The Lorax Has Been Stolen!

The Lorax was taken (his statue at least) from the La Jolla, California estate of the late Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss).

In reading about the theft, I immediately thought of the image of the Lorax and the iconic phrase “I speak for the trees.”  The childhood favorite by Dr. Seuss may not have been a peer-reviewed technical study, but the very basis of this story remains true of the environmental landscape today.

Development, whether residential, commercial or industrial, is a common occurrence.  It has become a norm.  While I know I should grow to accept that developing land is not going to end in my lifetime and not every piece of land can be conserved, I just cannot let it go.  I am fully cognizant of the fact that not everyone feels the same way about the environment as I do – that is life.  But it just seems wrong to sit back and watch as parcel after parcel becomes developed.

I am from Perry Hall, MD where my part of Baltimore County has already been significantly developed.  So moving permanently to the shore where there are such large expanses of land for sale, vulnerable to development, is completely new to me and has subsequently made me fully aware of the process of zoning and developing in Maryland.

Directly across from my apartment is 75 acres of farmland for sale, commercially zoned and capable of being subdivided.  I have learned that if land has already been zoned for commercial use the battle for conservation is pretty much over.  This morning I accepted that fact and took this as a learning opportunity.  But while watching the clip of the animated version of The Lorax, I was immediately reminded of why I got involved in and focused my education on the environment.  It was not because it was cool at the time to be green or because I wanted to skip in the flowers, it was so I could “speak for the trees” – well for everything environmental really…

It is true that the battle to conserve the 75 acres of farmland next to my apartment is probably already lost, but what good would I have done if I just stayed silent about it and not started asking questions?  At least I can say I have tried.

In the environmental sector you cannot let the game and the expansive red tape discourage you.  We all have our own version of “the trees” that we speak for.  When you become involved in the environmental game, it is easy to get discouraged or even cynical.  But every once in a while you need to be reminded of why you chose this career path, of what inspired you in the first place to enter the environmental arena and fight for what you believe in.

So lets all take the evening off to be reminded of the lessons from The Lorax =]

Moms, Bees, and Fish

The other day my very young daughter eagerly gobbled a handful of dirt while we were getting the garden beds ready to plant.  I didn’t want to think too hard about what would have happened if I had treated the soil with something other than just compost.   While wiping the dirt mustache off of her face, I was reminded about how much scary poison we all keep around without even realizing it.  There are plenty of sprays and concoctions available to deal with the creepy crawlers.  Remember the scads of stink bugs that invaded everyone’s lives couple of years ago? And the creepy bed bug crisis?

A chemical called pyrethrin or pyrethroid is commonly used in residences and on farms to control all sorts of insects –according to the EPA, it is an ingredient in 3,500 registered products.  Turns out bed bugs and other critters that are supposed to keel over in their tracks when exposed to the chemical are becoming resistant.  In addition, a strong body of research finds links between pyrethroids and major health concerns including cancer and impacts on the immune and reproductive systems, with children and infants having particular susceptibility to negative impacts.  Researchers have also found that pyrethroids are linked to decreased reproduction of honeybees.  When the chemical is found in stream sediment, it can have toxic impacts on bottom dwelling fish.

EPA is currently reviewing this class of pesticides, as it does for all registered pesticides every fifteen years.  It’s not at all clear what the result will be. EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program is getting ready to release a report on pesticides in the Bay later this year, setting the stage for pesticide reduction goal setting planned for 2013.  The “toxics strategy” for the Chesapeake Bay has relied heavily on voluntary measures.  But based on the information provided by the Chesapeake Bay Program, it appears that the needle on reducing toxics from entering the Bay has not moved much since 2006 (and in fact, appears to have gone the opposite direction).

There’s a new frog in town!

Photo Credit: Brian Curry

When new species are discovered it is usually in association to a remote and undeveloped ecosystem.  But, a new species of leopard frog is breaking that stereotype.  The new frog species was discovered in NYC, with the center of its range being identified as Yankee Stadium!

Unlike other leopard frogs whose calls are described as a “long snore” or “rapid chuckle,” this new species has a “short, repetitive croak.”

I’m sure with baseball season ahead of us, if you listen carefully you will hear their unique croaks cheering on their home team.


For more information on the discovery check out the CNN article – “Ribbit! Frog species found in New York City has a croak of its own.”


If there is one thing I’ve learned from living on the Eastern Shore it is the importance of buying local and the awareness the small towns have on this topic.  There are farmer’s markets back home in Baltimore.  But, I think there is some irony in a market that is set up in a parking lot of a shopping plaza.  Times change I suppose – not everything can be like the small town life of the Eastern Shore.

The weather is changing and the farmer’s markets will be back soon enough.  It is important to be aware of where your food is coming from and support your local businesses – and no I am not referring to the “local” ACME, Food Lion, or even Walmart down the street from you.

Easton Farmer’s Market 

April – December                

Open every Saturday, 8am – 1 pm


Cambridge Farmer’s Market             

May – December

Open every Thursday, 3 pm – 6 pm              


Chestertown Farmer’s Market                                                                                                                     

April – November

Open every Saturday, 9 am – 1 pm  


Letter of Inquiry Reminder

HELLO current/future grantees!

This is just a reminder that Letters of Inquiry for the Summer 2012 Grant Cycle are due Friday, March 16th – exactly one week from today!

