Volume 12, Issue 18 ~ April 29-May 5, 2004
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Dock of the Bay

An Exam in the Sun
At Envirothon, students step outside into a new kind of classroom

At a shaded picnic table, four boys surrounded a faded blue aerial photo, pouring over the lay of the land and pointing out patterns in hushed voices. Plotting a conspiracy? Hardly. Learning to use their heads? Definitely.

Last week, 35 high school students traded in textbooks for field guides and left fluorescent-lit classrooms to spend a day in the sun. These students put their understanding of environmental concepts to the test at Anne Arundel County’s annual Envirothon competition.

At Arlington Echo Outdoor Education Center in Millersville, the student teams tested on forestry, wildlife, fisheries, soils and urban issues. As only fitting, four out of the five exams were set outdoors.

photo by Carrie Steele
A student competing in this year’s Envirothon at Arlington Echo Outdoor Education Center profiles a soil sample, using the soil’s color to help determine its chemical makeup.
In this fifth year of Anne Arundel County’s Envirothon, sponsored in part by the Soil Conservation Council and the Board of Education, future conservationists, biologists and foresters focused their thoughts on written portions and then got their hands dirty examining layers of soil in a small dugout.

Profiling soil, one such task for a team, means differentiating the O horizon, the top layer of soil, from the A horizon, the next layer down. Soil coloring then has to be scrutinized to determine its makeup.

The young naturalists also aged a deer by its jawbone, maneuvered through field guides to identify birds, determined the height of a tree (80 feet) and examined an aerial photograph of Annapolis from the 1970s for the impact of urbanization.

This year’s Enviro-theme, Natural Resource Management in the Urban Environment, helped students understand how increased development in the region has affected land and water.

Picking apart that aerial photograph for clues about the urban environment were five teams from Severna Park, South River and Chesapeake high schools, who all attended a full-day training session and prepared weekly for the April 20 competition.

Most Envirothon scholars either enrolled in advanced placement environmental science or studied with an environmental club. These students “already have an aptitude for environmental decisions,” said Will Williams, a Department of Natural Resources educator. “The Envirothon gives them a chance to gain insight.”

Students worked with environmental professionals in each of the instructional areas. Professional foresters actually guided the students in how to measure a tree’s diameter, height and board feet.

“I think they appreciate talking to people in jobs that involve wildlife, marine biology and the outdoors and meeting people that are making a living doing this,” said Ginny Barnicoat, who teaches AP environmental science at Chesapeake High School.

This year’s Envirothon winners, from South River High School, knew previous victory from last year’s competition. Along with prestige, the team advances to the state level competition. Maryland’s winner will compete this summer in the 17th Annual Canon Envirothon Championship in Buckhannon, West Virginia. Winners of that competition share more than $30,000 in scholarships.

—Carrie Steele

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Ask the Plant & Pest Professor

Q. We have a large area of mature azaleas and rhododendrons, which were full when we moved into our house eight years ago. Many have died back 50 percent or completely. How should I fertilize? I applied an acidifying fertilizer for the past two years. It doesn’t seem to be helping.

A. Fertilizing is a small portion of azalea and rhododendron care. In fact, plants are more prone to insect and disease problems when they are given too much fertilizer, which further stress plants already stressed. These plants prefer partial shade and well-drained soil rich in organic matter. Over the past few years, growing conditions have ranged from severe drought to excessive rainfall. This was very stressful. Prune out diseased or dead branches. Apply a layer of organic matter (compost, leaf mold or well-rotted manure) around the base. Mulch is helpful to retain moisture. Water during drought. Once-a-year fertilization is sufficient but not necessary. If you fertilize, do so in late winter, early spring or after they flower.

Read our free publication HG 51; IPM Series: “Azaleas and Rhododendrons.”

Ask the Plant and Pest Professor is compiled from questions sent to the website of the Home and Garden Information Center, part of Maryland Cooperative Extension, an educational outreach of the University of Maryland. Ask a home gardening or pest control question and find other help: 800-342-2507 (Mon.-Fri. 8am-1pm) • www.hgic.umd.edu.

