programs will be presented at the March 6, 2010 Landowner Conference to be held in Snow Hill. For more information on this conference or to register contact Katherine Munson at or go to the county’s webpage at

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


"Under the microscope, I found that snowflakes were miracles of beauty; and it seemed a shame that this beauty should not be seen and appreciated by others. Every crystal was a masterpiece of design and no one design was ever repeated. When a snowflake melted, that design was forever lost. Just that much beauty was gone, without leaving any record behind."

Those eloquent words were written by Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley, who in 1885 became the first person to photograph a single snow crystal. He would go on to photograph more than 5000 snowflakes and make the discovery that no two snowflakes are alike.

In the aftermath of a recent blizzard it’s difficult to think of snow in such a poetic manner. In reality, snow is a mineral, just like salt or even diamonds. At the center of a snowflake is a speck of dust that can contain anything from an outer space particle to volcanic ash. As the snowflake forms around that speck, its shape is altered by humidity, temperature and wind. A snow crystal can be 50 times as wide as it is thick. According to Guinness World Records, the largest snowflake ever recorded was a 15-incher that besieged Fort Keogh, Montana, in 1887.

As Bentley documented with his photographs, individual snowflakes can be beautiful, but blizzard conditions make for dangerous roadways. Although snow and ice are bad for driving, these natural substances pose no threat to our environment. The methods we use to remove snow and ice, however, can be harmful to our natural resources.

Because it is readily available, effective, and inexpensive, salt is typically the first line of defense to make our roadways safer. Yes, salt is a natural resource, but excess salt can saturate and destroy soil’s natural structure and result in erosion. High concentrations of salt can damage and kill vegetation - a vital buffer between land and water - and pose a serious threat to fresh water ecosystems and fish. Excess salt can also get into our groundwater and runoff into reservoirs affecting our drinking water.

At home we can avoid using salt on our driveways, sidewalks and walkways. When possible, shoveling immediately after the snow stops falling is a good idea. If you’re unable to do so or prefer not to shovel, consider investing in an electric snow blower. True, electric models consume energy, but unlike gas blowers they don’t emit greenhouse gases.

Alternatives to salt for traction include sand or even birdseed (which has the extra benefit of providing food for birds at a time when they really need it). Although these substances won’t melt snow or ice, they will provide a better grip on slick surfaces. Avoid products that contain nitrogen-based urea. Not only are such products more costly, they don’t work when temperatures fall below 20-degrees. Moreover, when urea is applied to the ground it eventually runs off into the street, into storm drains and ends up in our waterways.

To help prevent surface water contamination, snow should be piled in an area that has an adequate depth of soil between the ground level and the water table. The soil and vegetation will act as a filter for pollutants in the melting snow. Always avoid plowing snow into surface waters or near storm drains

We are unaccustomed to blizzard conditions in our area. Still, we should be informed on how best to handle such an abundance of snow and ice so we can protect our abundant natural resources all winter long.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Worcester County Landowner Conference to Provide Stewardship Guidance

By Katherine Munson

Aldo Leopold, a crusader for land ethics, stated in A Sand County
Almanac, published in 1949, "We abuse land because we regard it as a
commodity belonging to us." While a sense of ownership may contribute
to our abuse of land, enhanced knowledge is the best solution for
restoring and conserving our soil, water, habitat-or collectively-the
land, as Leopold defined it.

As the watersheds of Maryland's Coastal Bays and the Chesapeake Bay
become more populated and developed, successful long-term restoration
will be ever more dependent on the collective actions taken by
individuals, in particular, landowners. This is because the vast
majority of Worcester County's shoreline, and 80% of forest in Worcester
County, is privately owned.

Landowners, whether they own a small residential lot or a 300-acre farm, have a vital role to play in restoration and protection of Worcester County's clean water for future generations. By enhancing or creating natural areas and woodland, landowners can also enhance recreation, aesthetics, and wildlife viewing opportunities on their own property for their own enjoyment and for the enjoyment of future generations.

On March 6, 2010 tools and information landowners need for informed land
stewardship will be provided during a day-long conference tailored to
specific land restoration and conservation issues in Worcester County.
The program will be held from 8:30 AM to 3:00 PM at the Worcester County
Government Center in Snow Hill. This event is made possible by Worcester County and a grant from the Maryland Coastal Bays Program.