If you have not already done so under the new system, you will need to set up an account through our website to submit the L.O.I.  It is very simple – just click on the “Apply Now” button located on the Application Process page and proceed from there.

If you have any questions please visit the Application Process page.

Best wishes and happy writing.

Who is Megan Milliken?

So it seems I am doing this in a little bit of a reverse order and should have made an introduction blog last week!

HELLOO!  My name is Megan Milliken and I am the new Program Assistant at the Town Creek Foundation.  I just graduated from Washington College in December and am very excited to join such a great team here at Town Creek!  I am a native Marylander, having spent my whole life in Perry Hall, MD.  The last 3.5 years of living in Chestertown, MD has gotten me hooked on the eastern shore.

While at Washington College I majored in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Chesapeake Regional Studies.  Outside of school I have had the opportunity of interning with the Maryland League of Conservation Voters and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration within the Endangered Species Division.  While at NOAA I was fortunate to complete the first draft of the Fin Whale 5-Year Review, and have the honor of being listed as one of the reviewers.

I am an avid bird watcher and LOVE all things environment.  I look forward to taking my experiences and education and applying it throughout my time here.


Heads I Win, Tails You Lose

Beth McGee, Senior Regional Water Quality Specialist at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, has a piece on nutrient trading in the current Bay journal. Dr. McGee notes that although trading may be the most controversial and criticized aspect of the Bay TMDL , it is essential for achieving our water quality goals. While complicated and rife with potential pitfalls, it can result in a ‘win-win’ if done well, and we should all step forward and work together to achieve the circumstances under which this win/win will occur.

Much of the controversy surrounding trading derives from concerns that those circumstances – the design and implementation of exemplary nutrient trading programs – constitute a much tighter strike zone then we can reasonably expect to be achieved or maintained.

Trading proponents suggest that we have no choice but to try since the political support for trading means that ‘the train has already left the station’.

To the extent that this is the case it may be because, for some, a win/win seems virtually assured.

If nutrient trading works in the way that its proponents hope – point sources get dispensations to increase their discharges and non point sources get paid to reduce their loads – then polluters (both point and non point) will win in the way that they hope.

If it works in the way that its opponents fear – non point sources get paid and point sources get credit for reductions that never occur – then polluters will win in the way that they fear.



Little Farm, Big Chicken


Several Town Creek Foundation grantees – Waterkeeper Alliance, the University of Maryland Environmental Law Clinic, and the Assateague Coastkeeper – are involved in a controversial lawsuit alleging that the Perdue Company and one of its contract growers have run afoul of the Clean Water Act.

As is to be expected whenever citizens seek to hold power accountable, the air has grown thick with the stench of corporate populism. A Perdue-financed public relations campaign is fomenting anger against ‘deep pocketed New York-based environmentalists’ looking to destroy family farms on the Eastern Shore, and some of our elected officials – impatient with the workings of the legal system, and unburdened by significant acquaintance with the facts of the case – have gone after the plaintiffs and their attorneys.

In this context, a serious, thoughtful consideration of the various dimensions of the case is difficult to come by.

Not impossible though.

Town Creek-grantee Marc Steiner has interviewed just about all of the relevant parties – Perdue officials, Alan Hudson, the Assateague Coastkeeper, and Scot Edwards and Michele Merkel, formerly of the Waterkeeper Alliance.

It’s worth a listen.


Reporting from Plymouth of the West

Out here in San Diego, a.k.a. the Plymouth of the West, at the Environmental Grantmakers Association 2012 State of the States Policy Briefing, over a hundred environmental funders from around the country are gathered to listen and talk about the best thinking from across the nation around the intersection of civic engagement, social justice, and environment.  We’re here learning, collaborating and drinking in inspiration for the hard work ahead.

There are a remarkable number of folks here from the Chesapeake Bay talking about their innovations, including a slate of smart and forward thinking people working on Maryland’s Genuine Progress Indicator –an alternative measure of progress that takes into consideration equity, social well being, and environment.  In case you were wondering, Maryland’s progress has flatlined due to the increasing gap between rich and poor according to one of our panelists, Daphne Wysham of the Institute for Policy Studies.  I wasn’t the only one who noticed the strong presence of the Chesapeake Bay.  Our friends at the Choose Clean Water Coalition are here talking about their work and Maryland’s Off-Shore Wind campaign was recognized for its potential to catalyze seismic shifts for our clean energy future.

While Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay are clearly on the forefront, beneath the spirit of optimism and hope, I sensed that our community is bracing and gearing up for the even heavier lifts just around the corner.  There is deep recognition that everyone is working as hard as they possibly can.  And we know it’s not enough.

Fortunately, there are a few bright lights on the horizon.  The most successful efforts at lasting change are boldly led by the communities with the most at stake.  Asian and Pacific Islanders in San Francisco are mobilizing in unprecedented numbers to inform and influence the dialogue about climate change in California and Washington, DC.  Seattle’s most economically disadvantaged are working collaboratively with environmental activists to build urban gardens for sustenance and green homes for shelter.  San Diego’s vastly diverse communities are saddling up for a major power shift in conservative southern California.   These success stories are reinforced by a study just released by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, Cultivating the Grassroots:  A Winning Approach for Environment and Climate Funders, by Sarah Hansen.  As I head back home to Maryland, I’m thinking about our power base for the Chesapeake Bay and who might brilliantly lead us.