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Eastern Shore Land Conservancy is committed to preserving and sustaining the vibrant communities of the Eastern Shore and the lands and waters that connect them.

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16th Eastern Shore Planning Conference: Powering Our Renewable Energy Future

November 19, 2015 - November 19, 2015 101 East Dover Street Map and Directions | Register Description: ESLC's annual planing conference tackles a very hot topic, as we learn and discuss renewable energy and its role on a rural Eastern Shore. The conference seeks to understand: * What renewable energy technologies are available today * What emerging technologies exist * How can renewable energy properly fit into a rural landscape * How can rural industries, like agriculture, take advantage of renewable energy technologies * How can broader renewable energy adoption help make communities more resilient and add to the rural independent character of the region * How can residents and communities participate in the benefits of renewable energy Download the ESPC 16 Agenda     At the Tidewater Inn – Easton, MD Conference Agenda   7:30 am Grange Hall and Registration Opens                                                                                    Registration opens and all are welcome to peruse an exhibit hall of the many  partners, projects and possibilities of Eastern Shore Renewable Energy, including Land Art Generator Initiative exhibit. Grange Hall is open throughout the day.   7:30 am Continental Breakfast & Social Mixer   8:45 am Welcoming Comments - 8:55 am             Rob Etgen, ESLC Executive Director                               Josh Hastings, ESLC Policy Manager   9:00 am Welcoming Address: “The Need for Renewable Energy” - 9:25 am             Geoff Oxnam, VP of Operations, Easton Utilities   9:35 am Mapping the Future of Renewable Energy on the Eastern Shore - 10:20 am           Katherine Magruder, Executive Director, Maryland Clean Energy Center   10:25 am             The Intersection of Energy and Agriculture - 11:15 am           Moderator: Carol West, Director, Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation                               - Biogas, Anaerobic Digesters & Waste to Energy Jason Lambertson, Owner, Millennium Farms - Renewable Energy and Bay Health- Switchgrass Dr. Kenneth Staver, Associate Research Scientist, University of Maryland - Agricultural Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Programs                Dean Fisher, Program Manager, Maryland Energy Administration - USDA Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) & Beyond Bruce Weaver, Business and Cooperative Specialist/State Energy Coordination, USDA   11:20 pm             Making It Work: Energy Financing

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Maintenance of Grass Buffers

Though I am now the Land Protection Specialist at Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, in a former life, I was a wildlife research technician and field crew leader for many bird related field studies and as fate would have it, many of those studies were on restored grasslands that were enrolled in Federal conservation programs such as CRP and CREP. During my time studying these grasslands, I noticed, with but few exceptions, that these grasslands were all mowed on or shortly after August 15th of each year. When considering the rules of these programs, this practice, by and large, is in keeping with the rules of the programs. However, when looking at the practice from a wildlife standpoint, the reasoning behind the early mowing is not particularly sound. In many areas of Maryland, grasslands are not the historic land cover, therefore it takes a certain amount of management to keep the areas meadow. The Federal program in general and the maintenance recommendations in MD specifically require that, once established, these areas must remain in herbaceous cover (grass and forbs) for the entire length of the contract (typically either 10 or 15 years). Prescribed fire, mowing and strip disking are a few of the recommended management techniques that are necessary to maintain these meadows as grasslands. There is no avoiding this reality. As well the programs require that noxious weeds be controlled by approved mechanical and/or chemical methods. Though the noxious weed treatments can largely be done at any time of the year, the general maintenance of the grasslands, including mowing and prescribed burns, are restricted to the non-nesting season for grassland and scrub-shrub bird species between August 15th and April 15th each year. This 8 month window is a fairly generous time-frame for management, but it only protects nesting birds from being

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Songbird Banding

May 7, 2016 - May 7, 2016 101 South Water Street Map and Directions | Register Description:Come join the bird banders at Foreman’s Branch Bird Observatory and experience the mysteries of spring bird migration. Located on Foreman’s Branch, a tributary of the Chester River, on a May morning you will likely see migrating and returning Baltimore and Orchard Orioles, Scarlet Tanagers and Indigo Buntings. Over 175 species of birds have been banded at this location. After seeing the banding operations and some of your favorite birds up close you can visit a nearby location on the farm and observe hundreds of Pink Lady Slipper orchids. *Sponsor: Dr. Harry Sears Register

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“All Hands on Deck!”

