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Remembering Kim Lamphier

Written By Kristen Harbeson

There is an ecology to Annapolis; to the people who move through the halls of the office buildings, who are on Lawyers Mall, who move through the hearing rooms, legislative offices, and reception rooms.  Every departure changes the ecosystem, and never more cruelly than through illness and death. Maryland has lost a tremendous advocate, and her absence will be felt by everyone in the environmental community. 

Kim Lamphier died on Friday, August 30th after a year-long struggle with cancer, which took a sudden and fierce turn for the worse in the last weeks. 

Over the years, Kim worked on issues relating to small businesses, bicycle safety, wildlife protection, criminal justice reform and promoting youth participation in government. She worked on the campaigns of some of Maryland’s luminary political figures at all levels of government. In her last year, in her roles with Trash Free Maryland and Bike Maryland, she was the principal advocate for two major legislative victories – the first statewide Styrofoam ban in the country and a bill that guarantees funding for Maryland’s Bikeways Network program. She worked to secure these victories, even as she was recovering from three months of intensive chemotherapy treatment and post-surgery physical therapy. She was an indomitable force.  

Kim took pride in her work as an effective advocate, but also found joy in the work.  She celebrated the victories of her friends and colleagues as much as her own, and her friends and colleagues were legion.  Kim knew everyone, and everyone she met became her friend. The ecology of Annapolis can seem like a jungle, but Kim always made us remember that even as we fight for survival, the jungle can be fun.

When the Statewide Styrofoam ban goes into effect next year, remember and celebrate Kim Lamphier.

When you are enjoying the pedestrian and bike infrastructure in Maryland, remember and celebrate Kim Lamphier.

She was a dedicated friend to Maryland LCV and its staff.  We will miss her, even as we continue her work.

By |2019-12-07T09:40:56-05:00September 3rd, 2019|Categories: Blog|0 Comments

Bob Gallagher, 2019 Kabler Award winner

The Maryland League of Conservation Voters (LCV) is pleased to announce that Robert P. Gallagher is this year’s John V. Kabler Memorial Award winner. Bob is an outstanding advocate on environmental issues in Maryland and Anne Arundel County, and co-founder of the Anne Arundel Chapter of Maryland LCV.

The John V. Kabler Memorial Award is presented by Maryland LCV each year to recognize an outstanding environmental leader or organization. Other 2019 awardees include Climate Champion Senator Brian Feldman and Legislators of the year, Senator Cheryl Kagan and Delegate Brooke Lierman.

Bob developed his life-long passion for clean water at an early age while exploring the area in boats. He has sailed all over the Chesapeake as well as across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. When he retired from a legal career 15 years ago, he founded West/Rhode Riverkeeper and went on to leadership roles in a long list of other local and statewide environmental groups including Waterkeepers Chesapeake, Scenic Rivers Land Trust, Annapolis Green, Maryland Clean Agriculture Coalition, Delmarva Land and Litter Challenge, and served from 2009 until 2018 on the board of Maryland League of Conservation Voters.  

In 2009, with the late Kincey Potter, Bob co-founded the Anne Arundel Chapter of Maryland LCV to bring the same accountability to elected county officials that Maryland LCV has brought to Maryland state elected officials. By every measure that effort proved successful. 

“Bob’s devotion to the health of the Chesapeake Bay, its watershed and its residents began in his youth in the waters off St. Mary’s County and continues today on both the Western and Eastern Shores of our beloved estuary,” remarked Charles Porcari, Interim Director of Maryland League of Conservation Voters. 

“His countless hours of service to a remarkable array of environmental organizations offer irrefutable testimony to this lawyers’ volunteer efforts.”

Following the 2018 elections, LCV endorsed candidates who now occupy the office of the County Executive and five of the seven seats on the County Council. The group’s work also sparked Maryland LCV’s work in other strategically selected local elections. In the spirit of John Kabler, Bob has demonstrated that you don’t need to be a lobbyist, CEO, or politician to affect environmental policy. Bob and his wife Cate reside in Annapolis. 