The conference is open to all county residents and landowners interested
in land stewardship and will offer information and inspiration relevant
to both the small lot and the large farm. Invited experts and county
staff will present information on shoreline restoration, forest and
wildlife management, "greening" the residential yard, natural
resource-related regulatory programs, and restoration and conservation

Two concurrent sessions will run throughout the day, one
for the residential lot owner and another for the owner of larger
property. There will be opportunity take home resource materials on a
variety of related topics and get questions answered by professionals in
forestry, shoreline restoration, natural landscaping, wetland
restoration and related topics. Owners of smaller properties in
particular, are rarely offered technical expertise more routinely
offered to owners of larger parcels, and this is an opportunity for
these landowners to tap the knowledge of experts in this field.

Every household or individual attending will receive a book, published
by the Natural Resource, Agriculture and Engineering Service (NRAES),
relevant to his or her property or interests: The Woods in Your Backyard
is an award-winning handbook for landowners of less than 10 acres.
Forest Resource Management: A Landowner's Guide to Getting Started is a
workbook to help landowners envision and achieve land stewardship goals
on a larger property.

To register for the program send a check made payable to Worcester
County for $6 per registrant to Worcester County Department of
Development Review and Permitting, Attn: Signe Dennis, 1 W. Market St.
Room 1201, Snow Hill, MD 21863. First preference will be given to
Worcester County residents and landowners. Others interested in
attending will be admitted as space allows.

Katherine Munson is a Planner with the Worcester County Department of Development Review and Permitting. For more information about the conference contact Munson at 410-632-1200 ext 1302 or

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Tom Patton Honored with Golden Osprey Award

The Maryland Coastal Bays Program is pleased and proud to announce that Berlin resident Tom Patton has been named the winner of our prestigious Golden Osprey Award.
The program gives the award for outstanding and life-long achievement toward protecting the coastal bays, and Patton fits the criteria perfectly.

Patton is truly in tune with our natural resources, progging for clams, dipping soft shell crabs, hunting and fervently preserving our natural and cultural heritage through action, advocacy and commitment for decades. The Golden Osprey has only been awarded three times before in the history of the Coastal Bays Program.

Patton has helped the Coastal Bays Program a great deal over the years, serving on the Coastal Bays Fisheries Advisory Committee, and assisting with blue crab issues and development and growth-related concerns. He was one of the driving forces behind the original and two subsequent conferences on the Coastal Bays. It was the first conference that directly led to the state and Worcester County seeking our acceptance into the National Estuary Program.

His volunteer experience also includes work with the Maryland Historical Society, the Lower Eastern Shore Heritage Committee, St. Martin's Church Preservation Foundation, and with political advocacy and community association issues. He serves on the board of the Assateauge Coastal Trust (ACT).

His commitment to our natural environment dates back to the 1960s, when he was instrumental in lobbying Congress to create the Assateague Island National Seashore. He was an early participant in the Committee to Preserve Assateague Island – now ACT - and was the driving force behind moving that group from Baltimore to Berlin. He was instrumental in changing the focus of ACT to include the entire coastal bays watershed. Patton played an integral role in the revitalization of downtown Berlin and the formation of the Berlin Farmer’s Market.

In 2005 Patton published the book Listen to the Voices, Follow the Trails - Discovering Maryland's Seaside Heritage, an insightful account of the unique natural and cultural history of Maryland's seacoast. The book captures the rapidly-disappearing oral traditions past generations, urging readers to explore Worcester County's many wonderful rural byways, historical sites, and its abundant natural heritage.

Patton created the nonprofit Rackliffe House Trust in 2004 with the goal to restore the former plantation house once owned by his ancestors. That same year he leased the house and three acres of the 100-acre parcel for 50 years from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. The house is located adjacent to the Sinepuxent Bay, near the National Seashore's visitor center. He has devoted himself to the proper restoration of Rackliffe House with the goal to transform it into a coastal heritage museum.

Patton has made a significant difference in the health of our watershed through his dedication and volunteer service. Such involvement is vital to our success as outlined in our Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan, which states that the program works by recognizing the mutual dependence of good estuary management practices and citizen-based efforts to sustain the community’s culture and economy. As previous Osprey winner and MCBP Foundation Board member Carolyn Cummins puts it, Patton embodies the role of citizen involvement and all that is vital to the success of the with the Coastal Bays Program. Patton also joins Ilia and Joe Fehrer Sr. and Jeanne Lynch in receiving the honor.

Please join us as we celebrate Patton’s Osprey Award on Feb. 18 at 6 pm at the Globe restaurant in Berlin – a fitting location since it is one of the Berlin properties that Patton restored. Tickets are $20 for MCBP members and $25 for non members, and includes hors d'oeuvres and a signature Osprey drink specially created for the occasion.

