Nearly 100 local leaders from across Maryland joined Governor Martin O’Malley and members of his cabinet in Ocean City today for the State’s June BayStat meeting. The Governor took the monthly meeting public for the first time to discuss Bay restoration actions and progress with attendees of the Maryland Municipal League’s annual summer conference, and to encourage local leaders to become more involved in the State’s efforts.
“The team you see here, myself included, meets monthly to track our Bay restoration efforts — to assess progress, evaluate what’s working and what’s not, and adapt our efforts accordingly,” said Governor O’Malley, who conducted a tour of the BayStat website for local officials from across the State. “We believe that performance-based governance — our Stat model — is key to making government work better. This principle has proven especially valuable in our efforts to restore and protect our State’s waterways, including our greatest natural resource, the Chesapeake Bay.”
Since Governor O’Malley launched BayStat in February 2007, the State of Maryland has: preserved nearly 24,000 acres of land through Program Open Space; strengthened the Critical Areas Law; enacted landmark Greenhouse Gas legislation; experienced a rebound of the blue crab population – in direct response to 2008 conservation measures enacted with Virginia; seen a 20 percent increase in Bay grasses over 2008; and begun to observe reduced nitrogen pollution in numerous water quality stations.
In more good news for the Bay, a new federal commitment is directing more resources to the challenged estuary, and Maryland scientists are exploring a “tipping point,” where restoration progress in some tributaries may have begun to jump start self-recovery within the smaller systems.
Under the direction of Governor O’Malley, the BayStat team recently finalized a suite of two-year milestones to accelerate Maryland’s actions on-the-ground.
“In the past, officials have set very important, but very distant goals for restoring our waterways,” said Governor O’Malley. “The problem is that when the rubber meets the road, the people who set these goals know they won’t be around to be held accountable when they do — or do not — come to fruition.”
The 27 short term goals, which the Governor announced at the regional Chesapeake Executive Council meeting in May, include commitments to doubling cover crops on farmlands, expanding forest buffers and wetlands on public and private lands; retrofitting stormwater management practices on 90,000 acres; upgrading wastewater treatment plants and 3,000 septic systems; and reducing nitrogen pollution from power plants. The plan seeks to achieve these goals by 2011.
Citing a variety of new programs designed to engage citizens in stewardship activities – from replenishing the Bay’s oyster population and contributing to a statewide tree planting goal to adopting green business practices and helping connect children with their natural world — Governor O’Malley also discussed the critical need for local government and citizen action as part of the solution.
“Along with increased federal and State commitments, achieving a healthy Bay will require the full commitment and involvement of our local governments, non-governmental organizations, businesses, and of course, all of our fellow citizens,” said Governor O’Malley. “All Maryland families — even those who do not live within the watershed — benefit from what the Chesapeake brings to our great State, and every Marylander has a role in this effort.”