Posted by Jonathan L. D. on Jul 13th, 2009 9:09pm

I need your help. Would you please take a few minutes to describe a landscape you treasure and what it means to you? And, get a chance to win a beautiful landscape print! Here's why.

We're doing some work on a key report on conserving landscapes and ecosystems in the Chesapeake region. But we need personal stories of why people care about special places. That's where you come in.

The landscape you treasure might be near where you live; it might be a place you go to get away; or perhaps a place you spent time as a child. It could be a natural area, a special rural landscape, or a stretch of river you like to paddle. Wherever or whatever it is in the Chesapeake watershed - large or small, well-known or not - we want to hear your story.  

Please take a few minutes to share the place(s) you care about. Tell us:

  • the name of your special landscape
  • where it is (generally, specifics aren't necessary)
  • what it's like - a brief impression
  • and especially: why it's important to you - write from your heart!

Do this by adding a comment to this blog - click "add comment" below. If you have more than one special place, feel free to describe two or more.

Here's an added incentive: We'd like to collect at least fifty of your landscape stories by July 30. If we do, everyone who submits an entry will be entered in a drawing for an original landscape print by Mike Land. We'll announce the winner in August.

Thanks for your help. This is important! 


Posted in General 37 Comments | Link to this Post
Posted by Jonathan L. D. on Jul 3rd, 2009 6:35am

Come summer and I'm more and more struck by the power of music to reconnect me with the landscape in which I live.

This first struck me some fifteen years ago when living in the midst of the Columbia River Gorge. I remember standing near a marimba band playing at the local farmers' market in Hood River Oregon. The open air sounds caused me to look up and around taking in the beauty of the cliffs, hills and mountains of the surrounding Gorge. Instantly, I was refreshed and reminded of my great luck to be working to conserve such a place. amm

Lately, this kind of experience is more frequent, here on the Chesapeake Bay. My home is in Annapolis and on summer weekday evenings I often go to outdoor concerts hosted by the Annapolis Maritime Museum. Tucked right on Back Creek, the museum is housed in the old McNasby's oyster packing house. People park nearby and walk towards the open lawn by the water, casually carrying lawn chairs and picnic baskets. The stage is "Miss Lonesome," an old deadrise workboat permanently grounded on land under a shady tree by the water. People gather, sit, talk, eat, drink and listen. Boaters dock or anchor close by to be part of the audience. The music begins, ospreys circle overhead, the breeze comes in off the water, sailboats pass by coming in from the Bay. 

I've had at least three deeply moving music and landscape connections at this place. Two summers ago, the jazz band Raw Hands performed on a warm evening with storm clouds brewing overhead. Their long connection to the area and even to historic Carr's Beach came through the chords of music and song, most movingly when an amplifier went out. While it was being repaired Chickie Johnson, the band leader, simply kept a steady rhythm and spoke out to the crowd for a minute or two about the grace of playing in such a place; and then the full music returned.

Them Eastport Oyster Boys play this crowd every summer. There is probably no other evening so full of humor, joy and beautiful and irreverent songs tied to the Bay. Last week they were at their prime again, eight band members led by Jeff Holland and Kevin Brooks. I'm never sure whether it's the beauty of "Miss Lonesome" or the humor of "Good Hat, Good Dog, Good Boat", that makes me think most of the importance of this Bay landscape.

Just last night, I and so many others were touched again, this time by the remarkable tenor voice of Mack Bailey. Outside at first, and then moving inside when a thunderstorm hit, Mack performed songs of his own and of others that visibly drew people together and evoked the spirit of place. As the evening ended, friends seemed to look at each other and just shake their heads, taken by the moment.

These experiences always seem to strip away the frustrations I regularly experience in my work to help conserve this Bay. Those thoughts pass away and I'm once more connected to the reason for it all, the inspiration to keep at it.

What about you? What experiences have you had - musical or otherwise - that reconnect you with the special place you live and work to save?

Posted in General 0 Comments | Link to this Post
Posted by Jonathan L. D. on Jan 21st, 2009 8:20am

I took January 20 off to venture down to the National Mall for the Inauguration of Barack Obama. My wife, a neighbor and I got in a car at 5:30 AM and drove past the massive back up at a Metro stop to almost traffic-free roads to the south of Washington. We parked along the Anacostia River, looking across at the gleaming Capitol only a mile away, and began an easy and increasingly joyful and crowded walk to the Mall. By a little after 8:00 we claimed our space near the Washington Monument.

