Suburban sprawl in the Chesapeake Bay watershed threatens to negate progress made in bay cleanup efforts, according to a report issued yesterday by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
The report, a comprehensive survey of development practices and statistics within the bay's watershed, predicts that an area 50 times larger than Washington, D.C., would be converted to homes, shopping centers and parking lots in the next 25 years if development trends continue as they have during the past 25 years. Called "Land and the Chesapeake," the report finds that land is being consumed in metropolitan Washington at a rate 2.5 times greater than the rate at which the population is growing, and that the number of miles residents traveled to their jobs and to shop increased by 105 percent from 1970 to 1994, while the population increased 26 percent.
The report "strongly reinforces the urgent need ... to take specific steps toward changing how land is used, and toward better stewardship of open space," said Lee Epstein, director of the foundation's lands program.
The report was released two weeks after Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia signed a new bay cleanup agreement in which land-use controls were a major issue.
Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III balked at signing the agreement until language calling for a 30 percent reduction in the rate at which forests and farms are converted to development by 2010 was softened to call for a 30 percent reduction in the rate of "harmful sprawl."