This year, ESLC won $1,500 from the Chesapeake Bay Trust “All Hands on Deck” grant contest. Two Chesapeake Conservation Corps Volunteers are awarded this grant each year and awardees are asked to plan and implement a complete workday, comprised of activities that help to restore the Chesapeake Bay. This year, ESLC’s Corps Volunteer, Becca Weisberg, was awarded the All Hands Day to build bird boxes, a canoe rack, clean trails, and weed the BMP garden at the Sassafras Environmental Education Center in Kennedyville, MD along the Sassafras River and Turner’s Creek. The day was a great success, and the Conservancy and Education Center are thankful for the funding and materials that were provided by the Chesapeake Bay Trust. Additionally, this day would not have been possible without the 30 Chesapeake Conservation Corps Volunteers! Wayne Gilchrest, former U.S. Congressman and current ESLC Program Director for the Sassafras Environmental Education Center, kicked off the day with an inspiring talk. “Think about the change you can make” he told the Chesapeake Conservation Corps volunteers, each of who engage in environmental education and restoration work during their one-year terms. Volunteers worked throughout the day in groups to clear trails, clean beaches, build a canoe rack, and install bird boxes. Lunch was provided by Evergrain Café in Chestertown, MD. At the end of the day, volunteers were invited to enjoy the beautiful outdoor space and stay overnight for camping. The Sassafras Environmental Education Center shares over 1,000 acres of land with Maryland DNR, containing over 10 miles of trails, beautiful waterfront, and an abundance of outdoor recreational activities. ESLC invites the public to visit the Sassafras Environmental Education Center to view the work that was done during this “All Hands on Deck” day. Limited parking is available at the end of Turner’s Creek Rd. Visit ESLC.org to learn

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A moral responsibility

Pope Francis' call to action should spur us all to look at the effect of our consumer lifestyles. Last week the Vatican released Pope Francis' encyclical, the Church’s highest level of teaching, on the environment. Reaching far beyond one religion, Francis called on “every person living on this planet” to recognize the effects that two hundred years of industrialization have had on our environment. He accentuated the moral obligation we have to conserve our natural resources for future generations. The message of moral responsibility to our grandchildren and their grandchildren is one that has been downplayed by the environmental movement for the last twenty years. It was replaced by economic arguments demonstrating that protecting the environment and cutting greenhouse gases will have greater benefits to society than the sum of their dollar costs. These economic arguments arose out of a need to convince policymakers and CEO’s that going green can strengthen their bottom line. The roots of conservation and stewardship dating back to John Muir, Teddy Roosevelt, and Aldo Leopold, have a strong theme of using only what we need and protecting the rest for future generations. Before that, many of the Native American nations hewed to the Seven Generations principle that important decisions must honor those seven generations in the past and consider the well-being of those seven generations in the future. Today, thousands of backpackers and outdoor enthusiasts follow "Leave No Trace" practices when they are in nature. The Pope is calling for this sense of moral and personal responsibility to become common habits of our daily lifestyles. Francis is correct that today’s consumerism is devouring natural resources and creating waste at a rate that will leave our grandchildren with a planet our grandparents would scarcely recognize. He urges “Humanity [to] recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption”. What

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2015 Legislate Session Overview

The 2015 legislative session ended last week, but started with a new administration and more than 60 new legislators all working to decrease the $650 million structural deficit. ESLC was curious to see what Governor Hogan’s budget would hold for farmland and rural protection programs. “It could have been worse”- is the general feeling as the 2015 legislative session ended. While cuts were not as extreme as they could have been Program Open Space, Maryland Agriculture Land Preservation Foundation (MALPF) and the Rural Legacy program all suffered, with the biggest hits occurring to MALPF and Rural Legacy. Governor Hogan’s budget cut $115 million in funds available this year for farmers, parks, and more. According to the Partners for Open Space, since the inception of this program more than $1 billion has been diverted for other uses. The final numbers for rural funds allocated for rural conservation programs are: $21.6 million for POS Stateside, $30.1 million for POS Local, $9.37 million for Rural Legacy, $17.04 million for MALPF and $22.45 million for cover crops. Next year we hope to see much more investment into rural prosperity. ESLC will be looking to support legislation on renewable energy that fits into our rural environments, as well as supporting legislation that works to help smart growth and prosperity in rural regions. We will again be advocating for full funding for Program Open Space, smart growth programs and the Rural Maryland Prosperity Investment fund because without these programs we wouldn’t have the rural working landscapes we work to protect. For more information on the 2015 legislative session click here

