The Potomac Highlands Watershed School 

Environmental Forum Archives

The Potomac Highlands Watershed School's Environmental Forum provides a setting for students and teachers to explore regionally important environmental issues in depth.  Students work both as a class and with other students across the internet to understand problems and to seek solutions that are broadly acceptable to their communities. 

Current eForum is here.

All past eForums are archived here. CI's highlights from past eForums are here. 


Stream Cleaner Environmental Forum 2012

on Water Quality and Best Management Practices

March 12 through April 20, 2012


Stream Cleaner eForum 2012 Schedule
   3/12 - 3-16 3/19 - 3/23 3/26 - 3/30 4/2 - 4/6 4/9 - 4/13 4/16 - 4/20
POV Submittal                      
POV Posting                       
Thoughtful Discussion                       
Consensus Papers                      


Click here to see a list and map of Participating Schools


Before a class begins reading the material on this page, they should take the Pre-Post Survey.



 1. Welcome and Introduction

Welcome and Introduction Worksheet


Why You Matter! 

A Welcome from Jeffrey Lape, Former Director of the Chesapeake Bay Program 

"On May 12, 2009, President Obama signed an Executive Order that recognizes the Chesapeake Bay as a national treasure and calls on the federal government to lead a renewed effort to restore and protect the nation's largest estuary and its watershed.  You are now part of that effort."

Chesapeake Bay Program Director Jeff Lape tours watershed restoration projects in Hardy County, WV.  2/13/09

"At the end of the day, protecting streams and rivers begins at home," Lape said.  "The good work you do here is very important." (Moorefield Examiner, 2/18/2009)

CI Director Neil Gillies (right) describes deer fencing project


The SCE Forum has two parts:

Part 1 consists of lectures, background reading and investigation guided by the web-based lessons and activities, and is available year round.

Part 2 consists of a moderated internet discussion between participating students, and is open from March 12 through April 20, 2012.

During the SCE Forum, you will join classmates and students from other schools in exploring one of the most complex environmental problems ever to confront the United States, saving the Chesapeake Bay from decades of pollution.  You will learn about:

  • The science that is used to understand the problems and monitor changes,

  • The “best management practices” that are used to reduce the flow of pollution from our lands to local streams, larger rivers and, eventually, the Bay,

  • The politics of seeking solutions acceptable to our diverse community, and

  • The challenge of fostering widespread public acceptance and implementation of the entirely voluntary land use changes needed to protect our local waters and the Bay. 

Your challenge as a class will be to propose a solution that really cleans your waters and that your community would find acceptable.


Participating classes can receive technical and financial support to design and implement their own real-world best management practice projects - like those on our eSchool Projects Page - as demonstrations of watershed stewardship and as long-term living classrooms.



2. The eForum has five distinct stages:

  1. Background reading and class discussions on non point source water quality science, the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Model, best management practices (BMPs), essays from specialists working on Chesapeake Bay issues, and links to other resources.  This is available year round.

  2. Form Stakeholder Groups, beginning on March 14, 2010, using the following categories: Homeowner (individual, family & neighborhood interests); Farmer (hobby farmer, family farmer, agribusiness); Developer (urban or suburban builders and business interests); Waterman (professional fishermen, oystermen, other professional); Recreation & Tourism (boater, hiker, outdoorsmen and  business interests); Local Government (city, town & county managers); Chesapeake Bay Program (state and federal policy makers); Bay Ecosystem (the whole living system); and Others (be creative).

  3. Submit Point of View  Draft position papers reflecting their stakeholder group's point of view (POV).  POV's can be submitted at any time between March 12 and March 23, using the POV entry form (in box below) that will be displayed at that time.   POVs will be posted beginning the evening of March 16 and will continue on a daily basis from that time until March 23.   For some tips on writing strong POVs, click here and here.  Ask yourself this question: "Would my POV convince me that my opinion is worth considering?"


    Bay Ecosystem Chesapeake Bay Program Developer

    Last Day for POVs was Friday, 4/6/2012


    TDs have ended.

