Volume 12, Issue 44 ~ October 28- November 3, 2004
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Dock of the Bay

photo by Sandra O. Martin
Russell Train, who served under President Nixon as the EPA’s second administrator, spoke in Annapolis at an awards ceremony honoring his environmental stewardship.
League of Conservation Voters’ Hero

For the Nation and the Bay, Russell Train ‘Made a Huge Difference’

As presidential contenders George W. Bush and John F. Kerry run neck and neck toward the finish line November 2, Russell Train, a Republican stalwart and the Maryland League of Conservations Voters’ fourth John Kabler award winner, accused president George W. Bush of falling short of the environmental standard set by his party and GOP predecessors.

Russell Train, 84, held up Republican president Richard M. Nixon as the standard-setter. He knows, Train told an audience of 275 friends of the environment, because he was there.

Honored in Annapolis last week for outstanding environmental stewardship, Train was appointed by Nixon as the second administrator of the then new Environmental Protection Agency in 1973, serving until 1977. Before coming to the EPA, he was the first chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality.

“Russell’s lived through the whole environmental movement,” Aileen Train, his wife of 50 years, told Bay Weekly. “He was the original spokesman and made a huge difference over the long run. Literally every environmental law in the country came out of his office at the Council on Environmental Quality. Then he moved to the EPA to implement them.”

Chuck Fox, chairman of the board of League of Conservation voters, spoke of Train as a legend.

“I learned about him in my college textbooks,” said Fox, who headed Maryland Department of Natural Resources in the late years of Gov. Parris Glendening’s administration. For Train’s environmental achievements at the federal level, Fox called him the second father, along with Sen. Charles ‘Mac’ Mathias, of Chesapeake Bay restoration.

The Bay is not only his cause but also his second home. The Trains spend weekends at their Talbot County farm in Bozman.

Like Mathias, Train is a Republican, and their commitment to conservation continues a tradition born a century ago with Theodore Roosevelt.

“I’m a life-long Republican,” said the dapper, self-deprecating Train who dressed in pin-striped suit for the $150-a-plate fund-raising award dinner at Loews Annapolis Hotel October 20. He promised to speak briefly: “I can’t read my notes, and my glasses do not help.” He kept his promise, compressing into a few minutes both a history of the environmental movement and the leading role his party has played over the last three decades.

“Few today remember or realize,” he said, “that a great part of today’s structure was put in place many years ago, in the early to mid 1970s, under the administrations of presidents Nixon and Ford.”

Among those enduring protections are the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act and the Toxic Substances Control Act.

In achieving those landmark protections, Train gave equal credit to a Democratic Congress, “with Ed Muskie the principal flag-carrier.

“The things we did are still there,” said Train.

Nostalgia was not the message of the man praised as an environmental hero of state, nation and world. Instead, he was delivering a message for our times, our leaders and our conservation voters.

“That kind of cooperation and consensual effort produces lasting positive results,” Train said.

Train, who has campaigned on behalf of Democratic nominee John Kerry in a half-dozen battleground states, accused today’s White House of interfering with EPA enforcement of environmental laws.

The White House has disputed Train’s assessment, arguing that the president has offered proposals — such as his Clear Skies program to cut some air pollutants — despite a wartime budget that has limited spending on the environment and other domestic initiatives.

“I think it is totally wrong. It never happened once in my time. They didn’t tell me or my predecessor [William Ruckelshaus] how to make a regulation,” he said. “They would never have gotten away with it if they had.”

The stakes, he said, are too high: On environmental protection depend “our quality of life, our security and ultimately our survival.”

So “support the League of Conservation Voters,” the old conservationist Republican advised the bipartisan audience gathered in his honor. “Then get out and vote.”

—Sandra Olivetti Martin

photos courtesy of Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
‘Our choices are having an effect on estuaries’ says Dennis Whigham of the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater.

Digging Deeper into Development

Scientists Confirm Link Between Land Use and Environmental Quality

People really do make a difference: We’ve been told all along that what we do on our lots and land parcels makes or breaks our Bay. Now we’ve got proof.

Studies funded by the EPA’s Estuarine and Great Lakes initiative have linked the amount of both commercial and residential development in an area with degradation of its water quality and wildlife.

One of the scientists, Dennis Whigham of Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, explained the new research at an October meeting of the Spa Creek Conservancy.

Whigham was among a team of researchers at the Smithsonian who found a 26 percent probability that breeding birds raising their young are affected by as little as 10 percent land development within 500 meters of the wetland. This probability jumped to 79 percent when still only 17 percent of the nearby land was developed.

Scientists have been studying more than 400 watersheds in the Chesapeake region for signs of human interference in the Bay’s ecology — from the wetland birds to levels of PCBs in white perch to nitrates in cropland-side streams.

