Governor Ehrlich Reviews Bay Grasses in Classes Program to Celebrate Earth Day

ANNAPOLIS – In honor of Earth Day occurring on Saturday, April 22, Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. visited Annapolis High School today to review the Bay Grasses in Classes program. Governor Ehrlich was joined by Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary C. Ronald Franks, Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Kendl Philbrick and representatives from the Maryland State Department of Education and Maryland Department of Agriculture.

"When we focus on the environment in Maryland, we invariably turn our focus to the Chesapeake Bay," said Governor Ehrlich. "I am proud of the many programs we're working on at the State level to help the Bay and our environment – from restoring our oyster population and Bay grasses, to reducing the amount of nutrients that go into the water."

Twenty million Americans joined in the first Earth Day celebrations 1970, the same year that President Richard Nixon established the Environmental Protection Agency with a mission to protect the environment and public health. Now Earth Day is celebrated annually around the globe. Through the combined efforts of government agencies, grassroots organizations and the efforts of private citizens, what started as a day of national environmental recognition has evolved into a world-wide campaign to protect the environment.

The Bay Grasses in Classes program (BGIC) is an interactive education project that enables students to play a direct role in Chesapeake Bay restoration by learning about, growing and planting bay grasses. Each year, teachers are provided with the equipment and instructions necessary to grow bay grasses in their classrooms. Students grow the grasses during the spring while learning of the importance of bay grasses to the bay and conducting experiments. At the end of the semester, students plant their grasses in select areas of the Chesapeake Bay.

Since its inception in 1998, over 1,269 classes and 32,000 students have participated in BGIC. During this time, students have planted over 2.5 acres of bay bottom with over 425,000 plants grown in classrooms.

In 2006, 137 schools with over 4,000 students are participating in the program. Annapolis High School is testing culture techniques for redhead grass, one of the species that grows in the moderate salinity portions of Chesapeake Bay.

Bay Grasses in Classes is a joint program by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. The program receives funding from the Chesapeake Bay Trust and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.

Bay Grasses are one of the most sensitive and most important habitats in Chesapeake Bay. Bay Grass beds provide essential habitat for young fish and crabs, food for waterfowl, help to keep the water clear, and consume nutrients.

"I have placed restoration of bay grasses as one of the priorities of my administration," said Governor Ehrlich. "We simply cannot have a healthy Chesapeake Bay without healthy bay grass beds."

Governor Ehrlich encouraged Marylanders to celebrate Earth Day by participating in any of the many activities occurring around the state. The following activities are simple ways for citizens of Maryland to assist in protecting the environment:

- Plant a tree. Trees are essential to protecting the environment as they clean the air, absorb excess nutrients and filter stormwater runoff, cool streets and cities reducing energy costs, and prevent soil erosion.

- Make your home more energy efficient. Energy efficient choices can save families about a third on their home energy bills with similar savings of greenhouse gases without sacrificing style or comfort.

- Reduce the amount of stormwater pollution, specifically nitrogen and phosphorus, entering the Bay. Keep litter, pet wastes, leaves, and debris out of the street gutters and storm drains that drain directly to lake, streams, rivers, and wetlands. Apply lawn and garden chemicals in the fall season only.

- Recycle, reduce waste and properly dispose of hazardous materials. Reducing consumption, reusing items, and recycling products and materials help to protect the environment. In addition, Americans generate 1.6 million tons of household hazardous waste per year, including paints, cleaners, stains and varnishes, car batteries, motor oil, and pesticides. When they are not properly handled, household hazardous waste can pose health risk to people and the environment.

- Use a rain barrel to collect and store rain water. Lawn and garden watering make up nearly 40% of total household water use during the summer. A rain barrel collects water and stores it to water plants, wash your car, or to top off a swimming pool.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has compiled a list of activities that citizens can do to help the Bay at Contact DNR for a list of Earth Day events in your area.

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