    Farmer Homeowner Local Government
    Recreation & Tourism Watermen Others
    POVs Posted


    • Thinking about the Bay Cleanup: Framing Questions. Cleaning up the Bay is quite a challenge.  Here are six “framing questions” to help you think through the issues.

    • The 2008 Environmental Policy class in Mary Baldwin College's Department of Economics prepared a series of economic policy papers on Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts using the SCE Forum.  These papers may help you think through  key questions of costs and benefits.  Each paper includes a statement of the problem, a discussion of possible policy options, and a specific policy recommendation.  The papers are in PDF format (only a few KB each): Buffers; Wastewater; Pervious Pavement; Erosion and Sediment Control Law; Erosion from Construction; and Rain Gardens.   

  4. Have a Thoughtful Discussion. After Position Papers are posted to the web, participating students check out their peers’ work in other classes and other schools, and make comments across the web, learn more about the science and issues, and refine their positions.  The "Thoughtful Discussion" form, where students can ask questions and make comments about each other and the moderator, will be available from each stakeholder POV page, beginning on March 28.  For some tips on writing strong TDs click here.  Thoughtful Discussion period has ended. 


  5. Negotiate Final Consensus Plans that balance the needs of all stakeholder groups in each classroom.  A more detailed discussion of the meaning of consensus is here.  Some tips on forming a consensus are here.  

What is a Stakeholder POV?

A stakeholder is a person or a group with an interest in the success of an organization, project, or government action.  (To learn more about Stakeholders, try this link .)  Stakeholders in the Bay cleanup include homeowners, municipalities, fishermen, and farmers, among others.  Each of these groups will be affected by the measures that will be taken to fix the Bay, and each wants a “seat at the table” when options are discussed or decisions are made.  Every stakeholder group has interests that are unique to them, and every stakeholder group wants to be heard.  Your first job will be to write a persuasive “Point of View” statement for your stakeholder group that describes why you are important, how the Bay’s problems (or related problems) affect you, how the possible solutions affect you personally and maybe affect your livelihood, and what solutions and approaches your group would prefer.  Strong POVs will include references to source material that supports their position.  For some more tips on writing strong POVs, click here and here.  You will have two "bites at this apple."  During the second week each group should really try to build a strong case for their group's position - based on facts, not just belief.  Think about these questions:

  • Will the solutions “cost” you in any demonstrable way?  What do you have to give up?

  • Will the solutions benefit you directly?

  • What could be done that would make your group more willing to participate?

  • How could the solutions be structured so your group would prosper as a result?

  • What would happen if you were so harmed by the process that you disappeared?

POVs should be crisp, concise, and persuasive.  The optimum length for a POV is from 250 to 600 words.


An expert changes his POV.  Sometimes, a new life experience can change your point of view very suddenly.  That happened to Aldo Leopold, perhaps the most influential conservationist of the 20th Century.  He was a widely respected expert in forestry, wildlife management, and land conservation.  In 1933, he was among the first to argue persuasively for a conservation ethic - a very new idea at the time.  He thought he understood how the world worked.  And then, in 1936, he took a hunting trip: 

... to the Sierra Madre in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico, a land in the same climatic zone as New Mexico, where Leopold had spent so many years. He was thunderstruck by the beauty of the landscape, in which many animal species were abundant but none were overabundant. 'All my life,' he said, 'I had seen only sick land, whereas here was a biota still in perfect aboriginal health. The term 'unspoiled wilderness' took on new meaning.' Such was Leopold's road to Damascus; his conversion, like Saint Paul's, produced an emotional and intellectual turn of 180 degrees. From being the enemy of predators, he became their friend and champion. From one who had sought to maximize the number of deer lives, he became the proponent of the temperate killing of prey animals-- by predators, preferably, but by human hunters if necessary; in any case, a killing of prey animals for the good of their own kind.

Living within Limits

3. There are a few ground rules for this Forum. 

While you may debate it in your class, for the purposes of your decision making you must assume that there is, in fact, a big problem, that the problem is as large as the Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP) says it is, and that the CBP's estimates of sources are reasonable.  During the final week, you must work as a group to find a solution to the problem.  All serious entries will be posted as submitted (including typos and grammatical errors).  "Act of God" solutions will not be considered.  In other words, you may not assume that the problem will solve itself.  Just keep in mind that what you write will be available for the entire world to read.   No pressure.