“We need to be protecting things further upstream in the watershed,” said Whigham. “If I have a parcel of land discharging into a stream, it really does matter how well buffered the stream is and how close it is to my parcel of land. Our choices are having an effect on estuaries.”

Daunting as the news seems, conservationists are delighted to have a firm, proven link between our actions on land and the outcomes in ecology.

“Scientists are committed to trying to quantify the effects of development,” says Spa Creek Conservancy president Jim Martin. “We all know development can be a bad thing, so it’s wonderful to have someone help us know what’s wrong.”

—Carrie Steele

photo by Carrie Steele
Adam, Chloe and Charlotte Fraunux; Kailyn Hitchens, and museum volunteer Margaret Stamper pet baby skates and rays in the touch tank.

Skates and Rays Home at Solomons

Ghostly Bay Neighbors Haunt New Exhibit at Calvert Marine Museum

You’ve glimpsed the flapping fins of rays skimming the water’s surface of the Bay. At the beach, you’ve seen the midnight-black egg cases of skates washed up on the sand. Now, you can meet these little-known shark relatives up close and in depth at Secrets of the Mermaid’s Purse, the newest interactive exhibit at the Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons.

Follow a curving ramp flanked by a mural of underwater skates and rays, painted by resident artist Tim Schirer, and you’re submerged in the world. Diving into the exhibit, you feel as if you’re swimming underwater yourself through the turquiose-colored room.

“They’ve been around for millions of years,” says museum director Douglass Alves. “Their fossils are found along with sharks’ teeth.” These flat fish being mostly cartilage, teeth are their only remains.

Fossils and history of skates and rays begins the exhibit; then information boards and skeletal models teach you about their biology, including how skates’ mouths, which contain tiny teeth, differ from rays’ mouths, which crush food between two plates.

Chesapeake’s native skates and rays — the clearnose skate, with its rounder diamond shape and lighter beige colors with camouflaging spots; and the cownose ray, with its pointed wings, double-lobed head and shark-like coloring — are ghostly mysteries. Calvert Marine Museum seeks to unravel the enigma through its exhibit.

“Lots of people are confused about the difference between skates and rays,” says Alves. “We’re trying to inform people about these native fish. It’s a fun thing to highlight.”

Also fun is the nursery, where you’ll discover mermaid’s purses: those rectangular black pods with tails at the four corners that you find on the beach every summer. These egg sacks — often mistaken for sharks eggs — are actually skates’ egg cases. A hatchery aquarium displays the progress of live skates during their 12-month development inside their mermaid’s purse. Its back-lighting shows the skates moving before their birth into their watery world. Just-born skates — 10-day-old skates are about the width of a tennis ball — blend into the bottom.

The touch-tank steals the show. Five rays, all less than one and a half years old, and four skates, all two to three months old, swim for visitors to see up close. Put your hand just under the water’s surface and you can feel the skates and rays brush against your fingers. Hover around the circular tank and get to know the bottom-dwelling habits of skates and the graceful water flight of rays.

“The exhibit’s for people of all ages, kids to adults,” says Alves. “You can even touch creatures you’d normally not even be able to get close to. It’s another fun addition to the museum.”

—Carrie Steele

Ask the Plant Professor

Bulbs In and Out

Q Must I dig up my dahlia and gladiola bulbs for winter?

A Dahlias and gladioli are not hardy to Maryland. Dahlias should be dug up after the first frost. Cut them to the ground, lift the tubers and gently shake off excess soil. Allow them to dry before storing in a paper bag or shallow box covered with peat moss, shredded newspaper or vermiculite. Place in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area. The process is the same for gladioli corms.

Q Recently I purchased 100 daffodil bulbs. Is there any easy way to plant them?

A Plant groupings in a trench or plant individually with a bulb planter. Bulb planters are metal corers that pull a three-inch plug from the soil; however the soil must not be stony or hard and compacted. Either way, space them well apart.

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.

Way Downstream

In Spook Land, you may or may not remember the Halloween favorite “Monster Mash” by, Bobby ‘Boris’ Pickett and the Cryptkicker Five. Pickett and other pro-environment artists have recycled the song for the election, calling it “Monster Slash.” It begins:

We were hiking in the forest late one night when our eyes beheld an eerie sight

Our president appeared and began to frown then he and his friends cut the forest down.”
He did the slash

They did the forest slash …

In Washington, the Coalition of Concerned National Park Service Retirees last week launched a new Web site that lets people make their gripes about deteriorating conditions at national parks directly to members of Congress: www.NationalParkComplaints.org.

Our Creature Feature comes from Amsterdam, where police thought they saw something strange last week: a horse stuffed into the back of a small car.

Their eyes hadn’t deceived them. When they investigated, they found a Shetland pony that had been purchased at an auction crammed into the back of a Volkswagen so that it couldn’t move. Police rescued the pony and fined the 42-year-old German driver about $300 for improper transport of an animal.

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