Volume 12, Issue 29 ~ July 15-21, 2004
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Dock of the Bay

Report Card Time on State Circle
Find out who’s voting green and who’s not

With summer’s break in General Assembly session, it’s time to evaluate the lawmakers we selected to make or break our Bay watershed — and our health. Any politician can smile and claim to support a healthy environment, but actual votes reveal legislators’ actions. Next election in not-so-distant 2006, you get to rehire them or fire them. So how do you know if your representatives really are working for the environment that supports us all?

To help you figure out how green your elected reps are, Maryland League of Conservation Voters offers their 12th General Assembly Scorecard, the report of Maryland’s environmental votes over the last two years.

In an easy-to-read format, the League lays out key environmental legislation with a quick summary of the bills and the correct green answer. A grid of pro-environment pluses (+) and anti-environment minuses (-) shows how each official voted on each key legislation, with explanations of how missed votes hurt or help the environment.

For example, the Bay Restoration Fund, known as the Flush Tax, needed a Yes vote for the environmental policy to pass. A quick scan down the chart of legislators reveals who voted a correct Yes with a plus (+) or voted an unenvironmental No with a minus (-).

Del. Virginia Clagett

A percentage score sums up each legislator’s environmental voting record. For instance, a perfect score of 100 percent means that the legislator voted pro-environment on every environmental vote that came to the floor.

“The scores speak for themselves,” said Susan Brown, executive director of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters.

This scorecard records nine perfect scores of 100 in the Senate and 62 perfect scores in the House.

No Anne Arundel or Calvert senator earned a perfect score; Sen. Thomas V. Mike Miller came closest at 92 percent.

In the House, both counties boast two 100-percenters. They’re House Speaker Michael Busch and Del. Virginia Clagett in Anne Arundel and in Calvert, delegates James Proctor and Joseph Vallario, who represent only the Dunkirk area.

At the other end, District 34’s Nancy Jacobs anchored the Senate with a score of zero. In the House, District 7’s Richard Impallaria, District 8’s Alfred Redmer and 9A’s Warren Miller also earned environmental zeros.
The House scored better (73 percent) than the Senate (68 percent), on mostly the same legislation. Overall, the 2003-2004 scorecard saw stronger scores for the entire General Assembly compared to the 2001-2002 scorecard, when the House earned a 66 percent and the Senate earned a 60 percent.

The stronger scores of this year’s scorecard can be partly credited to Marylanders becoming increasingly sensitive to environmental damage and how to fix it. “The environmental community really stepped up their efforts,” said Brown, “People are really worried.”

General Assembly leadership earned high marks with House Speaker Michael Busch’s 100 percent andSenate President Mike Miller’s 92 percent.

“We also credit the leadership,” said Brown. “They received the highest scores ever from the president and speaker. They really made environment a key issue.”

Key scorecard votes in 2004 addressed the Flush Tax, energy efficiency standards, transit funding, septic systems, protecting shorelines from harmful development, environmentally responsible products, an energy-saving investment program and renewable energy portfolio. In 2003, key votes rejected Lynn Buhl as secretary of Maryland’s Department of Environment, as well as addressed penalties for violating wetland laws, environmental protections on transportation and energy efficiency.

To get the word out to more citizens about how green their representatives vote, the League is posting the scorecard on-line with a new interactive web version where you can enter your zip code to find out who your representatives are and how they’re voting. Then you can zip your praise or blame back to each legislator. The League is also distributing thousands of newsprint scorecards across the state to their supporters and members of other environmental groups, as well as handing them out at fairs and festivals.

“Our hope is that citizens will contact their legislators and thank them — or scold them,” said Brown.

The League also hopes that the scorecard will work as both a carrot and a stick for legislators. “They’ll either keep up good work or be chastised for a poor score.”

To see how your district’s elected officials measured up, check out the scorecard on the Maryland League of Conservation Voters’ website: www.mdlcv.org.

—Carrie Steele

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Snakeheads Forced to Slither Away
Time is running out for Maryland’s Most Wanted

By September, the only good snakehead will be a dead snakehead. Already a marked fish with a bounty on its head, it’s now likely to be legal only as dinner.

Maryland’s newest invasive species, the northern snakehead, first popped up in Crofton Pond last fall. Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources poisoned the pond, which held over 1000 baby snakeheads and two adult fish. Then a pond in Wheaton turned up one of the voracious predators, and anglers are bringing in these feisty fish in the Potomac River basin. Most recently, the 12th snakehead was caught in Charles County’s Pomonkey Creek by Potomac River fishing guide Ken Penrod.

