CBF: Innovative Partnerships Crucial to Bay Restoration

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By Dr. Beth McGee
Chesapeake Bay Foundation

“No government money was used in the cleaning of this environment.” Maybe that should be a sign posted at the edge of a field outside Annapolis that looks like it’s been stuck with a thousand acupuncture needles.

The field is actually a baby forest, planted with native hardwoods this past weekend, their tender trunks protected from deer and rabbits by green plastic sleeves. Over time, as the forest grows, it will remove carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, from the air, provide important habitat for wildlife, and help clean up the Chesapeake Bay by filtering pollutants before they reach our waterways.

Certainly, government must play a central role in safeguarding society’s welfare and the environment, but it cannot bear the entire responsibility or cost. The money for the new woodland in Annapolis came from Washington Gas Energy Services’ (WGES) CleanSteps program. CleanSteps is a market-based solution. It’s a partnership between WGES, Sterling Planet, J.B. Hunt Transport Services and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) that produces real environmental benefits with no cost to taxpayers.

Holly Beach planting

Employees and family of Washington Gas Energy Services volunteered to help plant 1,000 trees outside of Annapolis this past Sunday, part of a unique private-non-profit partnership that reduces pollution at no cost to taxpayers. (Photo by Tom Zolper)

When customers choose WGES as their gas supplier, they are also choosing to support this project and others that will reduce pollution to our waterways, and to reduce greenhouse gases contributing to climate change. The energy company contributes funding to the CleanSteps program to offset a portion of its customers’ “carbon footprint” – 5 percent for residential customers and 3.5 percent for all commercial customers. Additionally, customers can select to offset their entire carbon footprint for an additional charge, with these dollars going to more offset projects. Information is at www.wges.com.

Launched this past September, CleanSteps is now bearing fruit, or more technically, leaves. The field in Annapolis is the third area to be planted as a result of the program. More projects are on the drawing board.

To give an idea of the impact of these new woodlands, the 1,000 trees planted in Annapolis, plus about 1,300 trees planted several weeks before in northern Baltimore County, will reduce carbon dioxide the equivalent of burning 77,503 fewer gallons of gasoline over the 30-year typical lifespan of the trees. The newly planted forests will also reduce nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment runoff – the main pollutants affecting our local streams, rivers and the Bay. The Annapolis field drains directly into the Chesapeake Bay, and the field in Baltimore County drains into a trout stream called Compass Run.

The offset projects involving CBF will be tree plantings to reduce carbon and nutrient pollution and initiatives to help farmers reduce agricultural pollution. J.B. Hunt, another partner, also will help offset the carbon footprint of WGES customers’ usage by reducing long-haul trucking mileage by shifting freight to more fuel efficient rail transportation.

CBF grew the trees at its Clagett Farm nursery in Upper Marlboro. CBF staff also helped oversee the plantings, and organize volunteers – without whom these sorts of initiatives would never work.

About 60 WGES employees and their families volunteered to help plant the trees in Annapolis.

Restoration of the Chesapeake Bay and the rivers and streams that feed it will not be accomplished solely with government dollars and actions. We need innovative partnerships working together independently of government: the private sector, corporate customers and employees who care, concerned citizens, and non-profits.

Dr. Beth McGee is a Senior Scientist at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
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