The Campaign brings public awareness and education to property owners in the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area about caring for their properties in a way that protects the Chesapeake Bay watershed from the impact of human activities. The First Stop Campaign encourages property owners to seek advice and proper permits before they begin landscaping changes, such as removing trees or altering their shoreline.
What is the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area?
In 1984, the State of Maryland designated the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area, the 1000-foot wide area of land around the Bay and its tidal tributaries, and set criteria to minimize adverse effects on water quality and natural habitats. Maryland's Critical Area Program was expanded in 2002 to include the Atlantic Coastal Bays. There are currently 64 jurisdictions that implement and enforce local Critical Area programs. The local programs are implemented primarily through local zoning codes and subdivision regulations. In 2008, the Maryland General Assembly made comprehensive changes to the Critical Area Act strengthening provisions relating to enforcement, and those concerning the location of future growth, shore erosion control measures, and lot coverage.
Why should I be concerned about stewardship of the Critical Area?
Human activity within 1,000 feet of tidal waters has direct and immediate impact on the health of the Chesapeake Bay.
What can I do to be a good steward of my Critical Area property?
Plant native trees and shrubs
Create wildlife habitat
Reduce impervious surface
Use living shorelines technique to reduce erosion
Minimize the use of fertilizers and pesticides
Reduce lawn and mowing
Why should I plant native trees and shrubs?
Native plants are adapted to the region's climate and soil conditions, so they will grow without extra fertilizer and pesticides. They also support native pollinators, songbirds and other wildlife by producing flowers, fruit and seeds throughout the growing season.
Why should I create wildlife habitat?
Development is eliminating habitat for native pollinators, songbirds and other wildlife. By planting native trees, shrubs and flowers, with various heights of structure, homeowners can provide food, shelter, and cover for wildlife. Adding clean water sources will add to the wide variety of wildlife that will seek out the habitat created.
Why should I reduce impervious surfaces on my property?
When a lot is covered with impervious surface, water runs off the land instead of filtering into the ground to replenish underground aquifers. During storms, the water can wash off the land, carrying with it soils, toxic chemicals such as oil and gas, and excess fertilizers. When these materials are deposited into the Bay or its tributary rivers and streams, they reduce sunlight and increase algae growth, which threatens the health of underwater species like fish and crabs. You can reduce impervious surface through such techniques as woodchip paths, a smaller house footprint, and decks with gaps that allow water to pass freely into the ground beneath.
What are living shorelines?
Living shorelines, which use vegetated systems instead of bulkheads or stone, can be effective in reducing shoreline erosion due to the deep root systems of marsh grasses that absorb stormwater and help to stabilize shorelines. This technique is competitive in cost. Other benefits of living shorelines include preserving habitat for fish, crabs and other aquatic species which are essential for a healthy Bay ecosystem. Healthy shorelines can provide a safe haven for young and spawning fish, crabs, and birds in shallow water. Naturally vegetated shorelines act as buffers to filter and absorb nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus from upland landscapes, which can severely reduce water quality and available habitat. You can download and read a PDF with more information here.
Why should I minimize the use of pesticides and fertilizers on my property?
Excess fertilizer and pesticide can flow into the water of the Bay or its tributary streams and rivers. The impacts include reduced sunlight for underwater plants, excess algae growth which reduces oxygen needed by underwater species, and mortality of sensitive species. The best practice is to use native plants that don't require fertilizer and pesticides. Note that most insects are beneficial as a food source for birds and other wildlife, or as predators of nuisance insects. Seeing insects in your landscape is a good sign that it is a functioning ecosystem. Use manual controls such as pruning or removing diseased plants instead of spraying. Reduce lawn and plant native trees, shrubs, grasses and wildflowers to provide more habitat for pollinators and other wildlife, and to reduce the need for fertilizer and pesticides.
Where is my first stop for guidance in caring for my Critical Area property?
Talk to your County Planning Office. Permits are required for changes to your property if any part of your property is in the Critical Area. Because regulations vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, homeowners must consult with the County Planning Office for the county in which they live.
For what landscape practices do I need permits?
Many landscaping practices that cause disturbance in the Critical Area require permits from several agencies - local, state, and federal. In some areas there are limits in the percentage of a Critical Area property that can be an impervious surface. These percentages are determined based on the acreage and location of a property. The First Stop Campaign encourages Critical Area property owners to contact their local planning offices first to determine which permits they need. Not following the advice of the Planning Department could be costly in the way of fines for Critical Area violations.
What organizations have been involved with the First Stop for the Bay Campaign?
Aloft Aerial Photography
Bartlett Tree Experts
Bay Area Association of Realtors
Benson and Mangold Realty
Blue Heron Realty
Caroline County Planning and Codes
Chesapeake Bay Program
Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum
Chesapeake Wildlife Heritage
Choptank River/Eastern Bay Conservancy
Eastern Shore Land Conservancy
Eastern Shore Resource Conservation and Development Council
Elm Street Development
Environmental Concern, Inc.
Kent County Department of Planning, Housing, and Zoning
Kent Soil and Water Conservation District
Mid-Shore Board of Realtors
Maryland Association of Environmental and Outdoor Education
Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Coastal Program
Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Critical Area Commission
Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Forest Service
Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Watershed Restoration Division
Maryland Department of Planning
Maryland Department of the Environment, Water Management Administration
Maryland State Department of Education
Queen Anne's County Department of Land Use, Growth Management and Environment
Sassafras River Association
South Fork Studio Landscape Architecture
Talbot County Planning and Zoning
Talbot River Protection Association, Creek Watchers
University of Maryland Extension, Queen Anne's County Master Gardener Program
University of Maryland Extension, Talbot County Master Gardener Program
What is Shore Land Stewardship Council?
Shore Land Stewardship Council, an initiative of Adkins Arboretum, provides property owners and professionals accurate and consistent information, technical support, and proper referrals on best landscaping practices in the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area.
Shore Land Stewardship Council published an illustrated guidebook for property owners on how to care for their properties in the Critical Area. To request or download a copy of this guidebook, visit this page.