These feisty fish are fine at home in China’s Yangtze River basin, but they’re trouble for Maryland ecosystems, where they’ve been transported by collectors and cooks.In Maryland, Northern snakeheads are top predators that eat ravenously, can breathe out of water for almost a day and survive a frigid winter outdoors. Programmed to rapidly populate, a female can lay up to 15,000 eggs up to five times per year. With survival skills like those, they can outeat and outbreed native species.

That’s why the northern snakehead, a long brownish fish with teeth and a snake-like pattern on its scales, is now the Most Wanted on a long list of invasives that range from mammals to viruses. Officials hope to squash snakeheads before they flourish in the wild like mute swans, which have multiplied into the thousands.

If the Department of Natural Resources has anything to say about it, the species’ adaptability won’t help it survive in Maryland. The newest proposal in the anti-snakehead campaign is to ban live possession of any of the 29 snakehead species.

Banning all snakeheads is overkill, counter the admirers of the maligned fish. Ban if you must the northern snakehead that threatens Maryland’s waters, they say, but save the 28 other species of snakeheads.

Fish fanciers and pet-store owners explained their virtues of the fish with the unfortunate name at DNR’s sole public hearing on the issue, last week in Annapolis.

“I would be heartbroken to lose my tropical snakeheads,” says Eric Lisica, who keeps ten of the fish, all over two feet long. “They’re great pets, not ferocious like they make them out to be on TV.”

The Northern snakehead is no pet.
“It’s not a pet industry species,” said Ruth Hanessian, president of Maryland Association of Pet Industries.

Pet or not, as of late 2002 federal law forbid any live snakehead to cross state lines into pet stores or markets. Now, unless a grandfather clause is added to the regulations, snakehead owners will be required to turn in their pets to a local Gold Circle Dealer pet store come September 13.

Or they could eat them. But if they let them loose in open waters, they’ll be breaking the law.

Retrieving snakeheads released into waterways is tricky business. The Department of Natural Resources relies on anglers to find the fish in the rivers and ponds. A reward offered by Bass Pro promotes fishing for this unlikely species.

If you reel in a snakehead, DNR asks that you kill it humanely with a blow to the head before reporting it first (410-260-8321), then handing it over to Bass Pro Shop at Arundel Mills in Hanover.

A snakehead under 12 inches will bring in $10; fish 13 to 24 inches will award $25. Snakeheads over 24 inches are worth $50. One $50 reward was already given out for a fish caught lurking in Little Hunting Creek.

Anglers who turn in snakeheads also earn a Snakehead Wrangler cap from DNR.

Keeping a live snakehead as catch or pet will make you an outlaw after September 13. But they’ll still be legal cuisine.

“It’s still legal to cook, serve and have them on a menu,” said Gina Hunt, of DNR Fisheries. “The problem will be getting them.”

The public comment period for the proposed regulations lasts through August 9. Post your thoughts on the DNR website at http://dnrweb.dnr.state.md.us/fish/2004snakehead_comment/. Regulations will be effective by September 13.

—Carrie Steele

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So. Maryland, So Good – & So Fresh

Buy-local campaign proves a peach that’s traveled long distance does not taste so sweet

“Tobacco farmers never had to market their wares,” says Jim Bourne of Sandy Hill Farm in Calvert County. “Youíd never stroll down Rt. 4 and see a roll-your-own cigarette stand.”

But times have changed, and Maryland’s surviving farmers are going to market with peaches, petunias, poultry, parsley and potatoes. Ninety-four percent of Southern Maryland tobacco growers — 869 farmers — will have bought-out of tobacco by January 2005. Because the state-funded $77-million buyout requires each taker to farm the former tobacco fields for a decades, hundreds of farmers are now growing genuine Southern Maryland products — from persimmons to pumpkins — other than tobacco.

All they need now are customers to buy the foods that are replacing tobacco as Maryland farmers’ cash crop.

It’s not that Maryland isn’t full of eaters who’d gobble up local fruit, vegetables, beef, chicken and eggs. The changing tide that swept tobacco into history has also made Maryland’s agricultural south home to thousands of potential new customers.

The problem is connecting new customers with old farmers.

“We did a study and found that what local farmers needed most was a market,” said Christine Bergmark, of the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission, who created So. Maryland, So Good. The resultant buy-local campaign aims to improve the farm-to-market link with what Bergmark calls “a value-added label to encourage consumers to support local farms."