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Thomas Point Light Comes Home
Annapolis takes title to historic lighthouse

Thomas Point Lighthouse has stood 1.5 miles offshore from Annapolis for 129 years, an enduring symbol assuring weary sailors and travelers they were almost home.

But until now, Annapolis’ signature lighthouse belonged to the U.S. Coast Guard. On May 1 at the annual Annapolis Maritime Festival, the Coast Guard hands the deed to the lighthouse over to the city.

Thomas Point will be the first turnover since the National Historic Preservation Act of 2000 shifted lighthouse ownership to municipalities.

“The Coast Guard has to keep an eye on its budget, and these structures are more costly than sticking a light on a metal pole in a channel,” explains Anne Puppa of Elkridge. Puppa is president of the Chesapeake Chapter of the U.S. Lighthouse Society, which will partner with the city to maintain Thomas Point’s physical structure.

The Coast Guard continues to operate the light and foghorn as aids to navigation.

photo by William Frece; courtesy of Department of Natural Resources
Culminating an eight-month, sometimes controversial process will be a small ceremony featuring a scale model of the lighthouse, short speeches and the signing over. Ceremonies are at 11am at Susan Campbell Park at City Dock.

That’s all for now.

“The actual transfer is a formality,” says city spokeswoman Jan Hardesty. “The Coast Guard considers the city taking over the lighthouse to be a classic example of how handovers should be done and wanted to make the transfer a public event.”

Someday soon, Annapolis will open the historic landmark to visitors. The Annapolis Maritime Museum will be the caretaker, ferrying tourists to the confluence of the South River with the Bay. They’ll climb onto the perilous perch and up into the house, which will be recreated room by room in the style of past eras.

No time has been set for touring to begin. Before the curious get up close and personal, the docking stations of both the Maritime Museum and the lighthouse, damaged during Hurricane Isabel, must be repaired.

“We have to do the estimates, take the bids and then raise the money,” says Hardesty.

—Louis Llovio

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Lockdown Lifted
‘Roving monitor’ lengthens hours at Truxtun Park Skate Park

Truxtun Park’s skate park is being paroled. After being locked down to just 10 hours of supervised use per week since the middle of March, the park’s expanded hours begin May 3. A roving monitor will enforce seemly behavior on an intermittent reinforcement schedule.

“With our monitor, we’ve had a real positive response, and we haven’t had any problems,” says Annapolis Recreation and Parks director LeeAnn Plumer.

Plumer plans to keep monitoring the use of the park, and she’s considering further expanding the hours once school is over.

Closing at 8pm is reasonable for this time of year, according to Brian Harris, manager of the Asylum board shop on Main Street. “As long as the sun is up, there’ll be kids out there trying to skate,” he says.

For Plumer, the lockdown was a chance to get a message out. "It's been an outreach effort to educate and communicate to the skating community what our concerns are. If we find that rules are being broken or people's safety is put at risk, we're going to have to reduce the hours once again," she said.

Now she hopes the skaters will take it from here. “We’ve asked them to use their peer pressure to say ‘If you guys don’t stop it — or whatever — they’re going to close the park again.’ That type of self-enforcement is what we’re looking for.”

Weather permitting, new hours are 10am to 8pm weekdays and noon to 5pm weekends: 410-263-7958.

Reinforcing the good news is a Skateboarding and BMX Fundraiser with special appearances by Pro-Action Athletes plus music, food, drink and prizes starting at noon Saturday, May 1, at Mayo Beach Park. $15 w/age discounts: nihilismclothing.com

—Lucy Oppenheim

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Cash-Strapped DNR Refuses $75,000
Money offered to call off bear hunt

It’s not every day you turn down $75,000, especially when you’re a state agency on a starvation budget.

That’s exactly what Maryland Department of Natural Resources did. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t try to keep the money.

To stop Maryland’s first hunt for black bears in more than half a century, the Fund for Animals and the Humane Society offered DNR $75,000. The money, wrote the animal welfare groups in their March 17 offer, would enable the department to “pay one-hundred-percent compensation to Maryland’s farmers for all eligible bear damage claims through the Black Bear Compensation Program.”

