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Calvert County moved a big step closer, albeit reluctantly, to its first public charter school. Last month, the State Board of Education reversed the Calvert Board of Education’s rejection of the Bay Arts & Science Public Charter School. Now the Calvert and charter school boards are expected to work together toward quick approval of the application. The alternative charter school hopes to build a green campus on 15 acres in Prince Frederick — as well as a curriculum of environmental studies and hands-on learning that uses Chesapeake Bay as its teaching laboratory …

In Maryland, it’s time to nominate environmental guardians for the Tawes Awards and Jim Coulter Awards. Named for the late J. Millard Tawes, former Maryland governor and first secretary of Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the 32-year-old Tawes Award rewards individual, civic, community or non-profits that champion conservation. The James B. Coulter award honors former Natural Rescoures secretary James B. Coulter by recognizing a government worker who goes above and beyond to better Maryland’s environment. The awards — co-sponsored by Maryland Department of the Environment and the Maryland Petroleum Council — will be made in May. You’ve got until April 10 to nominate your favorite environmentalist. Call Maryland Petroleum Council: 410-269-1850 …

From coast to coast, Americans spend nearly $12 billion a year on bottled water. Now an online campaign seeks to break the habit. The founders of Tappening — Eric Yaverbaum and Mark DiMassimo — say that the bottled water industry wastes resources and energy to bring us a product we can draw from our taps. Bottled water isn’t any cleaner than what comes through our pipes, they say: Several top-selling brands, including Coca-Cola’s Dasani and Pepsi’s Aquafina, provide water from local municipal water supplies, not pristine alpine springs. Plastic bottles also waste resources, and three-quarters end up in landfills. This July, when incoming Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent starts his new job, the duo plan to mail him one million plastic bottles, each containing pledges from people not to buy bottled water anymore. So far, they have collected just under 100,000 bottles. Find out more at

In Vatican City, it’s recycle or go to hell. Reuters reports that the Church’s second in command, Archbishop Gianfranco Girotti, listed seven ‘new’ deadly sins in an interview with L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s weekly paper. The other modern day offences that will get you a one-way ticket to the hot seat — unless you repent — are manipulating genes, using any form of birth control including abortion, committing pedophilia, trafficking in drugs, amassing obscene wealth and causing social injustice. The Vatican began denouncing ecological pollution under Pope John Paul II, and Pope Benedict XVI has continued the quest for green redemption. No word yet as to when Thou shall not pollute will make it as the 11th commandment …

Our Creature Feature comes from our home state, Maryland, where the non-venomous, six-foot-long northern pinesnake will not find a home.

In February of 2007, we reported that Maryland Department of Natural Resources was considering reintroducing the snake — which they thought was a native forced out by loss of Eastern Shore habitat in the 1930s — into the wilds of Worchester County [].

During a year of consideration and research, the Maryland Natural History Society’s Department of Herpetology questioned whether the shy snake — the only species that makes its own snake hole — indeed has historical records here.

Finally, a DNR independent panel of three regional experts in reptile distribution and natural history concluded that our northern pinesnake was too long gone to be repatriated …

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