The So. Maryland, So Good logo captures the transition from a past built by tobacco into a present sustained by produce. All of the familiar features of rural southern Maryland are portrayed. Amid a backdrop of Chesapeake waterways, green fields and a wooden tobacco barn, a farm girl heads to market with a basket full of freshly picked produce. Like many of the farmers who have taken the buyout, she turns her back on tobacco and ventures forth into southern Maryland’s new agricultural era.

From Sandy Hill Farm in Owings, Jim Bourne offers local beef, eggs and turkeys. His parents used the same lands to grow tobacco that he has adapted to raising livestock and poultry. Since his farm has replaced the green leaves of tobacco with cows and chickens, he sure hopes the new program will show that “Southern Maryland is more than just tobacco.”

It’s not only farmers who benefit. Food buyers who pay attention to labels will be able to tell at a glance that the fruits, veggies, meats and dairy products they enjoy are field fresh, not road weary from traveling across the nation. Produce travels an average of 1,500 miles before reaching customer palates, according to Bergmark. Freshness, taste and overall quality suffer along the long journey.

Should you expect to see the So. Maryland, So Good label sharing space beside out-of-towners in the produce aisle at your local Safeway or Giant? “I hope so,” said Bergmark. “But after 9/11, they were not encouraging their local stores to buy local produce.” Bergmark is, however, courting a relationship with Whole Foods at Annapolis Harbour Center.

But you can buy local at almost 20 grocers and farmers’ markets Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s counties. Try Calvert Country Market, Graul’s Market in Annapolis or McKay’s Foodland in Lexington Park. And you can eat local at nearly a dozen restaurants spread thinly throughout the five counties. Find a complete listing at www.somarylandsogood.com.

The new buy-local campaign not only feeds local appetites but also the local economy. “If every household in the five southern counties bought $8 of locally grown products for 12 weeks,” said Bergmark, “that’s $54 million back into our farm economy.”

If support rises to anywhere near that level, farmers will be doing well as we eat well.

So Taste Southern Maryland for yourself, and discover that that which we call a peach, by traveling long distance, does not taste as sweet.

—Lauren Silver

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Ask the Plant Professor

Itch, Itch!

Q Every time I mow or work in the lawn, I get chigger bites. I read that taking a sudsy bath and applying topical ointments will kill off the bugs and ease the itching. Do chiggers invade interior spaces such as beds or mattresses?

A Chiggers have four life stages: egg, larva, nymph and adult. Only the larvae bite. They attach to skin that is thin, creased or covered with elastic bands such as ankles, groin, waist, elbows, armpits. Then they inject a digestive enzyme and feed on liquefied skin. After about three days, they drop off and transform into nymphs.

Dermatitis typically arises at the feeding bump, but scratching can cause secondary infection. Contrary to popular belief, the larvae are not inside the bump and painting it with nail polish does not smother the larvae. Treatments to ease itching include hydrocortisone, benzocaine and caladryl, but infection may require a visit to your physician.

It is possible for chiggers to get into your bedding. Deter them by washing your bed linens in hot soapy water.

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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Way Downstream …

In Reedville, Va., there’s bad news for Chesapeake Bay fisherman. Omega Protein Corp. is building a $17 million refinery to process menhaden for fish oil. Over 300 million pounds of menhaden is harvested at Reedville annually, and many experts believe that the shortage of menhaden in the Bay is the cause for the dramatic decline in sea trout and a contributing factor in the mycobacteriosis that has inflicted rockfish …

In Britain, it looks like all those jellyfish that aren’t showing up in the Chesapeake Bay have descended on the seas of United Kingdom. The Brits this week reported an invasion of jellyfish, from the huge lion’s mane that can grow six feet in diameter to the venomous barrel jellyfish to electric blue, red and purple varieties, some with sting tentacles 30 feet long. Scientists couldn’t explain why so many are showing up …

In Spain, animal-rights protesters were forbidden to run naked in the town of Pamplona to protest the famed running of the bulls. But 200 critics came close last week: women were topless, some wearing just a G-string, and men had stripped down to their scivvies. “We want to be an attraction as well,” said a 26-year-old Austrian woman with pierced nipples and a “Vegetarian Society Approved” tattoo on her rear end …

Our Creature Feature comes from Germany, where the brave new world of biotechnology is producing some strange products: like a stroke treatment developed from vampire bat saliva. A Frankfurt company, Paion, last week licensed the new product, desmoteplase.

The drug is a genetically engineered version of a protein in bat spit that prevents blood from clotting. That is important to a vampire bat. A spokesman said that Paion may seek approval for its drug in the United States in a few years.

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