The Kabler Award will be officially presented to Mr. Gallagher during the annual Maryland LCV Environmental Leadership Awards Dinner on Thursday, October 24 at the Westin Annapolis, beginning at 6:00 in the evening. The public is invited to attend and may register online via the Maryland LCV website. 

Celebrating its 40th year, the Maryland League of Conservation Voters is the political voice for the environment advocating for sound conservation policies, promoting pro-environment candidates, and holding elected officials and appointed leaders accountable for protecting and restring the environment. 

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By |2019-12-07T13:57:31-05:00August 30th, 2019|Categories: Press|0 Comments

May the Forest Be With Us!

By Ben Alexandro, Water Policy Advocate

This legislative session, we saw huge wins in Maryland for the environment. We banned Styrofoam take out containers, paved a path for Maryland to produce 100 percent renewable energy by 2040, and protected oyster sanctuaries. But while these grabbed headlines, the two bills I am the most proud of are two small forest bills that you might not have even heard of. One provides for a study of forest loss in Maryland and the other fixes a loophole in Maryland’s Forest Conservation Act. Why are these so important to me? They hit close to home.

Seeing the forest for the trees

I’ve always loved the view from my bedroom – just over the property line is a tiny forest of glittering green leaves and bouncing squirrels that saved me from peering into the rowhomes behind mine. I was looking forward to teaching my new son the names of the birds flitting among the branches as my dad taught me. I’ll always remember the moments trimming back the invasive English ivy lapping up the sides of the trees with my dad as we talked about being a good man, the future, and nothing at all. In a few short years I could start to teach my son about this little patch of nature that gives us so much: air to breathe, water to drink, shade in the summer, and protection from floods. But one spring day last year, ironically while I was researching forest policy for work, I heard the buzz of a chainsaw and saw my favorite blue jay fly frantically from her nest as one tree top after another disappeared from my window view. Within minutes, I could see through the last few trees to realize just how close the neighbors live to me.

I went out and asked the tree crew why they were taking down my little forest. They said someone at the HOA said it looked overgrown. The HOA later said that they did not think the trees needed to be removed, but by then it was too late. It might just be coincidence, but soon after the trees which drank so much water came down, my basement started having new flooding and mold issues. Meanwhile, two blocks away where I used to jog, dozens of acres of forests were being plowed down for a new development. Soon after the local forest was paved over, our neighborhood was plagued with rats, potentially fleeing from the felled forests with nowhere else to go. More forests were coming down on the surrounding roads to make room for new gas stations. As the developments rose, so did the congestion, and now I wait in 45 minutes of traffic on my way home on a once beautiful country road. My little wooded corner of Maryland is changing fast, and I was learning that my story in my town of Crofton was not unique.

When we see forests come down in our neighborhoods, many of us think the same things- Did they have to take down this forest? Were the developers trying to protect as much of the forest as they could? Are trees at least being replanted somewhere else? At Maryland LCV, I often get voters calling us to ask these questions. Unfortunately, when investigating each incident, I usually hit one wall after another. The more I investigate deforestation in Maryland, the more frustrating and complicated it seems.

The Forest Conservation Act falls short

For years, Maryland has had a landmark Forest Conservation Act and a ‘no net loss of forest’ goal on the books. Under the Forest Conservation Act, developers are supposed to have a forest conservation plan and at least protect or replant an acre for every four they chop down where possible. If they cannot replant or retain forests themselves, they have to pay their county government a ‘fee-in-lieu’ to replant or protect forests elsewhere. The ‘no net loss’ goal is supposed to keep the level of forested land in Maryland at 40 percent across the whole state. However, there are a lot of loopholes and problems with how the laws are working. 