Finally, there is a lot of information on this page and in associated links.  It is only a small part of what is out there on the web and in print on this topic.  While everything on this page is important, you can get a pretty good overview of each topic by reading this page carefully and then focusing on the links with abeside them.  

4. Essential Background

Essential Background Worksheet


Words, words words - SCE Forum's essential vocabulary. 


Why should we try to restore the Bay?  The Chesapeake Bay might seem to be a long, long way from your home.  You may never have seen it.  Heck, you might never have even taken a step out of your home state.  But you live in the Bay’s enormous watershed, a watershed that stretches from upstate New York to southern Virginia, and from Delaware to the Potomac Highlands of West Virginia.  And you do have an impact on the Bay in the choices you and your neighbors make on how to use and manage our lands.  And the Bay has an impact on you, from the oysters many people love to eat in the fall, to providing an important engine for the region’s economy. 


Simply put, the Chesapeake Bay is a national treasure.  It’s the largest estuary in the United States and one of the most productive in the world.  Home to more than 3,600 species of plants and animals, it also provides important economic, recreational, cultural, and educational resources to the more than 16 million people who live in the watershed, and to the region’s untold visitors.  Unfortunately, after many years of receiving pollution from its 64,000 square mile watershed, the Bay is in serious trouble. 


All of the states in the Bay watershed have committed to reduce the flow of key pollutants - nutrients and sediment - to the Bay, which Bay scientists have determined are the key in restoring it to health.  Each of the Bay states established Tributary Teams to develop strategies for reducing nutrients and sediment, and to implement their strategies.  This effort will impact every community in the region for many years to come.  To get an overview of what is involved, you can read a summary of West Virginia's 2004 Potomac Tributary Strategy here.


To help you understand this very complex problem, the Potomac Highlands Watershed eSchool has placed information in the eSchool library, and added links to information on other websites, in five key categories: water quality science, the Chesapeake Bay models, Best Management Practices (BMPs), the Tributary Strategy process, and understanding stakeholders.  We also have essays from professionals who work on Chesapeake Bay and related issues to provide their perspectives on the process and the problems.  Think of them as Native Guides and watch for their contributions with large bold links in a cursive font.  (Note: Cacapon Institute is deeply grateful for the contributions of our Native Guides to the SCE Forum experience.)

Guide 1.  In your Background Native Guide, Al Todd (former Watershed Program Leader, USDA Forest Service) provides an overview of the restoration effort from the perspective of an insider in the Chesapeake Bay Program.   In his essay, Native Guide Todd also emphasizes the need to protect healthy parts of the watershed that are currently contributing to good water quality:

We need to retain the healthy conditions of our watershed that are often threatened.   For example, many take for granted the important benefits provided by forests and forests were rarely a part of discussions about non-point pollution control.   Just as economic capital provides steady financial returns, the natural capital of forests provides steady environmental and economic returns in the form of ecosystem services. In fact, the public spends millions of dollars on technological replacements for services that forests provide naturally—such as drinking water filtration, storm water management, air pollution control, and flood mitigation.  The beauty is that forests can continue to provide these benefits even when they are being sustainably managed for the wood products we use every day.  Forests matter to the Chesapeake Bay.   . . .  We know that forests are absolutely the best land cover for preventing nutrient pollution.  Every acre of forest lost means more nutrients entering the bay.


The best place to learn more about Chesapeake Bay forests is The State of Chesapeake Forests. This unique publication by the U.S. Forest Service and the Conservation Fund includes overviews on why the forest is important, the historical and projected impact of human influence, and information on composition of the Chesapeake Bay watershed's forests.

You can’t begin to understand this material without first learning some water quality terminology:

The SCE Forum will consider only non point source pollution.  Point source pollution is a big part of the problem in many parts of the Bay watershed, but solutions to the point source problem are mostly technological, financial, and regulatory. 


On the other hand, solutions to the non point source pollution problem have much more to do with educating the general public and gaining acceptance of the need to change the way we manage our landscape.  In many ways, the non point source contributions to the Bay’s problems are the more difficult to solve.


