Chesapeake Bay and Global Warming

NWF   |   October 6, 2007

Ducks_nrcsI have fond memories of trolling the lower Potomac River on foggy autumn mornings, while nearby watermen "tonged" for oysters and gulls swarmed the skiffs. The Chesapeake Bay has long held a special place in my heart. From a home we enjoyed on Maryland’s Kent Island, I have developed a deep appreciation for the natural beauty and outstanding recreational opportunities offered by the Bay. I have fished and hunted there for more than thirty years.

My personal devotion to the Chesapeake Bay has motivated professional efforts to protect this national treasure. Beginning in the early 1980’s, I assisted in the most comprehensive assessment of the bay to date. I also served on the board of the Citizen’s Program for the Chesapeake and chaired a Point Source Working Group that helped develop an "action agenda" advancing measures to restore the Chesapeake Bay. Later, working at the National Wildlife Federation, we organized a major conference, "Chesapeake Bay—A Pennsylvania Connection," which encouraged the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to launch its Pennsylvania office focused on watershed restoration. In 1995, I joined the staff of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, where we initiated an effort to better manage the blue crab and protect its deep water corridors.

As CEO of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, I proposed that the Commonwealth launch a conservation bond fund that evolved into "Growing Greener," a program to fund watershed restoration along Pennsylvania’s many waterways. Growing Greener continues to pump tens of millions of dollars annually into various river and stream clean-up projects.

My deep concern about the future of the Chesapeake Bay continues to guide me from my post at the National Wildlife Federation. I also have an abiding respect for the many professionals who have spent their entire careers restoring the Bay. I understand the importance of broad collaboration at this critical moment.

Like it or not, global warming will be the defining issue of the 21st century. In its wake, the things I love most about the Bay will be in jeopardy. Unless we address the root causes of global warming, rising sea levels will wash away islands, destroy critical wetlands, and render current shorelines unrecognizable. More-intense storms will increase sediment and nutrient runoff. Warmer water will change the entire ecology of the Bay, pushing out cold-water species and allowing an influx of warm-water and invasive species.

Without decisive action to address global warming, all the hard-won progress made by so many to restore the Bay could be lost. The challenge is significant.

Fortunately, we can minimize the impacts of global warming on the Chesapeake Bay. We can steer clear of the worst impacts by taking action now to reduce our global warming pollution by just 2 percent per year. And, we can take steps to help humans, along with the fish and wildlife of the Chesapeake Bay, cope with those climate changes that are inevitable.

We don’t have time to waste. And, it will require the action of all of us.

The newly released report: Chesapeake Bay and Global Warming: A Paradise Lost for Hunters, Anglers and Outdoor Enthusiasts? offers a plan of action that can help restore the Bay to its full splendor. It is my fervent hope and belief that we will be successful. Our children and grandchildren are counting on us. To learn more about how global warming will affect the Bay see our recent report posted at:

Published: October 6, 2007