The recent signing of a four-part pact on Chesapeake Bay protection was an important step forward. The fact that differences remain between the approaches of Pennsylvania's and Virginia's governors on one one side and Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer and the Environmental Protection Agency's William Reilly on the other is less significant than the fact of an agreement.
To be sure, neither Robert Casey nor Douglas Wilder has to deal with the outrage of Eastern Shore farmers and developers fighting any and all attempts to restrict land development moves. Mr. Schaefer, still chafing over erosion of peninsula support in his last election, cannot ignore the protests. The EPA's Mr. Reilly, for his part, represents a federal administration already determined to rewrite the definition of wetlands and strip some protection from critical acreage around the bay.
The new agreement promises to reorient strategies for the Chesapeake watershed. Rather than try to block off pollution after it has been introduced into the environment, the new approach will be to limit or prevent its introduction at all. In Pennsylvania, for instance, where farm runoff into the Susquehanna is a continuing problem, that means a harder push for no-till farming and other reduced-fertilizer and reduced-pesticide strategies.