Farmers lose between $10,000 and $40,000 per year to bears. The remainder of the donation would be earmarked for education programs.

In return, DNR would have to call off the hunt.

“If the plan for a recreational bear hunt is withdrawn, the Fund and HSUS will collectively contribute up to $75,000 to the DNR for a program centered on bear damage compensation and bear-human conflict management,” stated the March letter to Paul Peditto, director of DNR’s Wildlife and Heritage Service.

“This was quite clearly not a legitimate offer,” said Peditto. “This was a bribe to cancel the bear hunt.”

The department “rejected the stipulation that the bear hunting season be canceled,” according to a press release. The department didn’t, however, reject the money.

“While we may not agree on the hunting regulation proposal, I hope that the Fund for Animals and Humane Societies of the United States’ commitment to assist us is sincere and that we can count on their financial and philosophical support,” said Peditto.

“That they’ll take the money,” said Michael Markarian, president of the Fund for Animals. “But refuse to meet the agreement is outrageous and clearly illustrates that DNR is not interested in helping farmers whose property is being destroyed.”

To halt Maryland’s new black bear hunting season — enacted to cull nuisance ursines — the Fund for Animals and the Humane Society have offered DNR $75,000 to augment revenues generated by sales of the Black Bear Conservation Stamp. Funds from the stamps reimburse farmers for lost produce or livestock, but not enough stamps were sold to cover last year’s damages.
Peditto, in turn, accused the animal welfare groups of hypocrisy. “If these groups really wanted to help,” he said, “it would have been nice if they offered the money when we came up short raising money for the stamp fund, which is the only way we can legally compensate farmers.”

The Black Bear Conservation Stamp, a take-off on the very successful federal duck stamp program, is sold to raise money to reimburse farmers for bear damage. But this stamp didn’t take flight, and proceeds failed to cover farmers’ claims. In 2001, when $36,389 were claimed in damages, stamp funds covered only $21,833, or 60 percent, of those claims.

The Fund for Animals and the Humane Society rejected what Markarian called DNR’s “money grab.”

“It is clear that DNR is not seeking to solve bear conflicts in western Maryland,” added Markarian, “but simply to put bears in trophy hunters’ sights.”

Countered Peditto: “We’ve worked our butts off to provide non-lethal help to agricultural communities.”

In spite of the bad blood, Markarian said “the offer stands.”

—Louis Llovio

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Way Downstream …

In Annapolis, officials confirmed last week that Maryland is among the states that have received plants that may be afflicted with Sudden Oak Death disease.

The state Department of Agriculture has tracked down 200 people who bought from Specialty Plants Inc., a California mail-order company. Maryland wants anybody who has purchased camellias, viburnum or lilacs in the past year, even locally, to call the Home and Garden Information Center Hotline: 800-342-2507…

In Virginia, they may not be known as environmental stalwarts, but they’ve got a healthy respect for bugs. We say that because, for the first time, Virginia has designated six insects endangered or threatened.

The newly endangered include: Mitchell’s satyr butterfly, Holsinger’s cave beetle, the Buffalo Mountain mealybug and the Virginia Piedmont water boatman. The Northeastern beach tiger beetle and the Appalachian grizzled skipper, a butterfly, were declared threatened.

In New York, Kim Basinger’s 3.7-carat diamond engagement ring from ex-spouse Alec Baldwin drew more than predicted when she donated it last week on behalf of the Performing Animal Welfare Society — a cool $59,750, which ought to keep a few ex-circus elephants truly living large for a while …

Our Creature Feature comes from Britain, where Dave Alsop learned not to photograph an amorous white rhino. The big fellow’s name was Sharka, his partner Trixie, and Alsop should have kept driving in the Safari Park.

Because, next thing Also knew, two-ton Sharka began, well, mating with his Renault, denting the doors and ripping off the mirrors. A park spokeswoman noted that Sharka, who had fathered two calves recently, is known for his lust. Said she: “He’s got a bit of a reputation this lad, and he was obviously at it again.”

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Last updated April 29, 2004 @ 2:17am.