The Forest Conservation Act is not functioning as it should. According to a study by the University of Maryland, our oldest, most contiguous, and highest quality forests are the least protected by the Forest Conservation Act. I talked to several county foresters and planners who also are frustrated with the current program. For example, developers must only maintain the forest for a few short years, then there is often nothing stopping vines or other invaders from choking out the forest. There is also almost no transparency required in the system. Some counties proactively have more stringent local ordinances, but in many counties, it is nearly impossible to see the forest conservation plan that developers are supposed to have or even to learn how the counties are using these forest funds they have been collecting. In some counties, literally millions of dollars have piled up in funds from developers preferring to pay fee-in-lieu rather than try to build around trees. In some cases, there are hardly any real county plans to use the money to replant or protect forests at all. In some cases, developers have been able to pay far less than what it costs to plant or protect a forest in that county. There was even a scandal where my previous county executive allegedly gave a huge amount of money meant to protect hundreds or thousands of acres to a personal friend for a small plot of land called Turtle Run.

Hogan’s ‘no net loss’ loophole

The Hogan administration has also exploited a loophole in the ‘no net loss’ of forest law to count every single area with a tree as a forest- even a single tree in a box in the middle of a parking lot could be counted as a forest. By counting tree canopy including every street tree as a forest, suddenly Maryland is 10% above its 40% forest cover goal and the administration said there is no problem and nothing to worry about. For years, the Hogan administration has claimed that we don’t have enough data to prove we are losing forests and there is no way of knowing where the problem is coming from or the best way to solve it. 

Real forest loss

The truth is Maryland is constantly losing forests. According to the best available computer models at the Chesapeake Bay Program, we are losing on average a dozen acres of forests a day in Maryland and could lose 34,000 or more more by 2025. The individual county Forest Conservation Act annual reports only capture a small fraction of this loss, but even these incomplete plans show that developers removed a net of 17,168 acres from 2008 to 2016 without replanting them. 

Fighting for the Forests

I was angry, and I was not alone. In fact, independent polling this year shows support among Maryland’s voters for saving forests and protecting trees. 84% of Marylander’s think it is important to save Maryland’s forests even if a development project must move or cost more. Marylander’s have had enough.

More and more nonprofits around Maryland were becoming concerned about this forest loss. By partnering with Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and Choose Clean Water Coalition, we organized dozens of organizations and over 100 grassroots organizers meeting regularly to strategize and share knowledge. It was time to change some laws. This legislative session, Elaine Lutz at CBF tirelessly led advocacy efforts every day in the halls of Annapolis, met with legislators and kept everyone up to date on the constant shifts and maneuvering through the State House. We had thousands of people sign petitions, call and email their elected officials, and many even came to Annapolis to talk to their legislators face to face. In fact, last year several officials noted they got more calls about forest conservation than any other issue. Not just traditional environmental organizations like Audubon Naturalist Society and Arundel Rivers Federation were fired up, but the faith community was incredibly active and effective as well thanks to the expert leadership of Jodi Rose at Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake. Different organizations and activists each had a key role to play. Choose Clean Water Coalition was also very useful in providing media and communications assistance throughout the process. I was honored to be able to help coordinate the efforts and add a bit of my own flair. As a true geek and Star Wars fan, I decided to end every meeting, call and email with a simple uplifting message: May the Forest be With Us!

The Developers Strike Back

There was enormous pressure on legislators from the big money developer lobby to stop substantive forest legislation. This lobby stops forest legislation year after year, and this year killed the bill to fix the ‘no net loss’ loophole. These lobbyists confused elected officials with falsehoods and misconstrued data, and they reminded legislators just how much money this lobby puts into their campaigns. 

Our Work Pays Off!

Despite the big money, we emerged victorious last month in two of our three forest bills. HB272/SB234 finally fixes the fee-in-lieu system. Now a county can only accept the money from a developer if the county has a plan for how to use it. The counties will have to make their deals much more transparent and publish a public plan every year. This bill was passed with near unanimous vote and supported by the Maryland Association of Counties. Finally, we should start seeing real forests being replanted and protected as the Forest Conservation Act should have been doing all along.

