The Chesapeake Bay Watershed Forum

To begin our second journey, the gang and I attended the 2013 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Alliance forum in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. From the first time I saw a CBF Save the Bay bumper sticker several years ago I have always wondered how exactly the bay was being ‘saved’ and who was involved in the effort to do so. Although I wasn’t sure what I would gain from this experience, I felt confident that this forum would help answer my questions about what is being done, and raise new questions along the way. At the conference there were several river keepers, advocacy groups, conservationists, students, concerned citizens, and government officials from around the watershed. The diverse spectrum of individuals in attendance made the seminars rich not only in the content but in the discussions and insights from professionals that followed. The atmosphere of the event was very upbeat, friendly, and assuring that everyone was there for the same noble cause of restoring Chesapeake Bay. My goal for the weekend was to learn more about how water quality can be improved because I am interested in the field of water resource management.

Each day of the weekend forum was packed with seven 90 minute seminars that we would have to choose from. I was able to go to two on Friday after the opening ceremony and three on Saturday I attended sessions with names such as Water Quality Trading, Capturing Local Benefits of Healthy Watersheds, Effective Communication: Words Matter, Creating a Stormwater Utility, and Pennsylvania’s Unassessed waters. In these seminars I learned at a fast pace because many presenters presumed the audience had prior knowledge of their topic. In this respect the sessions were challenging and at times frustrating because I was unable to get down the copious amount of information being through at me. Not to worry though, because all the presentations are on the website for the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Alliance. This fast paced learning style was great to be a part of because it gave a chance to see how great minds and extremely knowledgable people interact in a classroom setting, as well as providing me with the chance to challenge myself intellectually. Outside of the seminars we were able to meet many professionals and find their stance on issues. What I really liked about this opportunity was the fact that although these people were professionals, they are just people, many of whom were very personable and easy to talk to.

In the opening lectures and discussions of the forum, a show of hands was taken. Who has been involved in some way with the Chesapeake conservation movement since It first started 30 years ago? A few sparse and well aged hands were raised. Who has been involved in 10-15 years? Several more hands went up than with the first question. 5-10 years? substantially more hands. And finally, who has been involved or is just starting out in the past 1-5 years? Until this question, it seemed as if no one had raised their hand because of how many relatively new and brand new people had started coming to the conference. What I gathered from this is that there must be young people coming into the environmental field in order for a progressive, sustainable movement toward our shared goals of conservation and restoration with consideration for future prosperity.

I felt excited to be a part of the next generation of people working for the better of the environment, and was relieved to know that the seasoned veterans in attendance were very glad to see new faces on the scene because it indicated that people still care for the world we live in. Overall this experience was very valuable to me and it is one I will never forget. Aside from the compelling seminars and wealth of knowledge I encountered, it was just a great time to get together and make new friends and reunite with old (there were several Washington college graduates from last year I was happy to see). At first I was skeptical and a little nervous about the forum but by the time it was over I wanting it to be longer so I could continue to learn and meet new people. I would like to go next year and would highly recommend it anyone interested in the Chesapeake and what it being done to save the amazing estuary.

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