Outdoors column: Chesapeake Bay restoration effort threatened

cdollar@cdollaroutdoors.com

On the way to work one day this week I saw a bald eagle, pair of ospreys, and a flock of Canada geese. Unseen to my eye, swimming hard upriver toward their spawning grounds, were the mind-blowing numbers of rockfish, shads and herrings. Aside from the obvious connection that they're birds and fish, the much more important point here is that at one time during the past 50 years the numbers of each were so low humans had to intervene to arguably prevent irreversible collapses of each of these Chesapeake icons.

As I spied the geese feeding in a field, a radio journalist was describing how the Trump Administration's proposed budget, if enacted, would gut programs helping restore the Chesapeake and other national waters. In fact, there is zero money budgeted for fiscal 2018 for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Bay Program Office. Championing this plan is the EPA's new administrator, Scott Pruitt, who infamously as attorney general for the great land-locked state of Oklahoma, supported a lawsuit claiming the agency he now leads doesn't have the authority to enforce pollution limits in the Chesapeake watershed. Sweet.

Environmentalists and conservationists tell us the Trump plan could bring decades of progress to clean up the bay to a screeching halt. It's also conceivable if rollbacks in pollution controls take effect we may experience declines in air and water quality, wildlife and marine habitats and sustainable fisheries at an accelerated pace. To paraphrase that great fictional philosopher Jeffery Lebowski, "I do mind, the Dude minds. This will not stand, ya know, this aggression will not stand, man." I jest here, of course, because what I really shouted into the steering wheel referred descriptively to the final product of bovine's digestive process. To repeat verbatim would be too coarse for a family paper.

As bad as things look for the bay it's possibly worse for the nation. Hundreds of millions of dollars in grants that fund numerous water-quality and agricultural initiatives to prevent pollution and restore habitat are at risk if Trump's proposal becomes reality. I cannot think of a single group — farmers, boaters, watermen, sport anglers, hunters, bikers or hikers — that either makes a living or gets enjoyment, or both, from the greater Chesapeake region that won't suffer. Maybe not next month or even next year, but if the rollbacks are not contested none of us can avoid getting sucked into the wash such draconian actions would create.

Every bay politician, natural resource chief and their environmental counterpart in my lifetime has cited the "value of this national treasure" in his or her pitch. They aren't wrong. I've read where the bay watershed provides an estimated $1 trillion in economic benefit, all things considered. Yet can you put a price tag on our cultural identity? I can't. And then there's keeping your word part. As a nation, for nearly 50 years we've had a long-standing deal to work across party lines and socio-economic strata to team up to clean up our polluted messes, as well as restore and protect wildlife and wild places. You name it — Great Lakes, Everglades, national parks — virtually any place of natural wildness that makes us truly American could be under attack.

If there's a silver lining to this funding debacle it's that Congress holds the power of the purse. I'm not suggesting there isn't room to streamline environmental regulations and programs to increase efficiency, because there is. Yet, to wipe out decades of progress with the stroke of a pen not only makes no sense economically — green jobs are part of our future, like it or not — it is morally reckless and reprehensible. Our congressional representatives must show the courage and resolve to resist these unwarranted cuts.

For the past 20 years, just about every week anglers, hunters and people who revel in the Chesapeake's gifts share their experiences with me through photos and anecdotal notes. Next month when the striper season kicks off tens of thousands of us will collectively spend millions of dollars pursuing more than just a silvery fish. We'll take to the water to rekindle our deep-rooted connections to the people and fish that call Chesapeake home.

Email outdoors news, photos and calendar listings to Chris Dollar at cdollar@cdollaroutdoors.com.

Outdoors calendar

March 20: MSSA Broadneck/Magothy Chapter Meeting, American Legion Post #175, 832 Manhattan Beach Road, Severna Park at 7:30 p.m. Contact Skip Zinck at skipzinck@comcast.net.

March 23: Annapolis Boat Sales hosts Capt. "Walleye" Pete Dahlberg. Light tackle techniques for trophy rockfish. 1725 South Piney Road, Chester MD 21619. RSVP to jack@annapolisboatsales.com.

March 25: 3rd annual Hunting Legacy Dinner & Benefit, hosted by the Maryland Hunting Coalition. Noon-4 p.m., Martins Westminster. Tickets at mdhuntingcoalition.org.

March 28: Angler's Night Out, hosted by Boatyard Bar & Grill, in cooperation with CCA MD & Chesapeake Bay Magazine. Feature film is "Providence." Happy hour & appetizer specials from 5 p.m.-7 p.m., film starts at 7 p.m. Boatyard Bar & Grill, 4th Street & Severn Avenue, Eastport.

April 10: Pasadena Sportfishing Group monthly meeting. Speaker is Capt. Dale Kirkendall of Wild Goose Charters, on "Spring Trolling." Earliegh Heights Firehall, Ritchie Highway, Severna Park. Contact (410) HEY-FISH or pasadenasportfishing.com.

April 15: Boatyard Bar & Grill's "Catch and Release Rockfish Tournament." Registration is open at boatyardbarandgrill.com. Contact boatyardevent@gmail.com or (410) 216-6206.

April 20: CCA MD Annapolis Chapter Banquet. CBF's Merril Center, 6 Herndon Avenue, Annapolis. 6 p.m.-9:30 p.m. Email mkupfer@ccamd.org for details.

April 21-23: Bay Bridge Boat Show. Details at annapolisboatshows.com/bay-bridge-boat-show.

May 5-7: MSSA's Championship on the Chesapeake. Details at mssa.net.

May 6: Small Boat Offshore Seminar, hosted by CCA MD Baltimore Chapter. Loew's Annapolis Hotel, 126 West Street, Annapolis.

June 3: Kent Narrows Light Tackle & Fly Tournament. Hosted at The Jetty, 201 Wells Cove Road, Grasonville. Contact David Sikorski at (443) 621-9186 or davidsikorski@ccamd.org.

Copyright © 2017, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
63°