If you haven’t already done it, this would be a good time to play Stream Cleaner Stream Cleaner is a game of strategy where you try to clean up a stream polluted by excess nutrients and sediment by selecting the best combination of land management practices before you run out of money.  You have $10,000.  Does that sound like a lot of money? 

You can enter the Stream Cleaner activity by clicking on the name on the High School blackboard or clicking on the link at right -->.


While Stream Cleaner is still fresh in your mind, it would be a good time to take a look at the Stream Cleaner Slide Show.  It provides a slightly different perspective on the best management practices that are used in Stream Cleaner.  Just click on the projector screen mounted over the window in the eSchool's High school classroom. 


The landscape and proportion of land uses in Stream Cleaner are representative of a typical rural watershed in West Virginia's Potomac Highlands. 

  • How does land use in your watershed compare, and how do you think that the differences might change the strategy you will need to clean up your watershed? 

  • How might the differences help you decide who your important stakeholder groups should be?  


In the News ...


Because the Chesapeake Bay's problems are very important to the region, Bay issues are frequently in the news.   These days, they are in the news every day, because two years ago the federal government decided to increase the pressure on the states to finally do everything that is necessary restore the Bay to health.  That pressure has resulted in a lot of newsworthy activity.  Here are three articles from The Washington Post that provide an overview of important recent activity:

The Chesapeake Bay Program collects relevant news stories from around the Bay's watershed every day.  And you can take a look at a few of the stories that CI has highlighted for past Stream Cleaner eForums.  Can you find more stories? 



5. Water Quality Science

Water Quality Section Worksheet


Many perspectives on water quality are needed to understand the problems facing the Bay.  You can look at water quality in the Bay itself, in the large rivers like the Potomac and Susquehanna as they flow into the Bay, or in the innumerable headwater streams throughout the Bay watershed. 

Guide 2.  Your Water Quality Native Guide is Neil Gillies (Cacapon Institute).  Mr. Gillies has been studying headwater streams in the Potomac Highlands since 1985.  He provides perspective on the study of non point source pollutants, specifically nutrients, based on real data from CI's programs.   

The next step up is to look at water quality at the large river scale.  The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is taking a lead role in these studies. 

  • You can read a short overview of their Bay related programs here. 

  • Read about and see a map of their sampling sites on the major river basins that flow into the Bay here

  • The Chesapeake Bay River Input Monitoring Program provides a graphic overview of the nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations and load contributions from each major river basin. 

  • You can read actual USGS publications on Chesapeake Bay water quality through the links found here.

If it hasn't happened already, your teacher should now present a Chesapeake Bay Program PowerPoint presentation that provides an excellent overview of the science as it relates to the Bay (we sent them the link so they could download this presentation).  It describes how excess nutrients and sediment impact aquatic plants and result in lower dissolved oxygen levels.  It is dissolved oxygen levels in the Bay that we are trying to improve, because without sufficient oxygen, the Bay is dead.  Learn more about all of these issues at these additional links:

  • From the Bay program, general information on nutrients and sediment.

  • Chesapeake Bay Program on sources of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment loads to the Bay.

  • Chesapeake Bay Monitoring for Management Actions.  From Maryland's DNR.

  • West Virginia's Potomac Tributary Strategy Chapter 4.  Sources of Nutrients and Sediment.

  • Without sufficient oxygen, the Bay is dead.  Learn more about dissolved oxygen from the Chesapeake Bay Program here.

  • A new Long-term study finds that nutrient enrichment of headwater stream disrupts food web in unexpected ways (12/17/2009). 

    • Maintaining patterns of energy flow between predators and prey is a critical aspect of healthy ecosystems. “What we found was a dead end in the food chain,” said Amy Rosemond, assistant professor at the Odum School, and one of the lead researchers.“ This is the first time we’ve seen this kind of trophic decoupling, or break in the food chain, between the levels of prey and predator on this scale. This kind of disruption of the food web wasn’t on anyone’s radar screen before now.” 



