Jan 16, 2007

Md. lawmakers pledge new push to revive Chesapeake Bay oysters

Md. lawmakers pledge new push to revive Chesapeake Bay oysters
By KRISTEN WYATT, Associated Press

ANNAPOLIS — Chesapeake Bay oysters should get more help because
they're the best hope for cleaning the bay, legislative leaders said

Democratic House Speaker Michael Busch said the restoration of native
oysters — and not transplantation of imported Asian oysters — would be
the top environmental priority this year, though he didn't say exactly
how much should be spent.

"We want to see progress with getting that native oyster replenished,"
Busch said at an annual environmental summit in Annapolis.

Outgoing Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich urged speedy research into
whether Asian oysters should be dropped into the Chesapeake. The
thinking was that the Asian oysters are resistant to a disease that
nearly wiped out native oysters, but environmental groups urged
caution. Busch and other officials said Monday that Ehrlich's election
loss to Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley means a more deliberative
approach on Asian oysters.

"Everybody I've talked to with any experience in this area is suspect
of the Asian oyster," Busch said.

Another lawmaker — Democratic Delegate Virginia Clagett — said
officials should slow study on the Asian oyster until they're sure the
Asian species wouldn't hurt the bay's ecology.

"If we let them in, it's not like recalling a car or a toaster.
They're there for good," Clagett said of the Asian oysters.

Will Baker, president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, said research
on the Asian oysters should continue, but lawmakers should first help
native oysters.

"Clearly the momentum is behind the native oyster," Baker said.

Oysters are seen as a barometer of the bay's health and a means to
restore the waterway.

In centuries past, oysters were able to filter all of the water in the
bay in three or four days. Now, thanks to overharvesting, pollution
and disease, oyster stocks have dwindled so much that it takes a year
for oysters to filter the bay's water, the House Speaker said.

Environmentalists said they were enthused Monday about Democratic
gains in the legislature and the victory of O'Malley, a Democrat who
takes office Wednesday.

"I think you're going to be very proud of the next four years," said
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller.

Besides more money for oyster restoration, lawmakers pledged to join
other states in requiring cleaner emissions from new cars in Maryland.
They also said legislators would consider ways to encourage wind power
production and that O'Malley pledged to leave intact money designated
to buy open space.

O'Malley's designee to lead the state Department of the Environment,
Shari Wilson, said environmental concerns would get more attention
over the next four years.

"It seems like things are lining up for the environment," said Wilson,
currently a lawyer who represents Baltimore in environmental cases.


Blogger Jeffrey said...

Maryland rocks

4:33 AM  

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