To purchase tickets contact Anita Ferguson by Feb. 10 at or 410-213-2297, ext. 109. Ferguson is the Public Outreach Coordinator for the Maryland Coastal Bays Program.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Attention Worcester County Landowners!

Would you like to restore natural function to your shoreline?
Enhance wildlife habitat on your forested property?
Replace lawn with a more natural landscape?
Learn about the current restoration and conservation programs available to large properties?

The Worcester County Department of Development Review and Permitting invites you to a day-long LANDOWNER CONFERENCE. Experts will teach sound shoreline, forest and wildlife management practices that landowners can implement.

Location: Worcester County Government Center, 3rd Floor; 1 West Market Street,
Snow Hill, MD 21811
Cost: $6.00 per registrant (to cover food costs)
Saturday, March 6, 2010

Whether you own a 1-acre lot or a 200-acre farm, this conference will provide valuable information to help you achieve your land stewardship goals. Every household/individual attending will receive a copy of The Woods in Your Backyard, or Forest Resource Management, an $18 value.

Click HERE for information on how to register for this valuable learning experience! This workshop is made possible by Worcester County and a grant from the Maryland Coastal Bays Program.

Friday, January 29, 2010

MCBP Not Involved with Pending Lawsuit

A recent suit filed by a local environmental organization against a Berlin poultry grower, make it again fitting to note the differences between advocacy organizations and the Maryland Coastal Bays Program.

It should be made clear that the Maryland Coastal Bays Program works through consensus, does not get involved in lawsuits, and works closely with landowners to help them do conservation work or solve pollution problems. We are not part of this or any other lawsuit.

As part of the National Estuary Program, we work with local farmers, developers, scientists, recreational and commercial fishermen, tourism professionals and local business owners to find practical solutions to issues related to conservation in the bays behind Ocean City and Assateague. In addition to these constituency groups, Ocean City, Berlin, Worcester County, the state of Maryland and the US Environmental Protection agency are all partners.

Since 1996 our focus has been to protect and enhance the health of the bays behind Assateague and Ocean City, and our method to accomplish these goals has always been to reach common ground through listening and learning.

A group that does engage in advocacy and lawsuits is the Waterkeeper Alliance, a global coalition of water-quality watchdog groups. In Worcester County, the local Assateague Coastkeeper (Kathy Phillips) is also the director of Assateague Coastal Trust (ACT). In her position she does what she is supposed to do – be an advocate and watchdog for water quality. ACT has a long history of environmental advocacy in the coastal bays, beginning with efforts in the early 1970s to preserve Assateague Island, which is now protected as a National Seashore.

The director of the Coastal Bays Program is Dave Wilson. His role is to provide oversight and direction to implement the Coastal Bays Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP). The CCMP represents a consensus of the best means needed to preserve the economic and ecological prosperity of the coastal bays in the next century. The plan includes reachable scientific goals and the most effective means for implementing them. To be sure, when our partners eschew their commitments or when they act in a manner that gives priority to special interests rather than the community as a whole, we work to hold them to their commitment. However, this is far different from being an advocacy organization.

Still we have worked with ACT in the past on projects like the Worcester County Comprehensive Plan and the Grow Berlin Green Initiative, and there is no doubt that we share a common goal with ACT to preserve and protect the watershed. But our methods to accomplish these goals remain quite different.

In making the distinction between the methods of the Coastal Bays Program and those of the Coastkeeper, ACT and other advocacy groups, we do not intend to disparage. Watchdog groups are vital to ensuring that protocols are being followed and laws are being abided. Sometimes this results in legal action, which can lead to frustration and anger within the community regardless of the merits of the accusations.

There will always be some who confuse the Coastal Bays Program with other environmental groups, and we will have to work to dispel that misconception. Along the way we will continue our mission to care for our natural resources.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Coastal Stewards Wins Award for Best New Heritage Initiative

The Lower Eastern Shore Heritage Council (LESHC) today awarded the Coastal Stewards as Best New Heritage Initiative of 2009. During the LESHC Annual Meeting, held at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore in Princess Anne, MD, representatives of the program gratefully accepted the award in front of an audience of over 100 attendees.

The award recognizes programs, events, or products that represent new initiatives achieved in the last year by an individual or organization that educate the public by expanding understanding of, or access to, the area's rich heritage.

Coastal Stewards is a Summer Youth Employment Program partnership which, in 2009, was funded by President Obama's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the National Park Service, and the Ocean City-Berlin Optimist Club.