6. The Chesapeake Bay Watershed Model

Bay Model Worksheet

Scientific models are mathematical representations of the real world.  In environmental science, models are often used to estimate the effects of complex and varying environmental events and conditions, to understand large scale processes that can't be observed directly in their entirety.  The Chesapeake Bay Program uses various mathematical models to simulate processes in the air, land, and water of the 64,000 square mile Chesapeake Bay drainage basin, which is much too large and complex to isolate for experiments in the real world.  Their models use the results of small scale scientific experiments on subjects like the effect of a specific land use change on water quality, and apply them to the whole Bay watershed.  These models allow Bay scientists to simulate changes in the Bay ecosystem due to changes in population, land use, or pollution management. 

The Chesapeake Bay Watershed Model estimates the delivery of nutrients and sediments to the Bay by simulating hydrologic and nutrient cycles, with inputs including deposition of atmospheric nutrients, precipitation, application of fertilizer, and land use.

This example (at right) is a map of model predictions for all sources of Nitrogen (including point sources) that are delivered to the Bay.   More background, including a tab to many maps, is available from the Chesapeake Bay Program.

Guide 3.  Your Bay Model Native Guide is Michael Schwartz, Environmental Scientist at the Conservation Fund's Freshwater Institute.  As the West Virginia Tributary Team's point man on issues related to the Chesapeake Bay's models, he has unique insights on the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Model and shares with you some of his observation on the complexity and benefits.

This linkleads you to a quick look at graphs of nutrient and sediment load estimates from the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Model.  These graphs will help you understand where the model predicts pollution is coming from.

It is important to remember that models are not the same as reality, and that the Bay models seek to understand an incredibly complex system of 64,000 square miles.  Based on real world water quality monitoring results, the CBP’s scientific and technical advisory committee believes the model is overestimating progress in restoring the Bay.  This happens in part because the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Model generally uses best management practice "efficiency" assumptions based on idealized research conditions, rather than from field studies on these practices as they are actually installed.  It is important to note that the process is under nearly constant review and, as better information is obtained, changes to modeling assumptions are made (this approach is known as adaptive management).

The problem of overestimating progress has led to many controversies and concerns that the Bay models do not simulate actual conditions closely enough.  For example, in 2005 the non partisan Government Accounting Office criticized the Bay Program for overstating its progress.  They found that largely because the Bay models overestimated progress toward achieving water quality goals, the Bay Program minimized threats to the Bay and was failing to address its problems

We continue to use models, however,  because they remain the best scientific tool for estimating what average conditions are likely to be in a complex system where reality is enormously difficult to understand and far too costly to physically measure.  You can read more on the weaknesses and strengths in this section of the West Virginia Tributary Strategy.

In addition to the Chesapeake Bay Program’s model, the U.S. Geological Service has a statistical model available called SPAtially Referenced Regressions On Watershed (SPARROW), which uses a nonlinear regression approach to spatially relate nutrient sources and watershed characteristics to nutrient loads of streams throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed.  For more information on the USGS SPARROW map visit this site.  It has great information and really wonderful maps of output from the SPARROW model (near the top of the page, labeled Figures).



7. Tributary Strategies and Watershed Implementation Plans

Tributary Strategy Worksheet


Cleaning up the Bay is about a lot more than just science and models.  It also involves the interplay of science and government policy.  The federal government's central role as the Chesapeake Bay Program (U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Department of Agriculture, etc.), state and local government, and local stakeholders all play essential roles in creating a workable plan and generating support from state and federal politicians, support that will be needed to generate the huge amounts of money to pay for the cleanup. 


The states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed - Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia - the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are working together to clean up the Bay. They have determined that restoring the Bay’s health will require reducing the flow of nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) and sediment transported from each of the Bay States into the Bay, and have set maximum loadings for nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment in each State’s waters.  


West Virginia took a uniquely open approach in the development of its Potomac Tributary Strategy by forming the West Virginia Potomac Tributary Strategy Stakeholder Group.  Members of the community were invited to work with the WV Dept. of Environmental Protection, WV Conservation Agency, and WV Dept. of Agriculture in a comprehensive planning process to produce a plan that would equitably reduce nutrient and sediment loads from West Virginia.  The stakeholders also sought to develop a plan that would minimize economic and social burdens on our community.


