Our work in Maryland and Washington, D.C., is focused on two areas where our outcomes can have the greatest impact: clean water and climate resilience.
While our geography occupies a relatively small footprint, it is critical to the health of the mid-Atlantic region. Maryland’s western forests are a key wildlife corridor along the Appalachian Mountains. The intact watersheds on the Eastern Shore represent some of the best opportunities for ameliorating the impacts of sea level rise. And Washington, D.C., is on the forefront of creating new and replicable mechanisms for financing stormwater pollution treatment.
SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE: Restoring clean water and healthy habitats in the Chesapeake Bay by engaging with Maryland’s largest industry, agriculture, to keep nutrients on farms and out of our streams and rivers.
2018 was a great year. From completing the largest river restoration project in Maryland's history to reducing pollution from stormwater runoff in the District of Columbia, we're doing a lot of exciting things here at the Maryland/DC chapter, and we couldn't do it without your support. Thank you, and see you in 2019.
A conversation between Tim Purinton and Steve Hills, Executive Director and Board Chair of the Maryland/DC Chapter.
Tim Purinton: As the chairman of our chapter’s board of trustees, you have made a major commitment to supporting TNC. What is it about The Nature Conservancy that inspires such dedication?
Steve Hills: We are at a pivotal time in human history. Our technological advancements over the past hundred years have been extraordinary, but now we have to apply that same ingenuity and resourcefulness to solving the problems that our success has created.
The challenges to our environment are manifested daily: record hurricanes, wildfires, temperature increases, rising seas. These are daunting challenges and we must find solutions at a scale that matches the scale of the challenges we face. The Conservancy is uniquely suited to address these challenges.
Tim: What sets TNC apart? In other words, what’s our secret sauce?
Steve: In my view, two things make TNC successful: First, TNC is the largest environmental organization in the world, so we have the resources to create solutions at scale; and second, TNC is extraordinarily practical. We work with a wide variety of partners including big businesses and government in a non-partisan, science-based way.
As a result, in an era dominated by partisan dysfunction, TNC is able to get things done by working on both sides of the aisle with all groups to develop solutions that actually work.
Tim: What has been your favorite or most inspiring experience in your time as a volunteer leader?
Steve: I love seeing the extraordinary success we have had in helping create an economic marketplace for stormwater credits in D.C. This is an idea that uses market forces to create a large-scale system for incentivizing organizations to do the right thing for the environment—and it is working! D.C. is the only city in the world with a stormwater market, so now it's up to us to take this solution to scale. After all, that's what sets TNC apart! Stay tuned.
Tim joined the Maryland/DC chapter as executive director in 2017. Previously, he worked in Boston as founding director of the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game’s Division of Ecological Restoration (DER), a division he co-created in 2009.
Steve is the founding director of the Georgetown University Law Center Business Law Scholars Program. Prior to that, Steve served as president and general manager of The Washington Post for 13 years. Under Steve’s leadership, the Post was named “Most Innovative Media Company in the World” for 2015 by Fast Company.
Guided by science, we can find creative solutions to tackle our most complex conservation challenges and build a stronger future for both people and nature.
WHERE LAND AND WATER MEET: Pocomoke River Floodplain Monitoring
In 2018, we wrapped up a three-year study designed to evaluate the benefits of targeted floodplain restoration. Funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture provided an exciting opportunity to build upon our multi-agency effort to reconnect floodplains along a nine-mile stretch of the Pocomoke River.
Together with scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey, we monitored water, nutrient, and sediment exchange in six floodplains throughout the river system.
Beyond the clear habitat benefits of reconnecting the channelized river with its adjacent wetlands, our monitoring results highlighted the important water quality benefits these wetlands provide, particularly in the areas dominated by a vast network of roadside and agricultural ditches artificially constructed across the Eastern Shore. Further, we learned that floodplains lower in the system provide exceptional capacity to capture sediment.
The mid-19th century channelization of the Pocomoke River has historically led to inland flooding during severe weather events. As a result of our study, we learned that breaching levees along channelized rivers may provide the very important benefit of diffusing coastal flooding. These areas may also help with inland migration of coastal wetlands as sea levels continue to rise.
After the Burn: Acoustic Bird Monitoring
In 2008, the chapter started conducting controlled burns at Nassawango Creek to manage loblolly pine plantations and natural stands of shortleaf pine, along with inland dune habitat.
Post-burn insect and plant surveys have been carried out every year at the preserve; however, the last official bird survey was conducted in 2005. Traditional bird surveys are labor intensive and require a person (or team) to sample very early in the morning and conduct point counts along a transect.
Our chapter piloted a new, innovative method for measuring birds, bats, and insects using acoustic instrumentation. During the bird breeding season of 2018, we conducted a pilot study to test the feasibility of the “soundscape” or “acoustic” ecology method for measuring bird diversity. We are using this method to compare management treatments (burned and unburned habitat).
Our pilot study at Nassawango has already yielded information that can be used to guide future land management decisionmaking. We are now also coordinating with Maryland Department of Natural Resources ecologists on the use of acoustic recorders to study bats at the preserve.
Wild. Native. Rare.
Canby’s dropwort (Oxypolis canbyi) is a globally imperiled wildflower native to the eastern coastal plains. In Maryland, the plant is found in a single Delmarva bay on a preserve in Queen Anne’s County. When the Pristine Pines preserve was first protected in 1983, there were only a handful of these rare plants, and the surrounding forest was starting to close in on this naturally open Delmarva bay.
In 2002, we made an intensive effort to remove the majority of the invading trees in the wetland. Canby’s dropwort numbers increased gradually over the next 14 years. However, it looked like the plant was still being suppressed, now by competition with a native grass called maidencane.
