Save Your Local Creek and Save the Bay
by Chuck Epes,
We at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation
have made our motto, “Save the Bay,” into a popular bumper sticker and
rallying cry for restoring the
Chesapeake Bay, a national treasure.
But as well-known as the slogan might
be, some Virginians – especially those who live in the central or western
parts of the state – just don’t identify with the Bay. Save the Bay? Not
my problem. I live in
The truth, of course, is that the
Bay’s watershed – the land area that ultimately drains into the Bay –
includes more than half the land mass of
Virginia. In fact, two of every three state residents live in the Bay’s watershed.
For most Virginians the Bay is as close as the nearest creek or stream. And
as the health of our backyard creeks and streams goes, so goes the health of
the Bay. Just as a sturdy tree is supported by a system of healthy roots, a
depends upon a system of thriving creeks, streams and rivers.
Survey after survey finds that huge
majorities of Virginians want clean rivers and streams. We all want to swim
and fish and paddle in Virginia
rivers without fear of sickness and pollution, and we want our kids and
grandkids to enjoy our abundant natural resources for generations to come.
For most Virginians, the Commonwealth’s rich natural heritage is a
quality-of-life issue. The rivers, mountains, valleys and vistas define us.
They are why we live here, why we work here, why we raise families here.
Whose responsibility is it to ensure
these natural resources are protected, that our streams and rivers and
are clean? Certainly state government has a large role. Article XI of the
Virginia Constitution explicitly states “it shall be the Commonwealth’s
policy to protect its atmosphere, lands, and waters from pollution,
impairment, or destruction, for the benefit, enjoyment, and general welfare
of the people of the Commonwealth.”
That is why the Chesapeake Bay
Foundation and other concerned groups often call on Virginia’s elected officials to adopt and enforce environmental laws, and to fully
fund the government programs charged with protecting our natural resources.
Ultimately, however, the health of our
creeks, the protection of our
Chesapeake Bay, the responsibility for our natural resources rests with each of us. Just
as it is our individual responsibility to take care of our children, to
maintain our homes, to stay informed, or to vote, it is also our individual
responsibility to be stewards of the environment.
Certainly that means holding government
officials accountable, but more fundamentally it means holding ourselves
accountable. It means taking responsibility for our own actions (and
inactions), changing habits that abuse or waste natural resources, and being
part of the solution, not the problem. The reality is, Virginia
will have clean rivers and a healthy environment only when we individually
and collectively demand it of ourselves and of our government.
What can you do?
• Make your yard Bay-friendly. In your
landscaping, use a diversity of native shrubs and grasses that don’t
require as much watering or fertilizing. Reduce or eliminate the use of
chemical herbicides and pesticides.
• Shrink the amount of lawn in your
yard by planting beds of trees, shrubs and other groundcovers. Have your
soil tested before
using fertilizers, and apply only the amount needed and generally only in
• Don’t dump toxic substances such
as solvents, paints and preservatives down storm drains. They go directly
into waterways to pollute streams and rivers. Use your county’s hazardous
waste collection program instead.
• Plant trees. Besides providing
oxygen to the atmosphere and food and homes for wildlife, trees hold soil in
place with their roots, preventing erosion that runs into rivers. They also
soak up fertilizers and other chemicals before they seep into waterways. And
trees shade your home, reducing energy costs.
• Conserve water. Take shorter
showers, and turn off the tap while brushing your teeth, washing your hands,
or doing the dishes. Install rain barrels to catch and reuse gutter water.
By reducing your water use, you help wastewater-treatment plants function
more effectively by reducing the volume they process.
• Drive less. Air pollution, much of
it from vehicle exhaust, contributes more than a third of the nitrogen
pollution plaguing the Bay. Make it a personal goal to combine errands and
limit car trips to reduce auto emissions. And if you buy a new car or truck,
choose the most fuel-efficient, low-emission model you can afford.
• Buy local foods. Many of the foods
we eat travel an average of 1,300 miles before they reach our plate. Buying
food grown on local farms minimizes transport-related air pollution and
keeps local farmers in business; that’s good for Bay lands and Bay water
quality. Shop for your produce at farmers’ markets, or join a farm co-op,
also known as a community-supported agriculture farm. To learn more, visit
• Become an informed voter. One of the
most important individual actions you can take is to vote for thoughtful and
responsible land use and conservation policies in your community.
• Introduce a friend or child to a
local stream. Many people don’t realize they are part of a larger
watershed and that their actions have an impact on water quality. Share your
concerns about a local river and the Bay with neighbors, or visit a stream,
creek, or park with a child. If people love the environment, they will be
more likely to take care of it.
• Join the Chesapeake Bay Foundation
or a local river organization and get involved in local environmental
issues. Sign up for our Action Network and write an e-mail or make a phone
call to an elected official; insist that the environment be a priority.
President John F. Kennedy said, “One
man can make a difference, and every man should try.” The Chesapeake Bay
Foundation believes profoundly that the Bay can be saved, that it will be
saved, but it all begins and ends ... with you.
For more information, check out the
Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Web site at www.cbf.org.
Chuck Epes is assistant director of
media relations for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.