Earth (and Water) Day

Our View : Marylanders Have Not Lost Hope For A Healthier Chesapeake Bay

April 22, 2009

Wednesday is Earth Day, a time set aside for appreciating and taking stock of the environment. In Maryland, our attention inevitably turns to the state's greatest natural resource, the Chesapeake Bay, which can use all the appreciating and attention it can get.

The bay's woes are substantial and well-documented. Given all the bad news, from the decline of oysters and other native seafood to the rise of oxygen-free dead zones, one might expect public enthusiasm for the Chesapeake to waiver or at least a certain amount of fatigue to set in. Haven't we heard it all before?

But that's not happening. Bay-related causes continued to find support in the state legislature this year despite the recession. Under President Barack Obama, the federal government may expand its role in bay cleanup efforts as well. Still, a poll released last week found 86 percent of Marylanders rated making the Chesapeake Bay healthy either an extremely important or very important priority. That suggests that, if anything, policymakers are too timid when it comes to adopting corrective measures.

No environmental cause evokes greater passion from residents of this state - certainly not global warming or slowing growth or development (although both are closely tied to the health of the estuary). For all the talk of a climate change crisis, the issue is an important priority for only about half of those interviewed for the poll conducted for the Chesapeake Bay Trust, the private, nonprofit organization that finances numerous bay restoration and educational efforts.

The Chesapeake's health may earn failing or near-failing grades, but it appears few are willing to give up on it yet. For those who have grown up in the watershed, who have developed a love and respect for this most precious - and fragile - of natural wonders, that is encouraging news.

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