The second bill, HB735/SB729, commissions a study to finally settle the debate on forests. The nonpartisan Hughes Center for Agroecology will look at how much forest we are really losing, determine the root causes of the losses, and explore ways we can fix the problem. The center will clear the issue of street trees vs. forests and better assess where we want to focus development vs. where we want to protect forests. Most importantly, elected officials who get huge donations from the developer lobby will not be able to hide behind their supposed confusion of the facts around forest loss.

These two bills are not the end but rather the beginning. The coalition we built can now move towards more and better forest policies in years to come- to better create local ordinances in key counties and major state level forest reform as early as 2020. We will be more thoughtful as we decide which forests to remove as we protect our best forests and plan for smarter development. These bills are about to go into effect, and someday soon I hope fewer people will wonder why a forest needlessly came down.  Fewer trees will be chopped down and fewer forests will be lost.

May the Forest Be With Us!

Ben Alexandro, Maryland League of Conservation Voters

By |2019-12-07T09:42:47-05:00July 17th, 2019|Categories: Blog|0 Comments

Facebook Posts

3.18.2019  Thank you for standing up for 1000’s of new jobs and a cleaner future for Maryland.

3.8.2019  Our children deserve a cleaner, healthier, more just Maryland. We have to fight for their future.

2.14.2019  Don’t miss your chance to make your voice heard! Join us for a lobby night to urge your legislators to pass two key climate bills this year.

2.6.2019  Stop financial benefits to dirty energy, like incinerators, while creating 1000’s of jobs. VIDEO

1.30.2019  Governor Hogan just gave his vision for the future of Maryland. Let’s make sure that includes renewable energy and jobs.

 

By |2019-12-07T14:15:16-05:00April 9th, 2019|Categories: Press|0 Comments

RADIO

Maryland is now poised to become the 8th state committed to at least 50% clean energy by 2030!

With less than an hour to go before Sine Die, Maryland’s
climate coalition overcame numerous hurdles and won passage of the Clean Energy Jobs Act.
The coalition was seemingly everywhere in Annapolis the last few weeks and Maryland LCV led a robust campaign including
paid radio ads,
a full page ad in the Capital Gazette, a digital campaign that reached over 200,000 people and
hundreds of calls to key committee members that helped force the bill through the Economic Matters committee
and back into play the last weekend of session. The bill wasn’t a total victory – a provision to eliminate credits for
incineration didn’t make it through the house committee despite passing the full Senate, but action
by the Baltimore City Council in February may close Baltimore’s incinerators regardless. The legislation now heads to Gov. Hogan, who we hope will sign the bill, though the coalition built enough support to override a veto if necessary

By |2019-12-07T12:51:39-05:00April 9th, 2019|Categories: Press|0 Comments

Mourning Mike

Michael Erin Busch, Maryland’s longest serving Speaker of the House, always exemplified what it meant to be a leader, particularly when it came to the environment. As a lifelong coach, mentor, and collaborator, he knew the value of teamwork and built coalitions with skill and ease to accomplish a number of environmental victories during his more than three decades in office.

 

In 2010, Speaker Busch was awarded our prestigious John V. Kabler award for environmental organizing. At the time, our then Board Chair Fred Hoover had this to say, “Speaker Busch’s many accomplishments include protection of our waterways, oyster restoration, protection of critical areas and allowing citizens the ability to have their voices heard through changes in Environmental Standing Laws. He is willing to tackle complex budget issues that benefit all of us and under his efforts have made Maryland a national leader in the fight against climate change and air pollution.”

 

Speaker Busch’s district was one of the most forward thinking and environmentally sensitive in the state. He was influential in the creation and funding of the Chesapeake Bay Trust Fund that encourages restoration of our waters, supported legislation updating the state’s Critical Areas law, and broadened environmental standing rights to give citizens a voice in furthering environmental protection in the state. One of his final acts as a state legislator was pushing through landmark oyster protection laws just days ago, book ending his legacy as a champion of the Chesapeake Bay.

 

We mourn the loss of this leader, environmental hero, and friend.