What stands out most from this day? The incredible good spirit of the enormous crowds. The anticipation of noon; as every dignitary was introduced onto the dais, the crowd felt the moment coming closer. The elation after the oath - when it seemed one wanted to greet everyone nearby with a hug or handshake. The instantaneous hush of a million plus people as President Obama stood to begin his Inaugural Address, no one wanting to miss a word. The address itself.

Did you feel the call? I certainly did. From the early words of "our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age" I began to hear it. With the words "starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America" I was deeply moved. I heard the clear recognition of "nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it." And I felt the duty combined with optimism: "What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility -- a recognition on the part of every American that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world; duties that we do not grudgingly accept, but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character than giving our all to a difficult task."

So what next - particularly in regards to remaking the Chesapeake watershed? What did you do and feel on Inauguration Day? What did you hear from the new President? And if there's one thing you're planning to do this year to remake your part of the Chesapeake watershed, what is it?

Photo: People attend the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States on the National Mall January 20, 2009 in Washington, DC. (Mario Tama/Getty Images) Source: The Big Picture





Posted in General 2 Comments | Link to this Post
Posted by Jonathan L. D. on Nov 6th, 2008 11:54pm

Recently, I spent some off-work time making phone calls for a campaign. I was just one of many, many volunteers in a remarkably well organized phone bank. On the last day of October, that one office placed some 75,000 calls.

In the Chesapeake conservation community we all talk about the need for getting more people engaged, recognizing that all 17 million of us in the watershed bear responsibility for the health of our land and waters. Sometimes I think we feel a bit of despair over the magnitude of this challenge. I know I do.

Phone bankingBut my recent experience has given me new hope. On election day, I looked around the phone-banking room in wonder. Dozens of people were sitting at tables, with laptop computers in front of them, using their personal cell phones to call people around the nation. The volunteers from the community were of every age - teens to senior citizens; they were people taking time off from work, students coming in after classes, and folk retired from long careers; they were black and white and latino. Some were in for the first time, many had done multiple three hour shifts on prior days. People were dedicated, focused, optimistic, and enjoying themselves, despite the monotonous routine of dialing many voice mail boxes for every live person reached. We were taking personal action and felt a part of something bigger than ourselves.

How can this same spirit and organization be applied to the challenges of the Chesapeake?

At last month's Chesapeake Watershed Forum, Eric Eckl reminded that when it comes to motivation, "controversy is your friend." It often takes an issue to rally around. Steve Max talked about the details of applying organizing principles in campaigns to address these issues. Social marketing strategies focus on motivating personal actions.

Cleaning up the Bay watershed involves issues, controversies and solutions at the individual, local and regional levels - whether it's putting in rain barrels at home, passing a local bond measure to protect farm and forest land, or setting new state-wide stormwater rules that stress low-impact development (LID) practices.

Regardless, each requires personal action by many, many people to support, convince, advocate or carry out. But, there seems to be a recognition in the populace of a need for doing things on many fronts. And, if my image of the diverse and dedicated phone bankers is any indication - a real desire and willingness to be involved.

What are your thoughts? How can this spirit of engagement be transformed to help restore and protect Chesapeake rivers, streams, forests and more?

Posted in General 4 Comments | Link to this Post
Posted by Jonathan L. D. on Oct 31st, 2008 7:01am

I recently spent a week in California, first at a conference on educating local officials on low-impact development, and then a few days hiking trails in Yosemite National Park.

Walking trails amid spectacular views always seems to provoke some thinking. In this case, my contemplation centered on conservation, broadly defined. Perhaps it was being in the setting that called John Muir and many others to action. Maybe it was the historic, rustic structures evocative of the Civilian Conservation Corps. Or, it could have been trails in need of restoration, or the ever-heightened recognition that there are ways to use land and conserve resources at the same time. Maybe, the 2008 elections and a worrisome economy. Regardless, all thoughts suggested a new opportunity for conservation.