West Virginia's 2005 Potomac Tributary Strategy document provides a wealth of useful information that is referenced below and elsewhere on this page:

To read the entire document, including specific strategies developed by WV stakeholders, (it's 50 pages long), click here, then click on West Virginia Potomac Tributary Strategy (PDF).   A shorter, 18 page summary is here (PDF).  


Every state in the Bay watershed created their own approach to developing their tributary strategy.

In December 2010, the tributary strategies were replaced by state-developed Phase I Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs) and a federal Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL).  WIPs are the next step in the continued progression toward a restored Chesapeake Bay. These plans consider such things as ecological restoration and sustainability while allowing for greater transparency and accountability for improved performance.  Mike Galvin, of the Urban Long-Term Research Areas: Exploratory Research Projects, thinks that Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plans represent the most important restoration initiative in the world Each of the seven Bay watershed jurisdictions created Phase I WIPs that document how they will partner with federal and local governments to achieve and maintain water quality standards.   To find out about these processes, the tools used and state contacts, please visit the Watershed Implementation Plans page.  Phase II WIPs are currently in development by the States and DC, with Final Phase II WIPs scheduled for completion by March 30, 2012.  Follow the appropriate link from the above site to review information about your state.  




8. Best Management Practices

BMP Worksheet


Best Management Practices are methods for preventing or reducing the pollution resulting from some activity. The term originated from rules and regulation in Section 208 of the Clean Water Act.  This piece from provides a simple introduction to the concepts of Best Management Practices (BMPs) as things we can all do that lessen the impact of activities which might harm the environment.   Read another good introduction to BMPs from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.   Also from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, learn how Stimulus Money Increases Small Farm Jobs, Improves Economy.


All of the Bay states have urban issues, even rural areas like West Virginia.  Urban forester Frank Rodgers describes the non point source problems caused by urbanization and suggests a series of urban BMPs that really make a difference here.  Creative approaches to urban BMPs have also been in the news recently.  From Ann Arundel County comes news that "County officials tout eco-friendly stormwater fix County officials seek to change developers' hearts and minds as they tout eco-friendly stormwater fix" - you can read about it in The Capital newspaper here .


The Chesapeake Bay Program is constantly working to improve their understanding of the watershed, including their understanding of how well existing BMPs work.  They also seek new BMPs to help solve the problems.  This paper from the Bay Program's Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee (STAC) (600 kb pdf document) is technical but very readable, and not in the least shy about identifying deficiencies in the current program.  The Summary, Introduction, and Background sections are well worth your time.   

  • West Virginia's Potomac Tributary Strategy provides a list of BMPs.

  • A West Virginia success story!   Using Best Management Practices and community support to clean up the North Fork of the South Branch of the Potomac .  

  • Riparian Buffers: What they are and how they work.    This excellent discussion comes from the good folks at North Carolina State University.
  • Here's a great list of Low Impact Development tools for managing stormwater runoff. 

  • West Virginia Potomac Tributary Strategy is conducting a Forested Riparian Buffer Demonstration Project that is assessing relative survival of trees using different planting methods.  To paraphrase a famous movie: "If you plant them, they may not grow."  At one of the sites that was not growing due to deer browsing, Cacapon Institute is conducting a low-cost deer fencing experiment that is allowing plantings that were failing to succeed.  