Mike Busch receiving Maryland LCV’s/s Kabler Award in 2010

By |2019-11-23T06:17:19-05:00April 8th, 2019|Categories: Blog|0 Comments

INTERN TURNED LOBBYIST: Taking on Capitol Hill with Choose Clean Water Coalition

 

 

March 18, 2019 

by Annie Amrhein

As I passed through security heading into Longworth, one of the three House office buildings located on the Hill, I was immediately engulfed by the buzz of activity. From Capitol police officers escorting protesters down the hallway, to congressional staffers hustling about to various interest groups gathered together in the cafeteria, it was clear the day was already in full swing at 8:30am. Peter Marx of the Choose Clean Water Coalition, and my supervisor at Maryland LCV Ben Alexandro, discussed our strategy and overall game plan for the day, and before I knew it, we were heading to the Rayburn building via the underground tunnel to meet with Maryland Congressman Andy Harris. And so it began, we were off to the races!    

This experience of attending a lobby day on Capitol Hill was one of a kind. Over a hundred people from dozens of nonprofit organizations descended on the Hill last week to punctuate the necessity of increased funding for clean water initiatives. It was an extremely rewarding experience being in these meetings with staffers and members of Congress. Not only did we represent and voice the 

Choose Clean Water Coalition’s concern as a unit, but each group was made up of different types of professionals to illustrate the diversity in success stories surrounding clean water initiatives.

I now know how crucial these meetings are. They help establish a genuine working relationship and encourage an open dialogue between the dozens of environmental organizations and Congress. I quickly learned this type of transparency is needed when working on environmental issues, namely clean water efforts. Even with our champion elected officials in Maryland, I learned how important it is to keep all groups informed and aware of the situation at large. We provided context to help staffers and members alike understand how prior funding was distributed, how instrumental this money was in maintaining clean water programs across their district.

 The Hill has always been a term I hear in conversation without any real understanding of what it looks and feels like on the ground. Walking through the House and Senate buildings and having Senator Ben Cardin and other congressional members speak at our luncheon was truly enjoyable. One of my biggest takeaways from the day was how the Choose Clean Water Coalition membership really came together as a unit. Ben Alexandro from the MDLCV is the state lead within the Coalition and it was impressive to note the amount of pre-planning this day required. I met many people from different states and organizations, all working on a variety of water issues.

This multi-faceted group afforded us with numerous opportunities to showcase how inter-related and connected these environmental issues are. We experienced this while meeting with Congressman Harris’s staffer, who immediately connected with the hunting and recreational programs described by  our Ducks Unlimited counterpart. The storyline developed further with the anecdotes from the Interfaith Partners and Shorerivers executives. I believe this provided the staffers and members with an opportunity to better understand how their individual efforts positively affect so many others. From farms to religion to duck hunting, these varied perspectives are so important in helping outside parties truly internalize and see the value of their work as it pertains to clean water funding.

I was always a bit intimidated by the prospect of lobbying, but it is clear how effective these meetings are and will continue to be in the future. There was definitely a strong sense of camaraderie among all of the parties involved. Between the countless handshakes and smiles exchanged, it was hard not to feel connected even being a recent addition to this group. This experience reminded me that at the end of the day, we’re all human and trying to make a difference in a way that feels important to us. This was definitely an experience I will never forget and one that makes me very excited to continue working on these types of environmental issues here at the Maryland League of Conservation Voters.  

Annie, pictured in red, is with Maryland LCV’s Ben Alexandro and other Clean Water activists on Capitol Hill. 

By |2019-11-23T06:17:19-05:00March 22nd, 2019|Categories: Blog|0 Comments

Training the Next Generation of Pro-Environment Women Leaders

By Craig Auster, PAC & Advocacy Partnerships Director

 

The 2018 midterm elections were historic: women, people of color and LGBTQ+ candidates ran for office – and won up and down the ballot – in record numbers. From the very beginning, it was clear that this new group of diverse candidates emerged, in part, because they were concerned by President Trump’s attacks on our democracy, health, equal rights and the environment, and running for office was an effective way to make change and fight for their communities.  

