Turning the Tide on the Bay

June 15, 1991

A statement in the preface of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's landmark report, "Turning the Tide: Saving the Chesapeake Bay," says it all: "We are not alone." Fifteen million people live in the 64,000 square-mile Chesapeake Bay watershed, a number expected to grow by 2.3 million over the next three decades.

Thus, while Marylanders take particular pride in their stewardship of a waterway that accounts for nearly one-sixth of the Atlantic Seaboard, this waterway does belong to everyone. Cleaning up its sullied waters, preserving its unique biological heritage for future generations, is a task whose fulfillment may well define for those generations the character of our commitment to their well-being. It is a duty that cannot be shirked, but it cannot be completed through quick-fix, poorly thought out solutions.

"Turning the Tide," a comprehensive analysis of the environmental factors which define the life of the flora and fauna that make up the bay's complex food chain, provides a critical tool with which to approach that work. Its delineation of the streams of pollution flowing from farms, industries and cities and the insidious airborne wastes from automobiles points the way to corrective action on many fronts. Its study of the ways people use the bay, its tributaries and wetlands and its increasingly threatened shores shows the magnitude of the human impact on what surely was the jewel of the world's estuaries way back in colonial times.

The foundation's 80,000 members are not the Chesapeake Bay's only champions. While those members have given sorely needed impetus to efforts to save the bay since 1967, much has changed since Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring" awoke environmental consciences everywhere. Thus, applause for this ambitious report by former Sun writer Tom Horton and William Eichbaum must be tempered by sober assessment of their proposals, careful sifting of pros and cons.

Torrey C. Brown, secretary of the state Department of Natural Resources, disagrees with proposals such as a three-year ban on oystering, for the good reason that he has not seen a comeback of oysters in areas where a ban is already in place. Dr. Brown and his counterparts in New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Virginia would be well advised to take a hard look at the data this report presents, however much they disagree with specific interpretations by the foundation, an avowed advocacy group.

Assembling the myriad facts and figures that describe the life and potential death of the Chesapeake Bay is a work worthy of praise. Serious study by all those others to whom the bay belongs is mandated, so that serious efforts can be made toward preserving the priceless legacy it represents. Our children and their children's children will live with the results of this generation's stewardship.

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