  • Understanding the Science Behind Riparian Forest Buffers: Effects on Water Quality.  Author: Julia C. Klapproth, Faculty Assistant-Natural Resources, Maryland Cooperative Extension; James E. Johnson, Extension Forestry Specialist, College of Natural Resources, Virginia Tech.
  • Installing buffers to protect water supplies.  In order to protect New York City's water supply, the City, New York State and the USDA's Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) are picking up all the costs necessary to implement a Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program in the Catskill and Delaware watersheds of the New York City drinking water supply system.  These watersheds furnish most of the 1.34 billion gallons of water used daily by the New York City system, which serves 9 million city and regional residents.  By installing buffers and protecting erodeable land throughout the Catskill/ Delaware watersheds, they hope to avoid construction of a water filtration plant costing an estimated $6 billion. The project will also provide valuable habitat for endangered Wildlife and native cold water fish.  Click here and here to learn more. 
  • American Farmland Trust's BMP Challenge    "Best Management Practices (BMPs) support conservation goals like protecting against soil loss and keeping nutrient’s from leaving the farm. When done right, BMPs can improve the environment while also improving the farmer’s bottom line.   But for a farmer, implementing BMPs can feel like making a bet against their income. We’re asking farmers to believe that lesser amounts of fertilizer, sometimes substantially less, will deliver the same yields. Or use reduced tillage, which reduces erosion but can delay soil warming and plant growth.  AFT's innovative solution, the BMP Challenge, overcomes this challenge by guaranteeing against any potential loss of income for farmers who reduce fertilizer use or utilize reduced tillage practices. "
  • CNMP Watch is the complete Web source for Comprehensive Nutrient Management Planning (CNMP) information.  Click here.

  • National Conservation Practice Standards.  This is where you go to learn about all of the BMPs that are currently accepted by the US Department of Agriculture - Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Cullers Run Wetland Construction

Sometimes you have to think out of the box to solve non point pollution problems.  Cacapon Institute participated in an economic incentive experiment with WVU and a group of West Virginia farmers.  The projected was completed by constructing a precision BMP -- a wetland designed to remove nitrogen from a source of nitrogen rich groundwater before it reaches the study stream. If the wetland works as intended, it will reduce baseflow nitrate-nitrogen levels in the stream by as much as 50 percent.  Take a look at a wetland construction slide show at right, and learn more about the project 

Construction Slide Show


 9. Stakeholders

Stakeholders Worksheet

If you are taking part in the Stream Cleaner Environmental Forum, then you are role-playing as a member of a stakeholder group.  This section is about you!

As a member of a stakeholder group; you need to understand as much as you can about the role you play in the Bay's problem and restoration.  You also need to understand the roles others play.   In order to successfully reach consensus with other stakeholder groups, you need to be able to intelligently discuss your groups concerns and find common ground with others.  

Reaching the ambitious nutrient reduction goals needed to restore the Bay will not be easy.  With more than 16 million people living and working in the Bay watershed, our individual impact on water quality takes a toll on the quality of local waters. 

Each Bay state's Tributary Strategy relies heavily on voluntary adoption of BMPs by the private sector, including farmers and homeowners, to achieve its goals. 

  • In rural areas this effort tends to emphasize loadings from the agricultural sector
  • The urban sector will be of increasing importance as many areas in the watershed are experiencing explosive population growth. 

Ultimate success will require working with farmers and homeowners to encourage voluntary reductions of nutrients and sediment flowing from yards, cropland, pasture, and sources of concentrated animal manure such as cattle feedlots.  All state Tributary Strategies and Watershed Implementation Plans seek to reduce pollutant loads by implementing a comprehensive suite of voluntary BMPs. 

Regulatory changes are also needed, to require that all new construction projects, including housing developments, manufacturing facilities, and even new schools, be built in a way that minimizes their contributions of nutrients and sediment to local waterways and ultimately the Bay.

The WV Potomac Tributary Strategy's chapter on Challenges to Implementation provides insight into the thinking of different stakeholder groups who actually participated in developing WV's strategy.  This is a must read! 

Cacapon Institute works to develop approaches that make adopting environmentally friendly farm practices a good business decision for farmers.  

Farming Communities:

Guide 4.  Your Agricultural Community Native Guide is Matt Monroe (Environmental Coordinator for the WV Department of Agriculture).  Matt is a key player in West Virginia's tributary strategy process, and provides his unique point of view on the agricultural community's perspective.  

Consensus Building:

Guide 5.  Your Bay Foundation Native Guide is on the efforts of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, a non profit organization with a mission to restore the Bay.  They work to build consensus between groups to restore the Bay, which is what you will be doing during the third week of the SCE Forum. 

Community Restoration:

Guide 6.  Your Community Restoration Native Guide is biologist Sandy Burk, author of Let the River Run Silver Again!   This book tells the exciting story of students like you who are helping to restore the ecologically important fish American shad.  They are now cleaning up streams and rivers in their own neighborhoods- all while performing important community service and earning credit for school too.  This is proof that individuals can make a difference.