 

We at LCV were determined to help translate this energy to success on the 2018 ballot.  So, early in the cycle, we joined EMILY’s List, Rachel’s Network, and many of our partners in the climate and environmental

justice movement to support and help prepare pro-environment women candidates to run for office. And given its success, we’re at it again, training women candidates to run for office in 2020.  

 

In 2017, the day after the Peoples Climate March, which thousands of people attended, nearly 100 pro-environment women who were considering running for office attended our candidate training.  Of the women who joined us that day, 20 were on the ballot last cycle, running for offices ranging from city and town councils to county commissions to state legislatures to the U.S. House. And in the end, eight won their races.

 

One of these eight successful women is Sarah Elfreth, the new state senator for Maryland’s 30th District. At the age of 29, she’s made history as the youngest woman in the state Senate, one of the first two women to represent Anne Arundel County in the Senate and has been called a “rising star in Maryland politics.” She got to know our colleagues at Maryland LCV when she worked in government affairs for the National Aquarium. At the state House, Elfreth worked to help pass legislation that banned shark finning and toxic microbeads. Maryland LCV endorsed Elfreth in her Senate race and encouraged her to attend our candidate training.

 

We recently asked Elfreth what attending the training and having Maryland LCV’s support meant to her campaign. “I’m fortunate to represent a district where protecting the Chesapeake Bay and standing up for the environment is the most important issue to our community.

LCV and other environmental volunteers came out week after week to knock on doors and talk to voters on behalf of the campaign. I wouldn’t be in the Senate or about to take my seat on the Chesapeake Bay Commission without the help of LCV and its members.”

Pro-environment women like Elfreth are the future of our country. Elfreth campaigned on a strong environmental platform, stating “The Chesapeake Bay is our greatest natural resource, an economic engine, and a key to our way of life. As your senator, I will work hard to increase oyster populations and sustain marine life, create clean energy jobs, commit Maryland to 50 percent renewable energy use by 2030, and fight to protect our forests and critical areas.”

 

Analysis has shown that when women are elected to office, it bodes well for the environment. The “When Women Lead” report on LCV’s National Environmental Scorecard by our friends at Rachel’s Network shows that between 2006 and 2017, “the average LCV score of women in the House…was 71 compared to 40 among men… The average LCV score of women Senators…was 73 compared to 42 from their male counterparts.” Two of the states at the leading edge of environment protection, Rhode Island and Oregon, are led by women. Governor Gina Raimondo has worked to bring clean energy jobs to the Ocean State, especially expanding offshore wind. Under Governor Kate Brown, Oregon passed the nation’s first “coal-to-clean” law, which will completely phase out dirty coal power by 2030 and double the state’s reliance on renewable energy by 2040.   

Furthermore, if we are to achieve just climate solutions that benefit all communities and address environmental inequities that disproportionately impact communities of color, we need to keep building a bench of pro-environment leaders of diverse backgrounds at the state and local level – currently, much of our progress on climate is occurring at the state and local level, and this is our pipeline of future governors and members of Congress. And this pipeline needs to include people from communities and backgrounds that are underrepresented as decision makers for this country – that includes women, people of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, young people, and people of diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds.

 

This is a winning strategy. In the midterm elections, we witnessed the power of a field of congressional candidates who reflected the values and diversity of our country: We now have a pro-environment majority in the House and the most diverse caucus in history.  We need to continue this trend in the 2020 cycle.

 

LCV and our state partners are committed to helping recruit and train this next generation of diverse pro-environment elected officials. We are dedicated to helping build a truly representative democracy where our leaders share the pro-environmental values of the vast majority of this country. That’s why we are excited to partner again with EMILY’s List, this time for a training the day after the Women’s March. And we are going to work more closely than ever before with our state LCV partners to identify, recruit, train, elect and hold accountable the new pro-environmental leaders who will move our country towards a future of clean air, clean water and clean energy for all.     

By |2019-11-23T06:17:19-05:00March 4th, 2019|Categories: Blog|0 Comments