During the summer of 2009, 11 local students were hired – for green jobs – and trained to work as interpreters at Assateague and other local parks and museums. Throughout the summer, these 11 Coastal Stewards engaged over 6,000 visitors to and residents of the Eastern Shore, providing powerful connections to local nature and heritage. Jay Parker, Executive Director of the Heritage Council, thanked Maryland Coastal Bays Education Coordinator Carrie Samis and Delmarva Low-Impact Tourism Experiences Director Jim Rapp for their efforts to inspire and lead this next generation of stewards.

Throughout the summer of 2009, Coastal Stewards shared information about coastal nature and heritage, and encouraged tourists to visit our parks and museums. Coastal Stewards were educating and involving the community through public outreach and education efforts at parks, local festivals, and official meetings of local and state elected leaders.

Teams were outfitted with mobile exhibits featuring information, literature, games, and live animal displays, designed to highlight efforts that local citizens and tourists can make to conserve and restore our land and water. Coastal Stewards assisted interpretation staff at Assateague with conducting public programs. During programs and events, Coastal Stewards promoted the variety of nature-based and heritage tourism experiences that exist in the region. Public outreach programs were conducted at several locations at Assateague Island National Seashore, Assateague State Park, Berlin, and Ocean City.

Joriee’ Dorman said, “being a Coastal Steward opened my eyes to the diversity of the Lower Eastern Shore, my home. I grasped so much and learned about my own heritage, in a way that no classroom or lecture could teach me.”

Coastal Stewards is managed by the Maryland Coastal Bays Program and Delmarva Low-Impact Tourism Experiences. Partner organizations include the Lower Shore Workforce Alliance, Assateague Island National Seashore, Assateague State Park, the Maryland Conservation Corps, and Worcester County Tourism.

Thanks to an expanded partnership with the Maryland Park Service’s Civic Justice Corps program, 24 Coastal Stewards will be hired in 2010! Summer job openings will be advertised through the MD Department of Natural Resources.

Pictured Aabove (left to right): Carrie Samis, Maryland Coastal Bays Program, Joiree’ Dorman, Nick Clemons, Assateague Island National Seashore, Janae Dorman, Angela Baldwin, Assateague State Park, Joe Dorman, Hoa Nguyen, Jim Rapp, Delmarva Low-Impact Tourism Experiences

Monday, January 18, 2010

We Need You for our Citizens Advisory Committee

Citizen involvement is a vital component to a successful non-profit organization, and the Maryland Coastal Bays Program has certainly been blessed to have so many people step up to the plate and volunteer their time to help protect and preserve our watershed.

The Coastal Bays Citizen’s Advisory Committee was formed when the MCBP came into being more than a decade ago. The committee included representation from the farming, business, recreational and commercial fishing interests. This diverse group of people brought together to solicit opinions from a broad spectrum of resource groups for the purpose of participating in the development and review of the Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP) for the bays behind Ocean City and Assateague. This plan, aimed at preserving this precious coastal resource, represents a consensus of the best means needed to preserve the economic and ecological prosperity of the coastal bays in the next century.

The Coastal Bays Program is part of the National Estuary Program, which is administered by the Environmental Protection Agency. However, program decisions and activities are carried out by committees made up of relevant stakeholders to identify and prioritize the problems in the estuary. Most NEPs choose a management framework that includes a Citizens Advisory Committee to represent the interests of estuary user-groups and the public.

The CAC membership should be broad-based and provide a non-governmental perspective on how policies affect citizens who live and work in the coastal bays watershed. The CAC should address a whole range of environmental problems facing the estuary.

Over the years, the Coastal Bays Program CAC has evolved to include a speaker series, in which experts from a variety of subjects regarding watershed issues present information at a public meeting. This has been well-received, but the committee’s work to help guide management in the coastal bays is far from over. It is our hope to again form a CAC that meets on a quarterly basis with the goal to provide ongoing advice to the Program on implementing the CCMP for the restoration and protection of the coastal bays.

Community support created the CCMP and will drive it in the future and ultimately it is the residents of this estuary who will benefit. Balancing growth with natural resource protection is the ultimate challenge this estuary faces in the next millennium. When citizen involvement is strong issues remain on the radar screen, raising awareness levels and changing attitudes.

The Coastal Bays Program is a partnership among the towns of Ocean City and Berlin, National Park Service, Worcester County, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Maryland Departments of Natural Resources, Agriculture, Environment, and Planning. This coalition is strong, but there is no substitute for broader public involvement.