Conservationists often look back to great leaders and moments in our past. A century ago, Theodore Roosevelt, was saying "the conservation of natural resources is the fundamental problem. Unless we solve that problem it will avail us little to solve all others."1 He acted to set aside new refuges, forests and parks. Out of the Great Depression came the CCC, involving millions of unemployed in conservation works in every state. Around the same time, the great conservationist Aldo Leopold was calling for broad involvement in conservation: "Acts of creation are ordinarily reserved for gods and poets, but humbler folk may circumvent this restriction if they know how. To plant a pine, for example, one need be neither god nor poet; one need only own a good shovel. By virtue of this curious loophole in the rules, any clodhopper may say: Let there be a tree—and there will be one. If his back be strong and his shovel sharp, there may eventually be ten thousand."2

Though we're not in a Great Depression, we certainly face complex challenges. People are worried about a chilling economy and an overheating environment; about jobs and energy prices, savings and debt, tainted food and water; about a better future.

But just as in the past, difficulties present real opportunities. Why shouldn't this time - now - become a next great era of conservation (of land and water, as well as energy)?

Conservation is inherently positive, or as Roosevelt said "the conservation of all our natural resources [is] essentially democratic in spirit, purpose, and method."3 It is about planning for and safeguarding the future, while sustaining the present. And conservation actions - in the broadest possible sense (developing new energy sources, restoring America's waterways, rebuilding and greening our infrastructure) - provide real opportunities for investment and innovation, jobs and community-building.

How can a call to national service for a sustainable future be put forward? How can these times be harnessed for a broad investment in conservation? How can the spirit of the CCC - if not the form - be harnessed to help recenter our economy and our children's future?

Your thoughts?

1. Address to the Deep Waterway Convention, Memphis, TN, October 4, 1907

2. A Sand County Almanac, and Sketches Here and There, 1948,

3. A Book-Lover's Holidays in the Open, 1916


Posted in General 4 Comments | Link to this Post
Posted by Jonathan L. D. on Oct 6th, 2008 1:23am

The 2008 Chesapeake Watershed Forum is now over - after a third consecutive year at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown. Once again, I am struck by how much the NCTC setting influences the feel and spirit of the Forum.

The Forum would be nothing without the 250 colleagues who attended bringing their knowledge and enthusiasm to share. And the days seemed particularly loaded with more sessions and strong presenters than one could possibly consume. Mary Anne Hitt's impressive keynote on using the web to address mountaintop removal drew listeners to their feet. And spectacular October weather certainly livened the mood.

But it always seems as if there is something more, something contributed by the setting itself. Is it the striking architecture so reminiscent of historic lodges in western parks, yet so appropriate to the West Virginia landscape? Is it the campus layout that always causes you to walk outdoors, crossing the bridge through the trees? Is it the plentiful food and the dining room so comfortable for conversations? Is it the lodges named for renowned conservationists, filled with the inspired images, writings and drawings of their lives?

For me, it always feels like all of this that creates the Forum's success. What do you think? 

Posted in General 2 Comments | Link to this Post
Posted by Jonathan L. D. on Sep 22nd, 2008 1:50am

Traveling around the Chesapeake landscape, I'm often struck by the number of developments and structures that don't heed their natural surroundings, or the region's unique heritage for that matter. It is always such a pleasure to see ones that do.

This weekend I was a bit outside the Bay watershed in western Pennsylvania and stopped to visit Falling Water, the Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece sitting on Bear Run, a tributary of the Youghiogheny River. I had read and heard of Falling Water for many years, but had never before been to the site - and nothing really prepared me for it. Wandering through the rooms, with their constant attention to drawing you outside through their windows or onto the patios, I felt fully a part of the place. It really was a most reverential feeling - a sense that I was in one of humankind's pinnacles of designing with nature in mind.

While Falling Water was built in the 1930s for a wealthy Pittsburgh family, it has much to teach everyone of how to be sensitive to place. Anyone who cares about nature and our place in it should visit Falling Water for inspiration. I am drawn to want to go back and visit in every season. This place is reaffirming to the soul.

And, to those of us in the conservation community, Falling Water has another special aspect: it is now maintained by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, a land trust protecting over 225,000 acres in the state.

What special places have you visited that stand out as examples of designing with nature in mind?

Posted in General 0 Comments | Link to this Post
version 2.33.8 ::
Desktop View