We’ve provided you with a great deal of information - and now it is your turn to do more research.  Go back and look in more depth about your state’s Tributary Team process, use a few of the links below, or find your own resources online, in print, or in the news that will help get your stakeholder Point Of View across to others. 

  • As the largest newspaper in the watershed, the Washington Post has stories about Bay issues going back many years.  This Post link goes to current headlines.  A search of the archives requires a (free) registration/log-on. 
  • In many ways, The Bay Journal is the voice of the Bay.   Click on the link and take a look at this month's stories, to see if there is anything of use to you.  Then try their search feature.  For example, I tried entering "watermen" and found numerous stories, including "VA, MD slash female blue crab harvest 34%", "Let small, independent watermen determine crab harvests", and "Tangier watermen see Bay in a new light."
  • The Chesapeake Bay Program's website it, of course, a wealth of information. 
  • Chesapeake Bay Foundation: Helping Farmers help the Bay
  • A West Virginia success story!   Using Best Management Practices and community support to clean up the North Fork of the South Branch of the Potomac .  

  • And many more ....



10. Paying for it


Paying for the Bay cleanup will be incredibly expensive.  This document from the WV Potomac Tributary Strategy details the costs for West Virginia alone, and West Virginia is only a small part of the solution.   There are quite a few government programs that provide cost share money to farmers to help pay for environmental practices. 


There are other innovative ways to provide support for protection of our lands:

  • Potomac Conservancy conducts a comprehensive land protection program; develops and implements a variety of land and water restoration projects; provides counseling and other conservation support services for more than 70 other land trusts across four states and the District of Columbia; provides meaningful, hands-on volunteer and education programs for adults and young people to foster a stewardship ethic; and partners with other land trusts, conservation organizations, and local, state, and federal agencies to more efficiently and expeditiously achieve land protection and restoration goals.

  • Cacapon and Lost Rivers Land Trust works throughout the Lost and Cacapon River watershed to assist landowners and communities in maintaining healthy rivers, protecting forests and farmland, and in preserving rural heritage for the enjoyment and well being of present and future generations. 

  • West Virginia Farmland Protection Website provides information about the West Virginia Voluntary Farmland Protection Act, counties participating through the formation of Farmland Protection Boards and the State Authority authorized under the West Virginia Department of Agriculture.  

  • Farmland Protection Board Submits First Applications.  By Dick Hughes Special to Moorefield Examiner.  The Hardy County Farmland Protection Board has submitted its first applications in a federal and county program to protect prime agricultural land in perpetuity. 

  • American Farmland Trust: How to save farmland.



11. General Links

Chesapeake Bay Program - a link to America's Premier Watershed Restoration Partnership


Chesapeake Bay Program - Watershed Implementation Plan Tools The Watershed Implementation Plan Tools Page serves as a resource to each state's Tributary Team coordinators and teams as they develop their Tributary Strategies. This page provides key information, presentations, data, and other tools to help each jurisdiction develop their Tributary Strategies. It is also a forum for sharing ideas and approaches for distilling down highly technical information into a form that stakeholders can understand and use in developing their Strategies.


The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) is the largest conservation organization dedicated solely to saving the Chesapeake Bay watershed.


The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) prepares an annual State of the Bay Report, the  annual report card on the health of the Bay.  You can see historical CBF State of the Bay reports beginning in 2000.


The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay is a regional nonprofit organization that builds and fosters partnerships to protect and to restore the Bay and its rivers. 

  About WATERSHEDSS: A Decision Support System for Nonpoint Source Pollution Control.  To adequately control nonpoint source pollution of a water resource, water quality managers must focus on minimizing the impacts of individual nonpoint source pollutants. The strategic choice and placement of best management practices (BMPs) in the watershed can successfully reduce the input of individual pollutants and may improve water quality. WATERSHEDSS (WATER, Soil, and Hydro- Environmental Decision Support System) was designed to help watershed managers and land treatment personnel identify their water quality problems and select appropriate best management practices.

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