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Mills Branch Wind Project

Apex Clean Energy, an industrial wind turbine energy developer headquartered in Charlottesville, Va., is proposing to locate 25 to 35 500-foot industrial wind turbines near Kennedyville, Md., between state Route 213 and the Chester River. What is ESLC’s Position? ESLC believes local energy generation, especially renewables, is a critical component to the Eastern Shore’s future economic resilience and prosperity. However, the proposed Mills Branch Wind Project is of a scale never before considered on the Eastern Shore and lacks the local public review process necessary to balance our need for renewable energy generation with the impacts of a project this scale.   For these reasons and the potential impact on conserved lands, ESLC opposes the Mills Branch Wind Energy Project.     The Eastern Shore has the potential to be the undisputed leader in Maryland renewables, but it can’t be done without thoughtfully balancing the expense to resources like tillable acreage, wildlife habitat, rural vistas and more.  ESLC would like to use the attention surrounding the Mills Branch project as a call to action. This region needs to develop a strategy to say “yes” to renewables, but on its own terms. What will Mills Branch Look like? According to Apex Clean Energy, their goal is to produce up to 130 MW of wind energy expected to power more than 30,000 homes each year. They are projecting 35-45 wind turbines with turbine height roughly 550 feet. The Mills Branch Project would be located on approximately 5,000 acres of open farmland in Kent County, with the intention of active farming underneath. How does the project get approval? The Mills Branch Project needs to get a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) from the Public Service Commission. The Public Service Commission regulates gas, electric, telephone, water and sewage disposal companies and the construction of generating stations. Apex will apply for a CPCN and a hearing will be held

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Jared Parks with juvenile great horned owl.

Feeding birds in frigid temps

Jared Parks with juvenile great horned owl. Recent snow and frigid temperatures are difficult for humans, but even harder on birds. Birds have always been able to survive the cold and snow, said Jared Parks, land protection specialist for Eastern Shore Land Conservancy and local birder, although a fair amount of natural mortality from the cold is expected. Parks has been birding all his life and before his tenure at ESLC was field crew leader on many bird study projects across the United States. In harsh weather, birds have difficulty finding open ground on which to feed, he said. “Feeding birds is not necessary, but it is not a bad thing– and they will be very happy if you provide them a consistent food source – consistency being key,” Parks said. If you feed birds, keep feeding them. Feeders do not need constant refilling, but those who feed birds should provide food every day, preferably on a consistent schedule. Fresh water is important now too. Birds need to drink and bathe, and cold temperatures limit the availability of open fresh water. Water is tough for people to provide in extreme cold because it is hard to keep from freezing. “Frozen water can crack your bird bath,” Parks said. Small heaters and pumps both have limitations as pumps can freeze in extreme conditions, and water must not be too hot. Many wild bird feeding stores will have heaters and pumps that are appropriate for bird baths and should offer temperature limitations. To provide open ground for birds, shovel driveways and walks a bit wider than the pavement to uncover a few feet on either side. If most of the snow is removed, the sun will warm the darker ground, opening up spots where birds can get bits of food and gravel (which birds need to help crush their food). It creates the

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Future of Agriculture Presentations

Thank you sponsors, speakers, and guests of the 15th Eastern Shore Planning Conference, The Future of Eastern Shore Agriculture. Please take a moment to peruse our speakers' presentations, sorted by panel, and let them inspire you to consider the future for Eastern Shore agriculture.   Morning Speakers Andrew McElwaine Dale Hawks   Building a Stronger Rural Community Through Agriculture. Anchor Institutions - Louise Mitchell Food Security Gleaning   Strengthening Existing Agriculture Chester River Association MD Dept of Ag Perdue   Supporting Emerging Agriculture Opportunities Chesapeake College Crow Farm   The State of Eastern Shore Agriculture MARBIDCO

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