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Volume xviii, Issue 19 ~ May 13 to May 19, 2010

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Chesapeake Cleanup Deal

‘New Day’ or Same As It Ever Was?

In the troubling saga of Chesapeake Bay’s decline, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is cast as a villain. Despite ample appropriations for oversight and research, the EPA miscalculated, overpromised and under-regulated during the past decade when dead zones emerged and species declined.

But advocates this week trumpeted the arrival of a new day for the Bay with settlement of a lawsuit aimed at forcing the EPA to live up to its name.

The agreement in Fowler v. EPA promises a renewed commitment to making the multi-state Bay Program work, a whole new set of pollution limits and firm deadlines for results.

Chesapeake Bay Foundation president Will Baker remarked this week that when advocates filed suit two years ago, “EPA had been missing in action for years. … While it has taken longer than we would have liked, we are very pleased with the results and commend [EPA Administrator] Lisa Jackson and her senior staff for their willingness to work through the bureaucracy to obtain this game-changing agreement.”

How quickly the game changes remains to be seen. States will be required to develop something called Watershed Implementation Plans, which won’t happen overnight. In the settlement, EPA agrees to be tougher on states that don’t hold up their part of the bargain, possibly blocking development when pollution targets are missed.

The commitment to stemming agriculture pollution also has a long run up. Not until the end of 2012 must the EPA propose new rules to slow the runoff of Bay-choking nitrogen, and not until four and one-half years from now — well into the next administration — is “final action” on those rules promised, according to the settlement.

Cynics weary of unremitting studies and illusory deadlines and those favoring a more political approach to Bay advocacy might find cause in those dates to wonder how the game changes.

Nonetheless. Bernie Fowler, the ex-state senator from Calvert County — whose name is on the litigation — declared the suit an unqualified success.

“We have a firm agreement that would be most difficult for the U.S. government to renege on,” Fowler said.

Taking a Roadside Stand

Volunteers hoof it across the country, picking up litter and lecturing on waste

Volunteer Laura Menyuk of Silver Spring, left, PUA Dir. of Community Outreach Kelly Klein of Columbia, PUA campaign coordinator Davey Rogner of Silver Spring and PUA volunteer coordinator Kim Alexander.

Jeff Chen doesn’t like trashy people. He’s willing to take steps to remedy his dislike. As one of the founders of Picking Up America, Chen is committed to riding our roadways of litter and pointing out American’s wasteful tendencies.

“It was an idea I had in 2006 when I was an intern in Yosemite Park,” Chen recalls. “I did a pretty epic hike to the top of Half Dome and on the way noticed some trash. On the way down, [my friend and I] picked up every piece of trash that we found.”

The experience inspired Chen, who developed the idea of walking across America’s highway system and chronicling the waste he found.

“I wanted to see the country and pick up trash,” says Chen.

Picking Up America began its year-and-a-half-long trek — across 13 states — on Assateague Island, cleaning roadways as volunteers marched into D.C. The group hopes to cut a path through America’s littered roads before arriving in San Francisco around November of 2011.

By completing another epic hike, Chen hopes that his group can inspire where other pick-up programs have failed.

“Adopt a Highway programs pick up the trash, but they don’t address the problem,” Chen says. “We’re trying to bring up the subject of waste in our culture.”

The message was well received in Maryland.

“We got a citation, like a good citation, not a bad citation, from the State Highway Administration,” reports Chen, who delivered a State of the Trash Address outlining the Old Line State’s wasteful ways. Picking Up America also got funding.

The Chesapeake Bay Trust gave a $2,415 grant, used to purchase trash pickers, bags and more essential materials. Meager pay, when you consider the group collected 24,092 pounds of garbage — enough to load 16 state highway dump trucks.

It’s the waste that worries Chen most.

“Water bottles and plastic bags are everywhere. Styrofoam, packaging peanuts, too,” he says. “We don’t really need that stuff. It’s such an excess in our society, and there’s ways to get around that stuff — bottles and cloth bags. It’s kind of sad to see that. It really is a reflection of us.”

Another reflection of us are the oddities that Chen and the volunteers have encountered.

“One weird thing was a dead chicken, feathers still on, wrapped up in tape,” reports Chen. “We found a stack of porno, and in Druid Hill Park we found 38 40-ounce bottles filled with pee. A lot of the stuff we find are people’s guilty pleasures. Things we consume that we don’t want people knowing about: candy bar wrappers, soda, porn.”

Chen has plenty of waste, what he really needs now are bodies.

“It’s tough to organize volunteers,” Chen says. “We were able to round up over 100 volunteers thru Maryland. We know people here, so it was a good place to start and try to become professional trash pickers.”

The group is traveling to Arlington, Va., May 15 and still seeking Pick Up Artist volunteers. Offer your services or follow their journey:

–Diana Beechener

This Week’s Creature Feature

Faces only a mother could love

Their names are Kirby and Cecil, and they don’t have tusks — yet. The newest arrivals to the Maryland Zoo, two male warthog piglets, made their first public debut at seven weeks.

Though they were part of the same litter, the warthog twins are easy to tell apart: Kirby is big brother, with a slightly larger build and red hair, while Cecil remains petite and brunette.

The twins, with mother Kumari leading the way, explored their new home in the warthog yard. Mother made sure they didn’t hoof it too far afield.

“They may try to get a little too far,” says the Maryland Zoo’s Jane Ballentine. “But [Kumari] gives a snort and they’ll come running back. They follow their mother very, very closely.”

Kumari may feel a little over protective until she and her baby boys settle into their new exhibition routine.

“They are afternoon piggies, they’re on exhibit after 1pm,” reports Ballentine. “The father [Kajani] has run of the exhibit until noon. The mornings are a little too busy for mom, in the afternoon she’s much more calm and it’s easier for the little guys to get out and explore the exhibit.”

For their part, the twins are just happy to run.

“From what I’ve seen, they’re both crazy little pigs,” Ballentine says. “One will chase the other, they take turns egging each other on.”

The romps will have to burn off their youthful exuberance for a few more weeks. Warthogs don’t become mature members of the pack until 21 weeks old, at which point the zoo keepers will decide if the boys are ready to meet their father and stay out all day.

–Diana Beechener
Sharing a Kodak Moment

David Colburn and Mother Osprey join forces for May

Shadysider David Colburn had more than a Kodak Moment He has a Kodak whole month, May, 2010. The professional photographer’s shot of an osprey coming in for a perfect nest-landing was chosen from thousands of entries as the Earth Day Kodak Moment winning photograph.

“This breathtaking shot celebrates an Earth Day success story — the rebound of the osprey after being poisoned by DDT and other pollutants,” reports the Kodak caption. “This osprey is landing in a man-made nest, installed to further encourage the osprey’s recovery.”

Colburn made the picture in June 2008 while strolling along the shore in Cedarhurst on a perfect summer day.

“I was out shooting some really nice clouds,” Colburn says. “I walked over to get a shot of the nest. Mom didn’t appreciate me being there and flew around, squawking, until she realized I wasn’t a threat. When she decided to give up and went in to land, the sun was at the perfect spot.”

Colburn shot a sequence of shots of momma osprey landing but only one caught the full, sunlit wingspan. On a lark, he submitted the picture to Kodak’s monthly Kodak Moment contest.

“I thought I had a snowball’s chance in hell of winning,” Colburn says.

Winning Kodak Moments are published on the Kodak website and sent to the many thousands who subscribe to the photo-sharing service.

Find past winners or upcoming months’ entry directions at

See more of Colburn’s photographs:

–Margaret Tearman

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