We determined that a controlled burn would be the most effective means of maintaining the open character of the wetland, while reducing competition from the maidencane. We first burned in October 2015. The results were incredible; we saw numbers increase from 121 plants to more than 400. The following year, we counted more than 600 plants. A second burn in 2017 resulted in a still greater increase: the 2018 count of more than 800 plants was so high we were only able to count flowering plants before calling it a day. This is a big conservation success driven by science and an adaptive management approach.
Citizen Science in Action: the 2018 City Nature Challenge
What kind of wild species can you spot in the middle of a rainy spring night? That’s what D.C.-area citizen scientists were asking themselves in the wee hours of Friday, April 27, 2018.
There was stiff competition to be the first person in the District to post a photo of a wild organism to iNaturalist, and thus become the first observer in the 2018 Washington, D.C. City Nature Challenge.
This was our chapter’s first year participating in the challenge. Deborah Barber, one of our resident naturalists, led a few observation hikes at our nature preserves during the competition. In preparation for the hikes, Deborah decided to spend some time familiarizing herself with the iNaturalist app and was floored by its capabilities as a powerful citizen science tool.
She decided to spread the word about the D.C. City Nature Challenge with her counterparts and connections at local parks, other conservation organizations and master naturalist groups. Deborah is not normally a competitive person, but when the race started at midnight she found herself driven to help the D.C. area record as many observations as possible.
When she discovered that another local participant made the first observation at 12:00 a.m. on April 27th (ophion wasps), Deborah went outside and quickly recorded three more (an Indian meal moth, an eastern cottontail, and a northern mockingbird).
When the competition closed, the D.C. metro area ranked 5th for number of observations, 8th for number of species and 4th for number of observers. (San Francisco, the home of iNaturalist, won in all three categories, with Houston, Hong Kong, and Klang Valley, Malaysia also making excellent showings.)
The Nature Conservancy plays a unique and vital role in the policy-making process by injecting science and on-the-ground experience into discussions on policies and public funding.
We focus on legislated conservation programs that protect land and water, and help our communities adapt to and mitigate the risks of climate change.
In 2018 we had many policy wins, but we want to highlight four:
Sea-Level Rise Inundation and Coastal Flooding — Construction, Adaptation and Mitigation Legislation Passed
This is a bold step forward by the state to address several impacts of sea level rise and guide future state infrastructure investment to be more resilient in the face of climate change. We are now working closely with the state and other partners to develop guidance for localities to implement the new requirements established by this legislation.
Program Open Space Fully Funded
Maryland’s premiere land conservation program was fully funded with revenue from the Real Estate Transfer Tax. These funds go to protecting and conserving critically important habitats and recreational spaces for all Marylanders to enjoy.
Governor’s Award for Pocomoke River Project
The Chesapeake Executive Council consists of the governors of the six watershed states, the mayor of the District of Columbia, the chair of the Chesapeake Bay Commission and the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
At the August 2018 Executive Council meeting, our chapter was presented with an award for the 2017 completion of Maryland’s largest ecological restoration project. The project leveraged multiple funding streams to improve water quality and habitat, and reduce flood risk.
Stormwater Retention Credit Market Property Tax Issue Resolved
Through an act of the Council of the District of Columbia, property tax-exempt non-profits are able to maintain their status and participate in the Stormwater Retention Credit program. These large tax-exempt properties can now participate in the program by installing natural infrastructure to help improve the water quality of the Anacostia and Potomac River as well as the Chesapeake Bay.
The Nature Conservancy has a vision for a future in which both people and nature thrive. To achieve that vision, we must prepare future generations to take up the torch and continue to advocate for sound environmental policies in the future.
Georgetown Day School Summer Service Program
In 2018, students from the Georgetown Day School’s Summer Service Program spent several weeks focused on issues related to local environmental justice. One of the stops on their rotation was the Rock Creek Park Conservancy, which invited members from our staff to spend two days with the students to deliver our in-demand youth advocacy training program.
We challenged these students to come up with a solution to the problem of plastic waste in the Anacostia River. With our guidance, the students drafted a multi-faceted, policy proposal to reduce plastic pollution in the District. We then arranged for these students to pitch their proposal to three members of the Council of the District of Columbia. This meeting intensified the Council’s discussion around the need to act to reduce the amount of plastic pollution in the Anacostia.
Leaders for Environmental Action for the Future (LEAF)
Every summer, urban and rural high school students who have been accepted into TNC's LEAF program are assigned to chapters across the country to have summer work adventures and learn about careers in conservation.
2018 marked the third straight year of taking our chapter’s LEAF interns through our vigorous youth advocacy training program, followed by a day of meetings with elected officials on Capitol Hill. This exposure to the role of policy in conservation, and opportunity to speak with their representatives, is noted as a highlight by many of the students.
United Nations Youth Assembly
Because of TNC's stellar reputation at the United Nations, we were asked to deliver our youth advocacy training to more than 150 students at the 2018 UN Youth Assembly in NYC. Two members of the Maryland/DC chapter staff joined two leaders from our national youth engagement program to share how policy affects the environment.
Young men and women representing more than 30 nations were challenged to think about conservation issues in their respective countries, and to develop realistic policy solutions to take home and share with elected officials.
2018 Annual Impact Report
(2.88 MB PDF)DOWNLOAD
Reporte Anual de Impacto 2018
(2.68 MB PDF)
El Informe de Impacto Anual de 2018 tiene más información sobre el trabajo de las costas resilientes, nuestro impacto en la agricultura sostenible, la naturaleza en las ciudades, y los bosques saludables. El Informe de Impacto Anual ahora está disponible en español!DOWNLOAD
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