With the goal of broader public involvement, we hope to reinvigorate the original concept of the CAC and will be holding a public meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 27 at 7 pm at the Ocean Pines Library, with the goal to form a committee of stakeholders that will meet quarterly for the longer betterment of our bays.

Ultimately, the responsibility to protect the Maryland Coastal Bays rests with those who live in the watershed. Only by becoming stewards of the Maryland Coastal Bays, caring for them consistently and managing their resources responsibly, can we preserve them for generations to come.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Shifting Sands Authors at the Ocean City Library Jan. 26

In June the staff of the Maryland Coastal Bays Program was proud to release one of our most important accomplishments – a book focusing on the environmental and cultural changes in the watershed. This month we are just as pleased to have the opportunity to discuss the book directly with the community.

Shifting Sands - Environmental and Cultural Change in Maryland’s Coastal Bays was 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.

Copies of the book are available at each of Worcester County’s public libraries, and on Tuesday, Jan. 26 at 1 pm, the public will have the unique opportunity to talk directly to authors Wilson, Jesien and Cain at the Ocean City branch on 100th Street. Through their unique approach of weaving together the region’s scientific exploration and history, cutting-edge science and peer-reviewed analysis synthesizing decades of work, the authors will give a holistic view of the bays behind Assateague and Ocean City.

Shifting Sands is a unique effort that provides a comprehensive look at the coastal lagoons and barrier islands making up Maryland’s Atlantic coastline. The book leads the reader through the history, setting, context and ecology of these waterways, their islands and mainland watershed, as well as management activities, history, setting, context and ecology of these fragile lagoons.

Shifting Sands is appropriately named considering the dynamic nature of the watershed. The name also refers 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.

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.

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.

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.”

We are grateful to Worcester County Public Libraries for providing the perfect venue to discuss this book. We hope the public will take this opportunity to learn directly from the authors just how relevant the Senator’s words are when it comes to the health of the watershed and economic vitality of our community.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Our Accomplishments in 2009

As we embark on the first week of a new year, it’s a good time to review a few of our accomplishments from last year.

In 2009 we continued to study horseshoe crabs, which thanks in large part to our efforts now have the highest population numbers to date in Maryland, according to a 2002-2009 report recently completed by MCBP staffer Carol Cain and Steve Doctor of the Maryland Fisheries Service. Data from this survey will be used to develop estimates of relative abundance, determine timing of spawning activity used to direct regulations, and make comparisons with horseshoe crab spawning behavior in the Delaware Bay.

In June we released the first Coastal Bays Report Card, revealing an overall grade C+ grade for our bays in 2008. Each of the six sub-watersheds received individual grades, with marks ranging from a B for the Sinepuxent Bay to a D+ for the St. Martin River and the Newport Bay. The grades were determined based on the current water quality and its relation to the quality needed for aquatic life to grow and thrive. The report provided a clear, concise and timely assessment of the health of our bays to help guide future efforts.

Also in June we released the book, Shifting Sand-Environmental and Cultural Change in Maryland’s Coastal Bays, a collaborative effort with the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. This was a major undertaking with MCBP Executive Director David Wilson Jr. and staff scientists Dr. Roman Jesien and Carol Cain 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.

In October, Dr. Roman Jesien oversaw the completion of a wetland habitat restoration at an 89-acre conservation easement in Showell that showcases some of the techniques that can be used to restore streams and wetlands. This once damaged and neglected property now provides habitat for forest dwelling birds, and serves as a site to teach youngsters about trees, wetlands, vegetation and wildlife.

Last summer 11 area high school and college students learned how to be Coastal Stewards as part of a new program that trains youth to conduct education, outreach, and stewardship activities. Managed by the Maryland Coastal Bays Program and Delmarva Low-Impact Tourism Experiences, partnered with the Lower Shore Workforce Alliance, Assateague Island National Seashore, and Assateague State Park, the Coastal Stewards program was funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The program is expected to expand in 2010.

Also in 2009 we completely revised and updated our website, helped launch Grow Berlin Green, raised a record amount of money from our Osprey Triathlon and continued work on conservation projects totaling 547 acres.

Part of the National Estuary Program, the Maryland Coastal Bays Program is a partnership with the towns of Ocean City and Berlin, National Park Service, Worcester County, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Maryland Departments of Natural Resources, Agriculture, Environment, and Planning.

Through education and outreach programs, restoration projects and involvement with the business community, builders, residents, visitors and government leaders, the Maryland Coastal Bays Program works to improve water quality, protect habitat and enhance forests and wetlands. With the help of our partners and the community, we vow to continue this important work in 2010.