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A Presidential Pardon for the Chesapeake Bay

Unless you work for the government, you might have forgotten Monday is Presidents’ Day. The holiday originally celebrated George Washington’s birthday on Feb. 22. But today it is an opportunity to honor the contributions of all our presidents and their impact on our lives.

For the 18 million Americans who live in the 64,000-square-mile Chesapeake Bay watershed spanning six states, one major recent presidential action was Executive Order 13508. Issued in 2009, President Barack Obama’s order recognized the bay as a national treasure and consolidated state and federal cleanup efforts.

Since being mired in pollution in the 1970s, the bay has made steady progress, reaching its healthiest level in more than 30 years in mid-2018. Sadly, the punishing rains we experienced in the second half of the year set it back significantly, as large amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus rushed in and became fuel for destructive algae.

Situated on 144 miles of bay shoreline, Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG) takes its responsibility to the nation’s largest estuary very seriously. We recognize our streams and rivers do not stop at our boundaries, our more than 300 bald eagles are not restricted to our airspace, and our people are not confined to their workplaces. That means we need a strong and resilient environment to achieve our mission and support our community.

APG has long been a leader in supporting numerous Chesapeake Bay projects. One of our most important efforts is measuring Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), which sets limits for the amount of nitrogen, phosphorous, and sediment allowed to enter the bay. APG is on track to exceed the TMDL 2025 goals established by the Environmental Protection Agency and Maryland.

APG also assists the Virginia Institute of Marine Science in monitoring and mapping underwater vegetation, a key indicator of bay health. We support sediment sampling by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and assist with surveys of striped bass, logperch, and other bay amphibians, birds, and nocturnal insects.

Beyond the bay itself, we recognize how crucial surrounding forests and wetlands are to protect animal habitat and build resiliency to a changing climate. In 2018 alone, we planted 225 trees and completed more than 100 acres of forest enhancement. We monitor wetland hydrology, evaluate impacts of future sea level rise, and ensure new construction and redevelopment projects minimize impacts to wetlands.

In addition, APG has made important strides in land preservation. Through the Army Compatible Use Buffer (ACUB) Program, since 2007 we have preserved six parcels totaling 330 acres, including the recently acquired Perryman Forest. ACUB provides a literal “buffer” for areas affected by our activities. But it also protects agricultural, forested, and undeveloped lands; improves property values; and increases recreational activities like hiking and hunting.

APG pursues these and other environmental initiatives because we are dedicated to being good neighbors to the communities that support our mission. I am proud of Harford County’s shared commitment to stewardship of our environment, including efforts like the city of Aberdeen’s annual Earth Day celebration in April. These engagements show you do not have to be the president to make a positive impact. I am confident that by working together, we can continue to improve the health of the land and bay that give our region its rich identity and vitality.

America’s Army, Your Army!

Army Maj. Gen. Randy Taylor is the senior commander at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

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