University of Maryland Extension

Setting Sustainability Standards for the Chesapeake Bay

A conservation landscape that was installed in 2012 at the Isaac Walton grounds in Montgomery County
Image Credit: 
Amanda Rockler

When it comes to sustainability in the Chesapeake Bay, good intentions don’t always lead to effective outcomes. Now a team of University of Maryland Extension (UME) experts are helping to ensure certain practices meant to protect the Bay will actually deliver results like pollution reduction by creating a certification program for landscape professionals in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. 

UME’s Watershed Protection and Restoration Program (WPRP) team was approached by the Chesapeake Conservation Landscaping Council approximately six years ago proposing a certification program now known as the Chesapeake Bay Landscape Professionals (CBLP) Certification Program. The program has since received a $200,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation as well was $30,000 from the Prince Charitable Trust, Keith Campbell Foundation, and UMD Extension.

“The goal of CBLP is to create a trained workforce that designs, builds, and installs sustainable small-scale landscape practices that measurably decrease the amount of nutrient and sediment pollution going to local rivers and streams,” said Jennifer Dindinger, Watershed Restoration Specialist for MarylandSea Grant Extension.

Specifically, CBLP certification will ensure that contractors have the necessary skills to properly install green infrastructures, in turn protecting stormwater investments, assisting local governments in meeting sediment/nutrient standards, raising employee skill level and creating a competitive edge, doing away with multiple trainings that contractors must currently attend, and, above all else, inspiring a movement towards conservation landscaping techniques. Such techniques include rain gardens, wet/dry bio-retention, native plantings, permeable pavement, tree plantings, as well as bio-swales- open channels used to filter and reduce surface run-off.

“Specifically, we focus our current efforts on reducing pollution through improved stormwater management practices since urban/suburban stormwater is the fastest growing source of pollution to the Bay,” Dindinger summarized. “The vision is that local governments and others will preferentially contract with these trained CBLP professionals to create a demand for their services and for the CBLP program.”

Coupled with this demand, participants will be charged a certification fee to ensure that the program becomes self-sufficient. The CBLP will also continue to work hand-in-hand with partner organizations including the Maryland Sea Grant Extension WPRP team, Chesapeake Conservation Landscaping Council (CCLC), VA Department of Game and Inland Fisheries Habitat Partners, and Wetlands Watch, each consisting of one to five specialists and numerous volunteers and board members.

In addition to these partner organizations, the CBLP program finds support from existing Maryland Sea Grant Extension programs; namely Watershed Stewards Academies and other educational opportunities, as well as the Stormwater Management and Restoration Tracker (SMART) tool, which allows property owners to register their current stormwater practices while also providing information about other practices that property owners can implement.

“The biggest challenges faced by the CBLP program include developing a program from the ground up, finding enough financial resources to pilot the program, and ensuring that the certified professionals will see enough demand for their work to justify participating in this voluntary effort,” Dindinger said.

However, with increased awareness about the dangers of pollution and the benefits of green infrastructures, program leaders are hopeful these difficulties can be easily overcome.

“The public should know that everything we do can have an impact on local water quality, and that it took us a long time to get here so it will take a long time to clean it up; even making small changes can have a large impact when everyone is doing them,” Dindinger said. “We rely on clean rivers and streams for food, enjoyment, and livelihoods – I can’t think of anything more important!”

To learn more about the CBLP and other programs led by the Maryland Sea Grant Extension program, please visit the Watershed Extension website.

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