Suburban Sprawl Creates Problems For Chesapeake Bay Restoration Efforts

by Aparna Balakrishnan
        On July 13, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) released a report called “Land and the Chesapeake Bay,” concerning the problems suburban sprawl is creating.
         During the next 25 years, more than 3,500 square miles (an area about 50 times greater than Washington, D.C.) of wetlands, forests, and farms will be converted into urban land in the Bay watershed. The report highlights trends toward the destruction of natural lands, increasing population, declining water and air quality, and rising costs to local economies.
         According to the report, “Sprawl has increasingly reduced the open spaces that are vital both for people and the Bay...has helped increase traffic by distancing people from jobs, shopping, and travel...hurts local economies and increases taxes by exponentially increasing demands for fundemental services like roads, classrooms, firefighters, and police.”
         The report was released following the signing of a new Chesapeake Bay Agreement on June 28. CBF has asked the state of Virginia to have a permanent source of funding for land conservation and support of local government efforts to manage growth. It has requested that Pennsylvania “...encourage municipalities to plan land use jointly...using...traditional neighborhood development, transfer of development rights, designated growth areas, and protection of rural and natural resource lands” (CBF). Finally, the CBF has asked developers to look into building and strengthening already existing communities. Local citizens can help by working with their elected officials to promote low-impact development, buying in existing communities, and locating new businesses in already developed areas.
         “The new Bay Agreement provides a goal and an impetus,” says CBF President William C. Baker in the report. “Our new report shows us where we are now. Today we’re calling on governments and citizens to take the bull by the horns with positive, definitive steps as soon as possible.”
         Some facts from CBF’s “Land and the Chesapeake Bay”: The current population of the six-state watershed area, over 15.5 million, is expected to reach about 18 million by 2020. Every year, approximately 90,000 acres of forest, farm, and wetlands are converted to residences, commercial and office use, industrial space, and roads. Vehicles are the second leading airborne source of nitrogen oxides in the Bay region at 31%: utilities are responsible for 47%. Canopy loss in the Baltimore-Washington area represents an annual increase of 9.3 million pounds of air pollutants.
         For a full report, log on to Copies of the report can be obtained by calling 268-7742.


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This story was published on August 2, 2000.