College of Agriculture & Natural Resources
AGNR Research

Tool launched to aid in environmental practice decisions

A farm sits along a local waterway on the Eastern Shore

QUEENSTOWN — A new website that helps communities make wise decisions to address their local water quality needs is now live online.

The website, baybmp.org, helps farmers, local governments, environmental organizations, community associations and the public navigate through the multitude of environmental best management practices available. The site is a compendium of best management practices used on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, but the practices can be applied throughout the state and beyond.

Baybmp.org was developed by the University of Maryland Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology, with funding from the Town Creek Foundation, after hearing concerns voiced by Eastern Shore government officials and staff at the 2015 Healthy Waters Round Table that there was a need for an understandable and comprehensive source of information on best management practices. Tom Leigh, a former Eastern Shore Riverkeeper who now serves as a circuit rider for several Eastern Shore municipalities and counties, authored its content.

“We wanted to make a tool that was accessible to non-experts charged with installing practices that both address nutrient management needs while solving local needs,” Hughes Center Executive Director Suzanne Dorsey said. “In the past, finding the right practice for your situation could be daunting. This website makes decisions easier.” 

A best management practice, called “BMP” for short, is defined as a practice or combination of practices determined to be an effective means of reducing pollution generated by nonpoint sources (those caused by water moving over or through the ground, which pick up sediments or nutrients as it moves, eventually reaching local streams and the Chesapeake Bay).

On the website, best management practices are split into three main categories — agriculture, urban, and tree/forest practices. Each entry on a given practice overviews its function, level of implementation difficulty, average cost and potential funding sources, it’s efficiency to reduce nutrient loads, and maintenance information.

Users can search for particular practices in the site’s search bar, or browse categories and use a filter function, which further narrows results by price range, nutrient reduction, or locations where the practices are installed. The site also contains handy links to helpful external sites if users wish to dive even further into a particular practice.

“This compendium is intended to be a living resource for local decision-makers on the Eastern Shore and beyond. It is formatted as an interactive quick reference guide to provide insight to make well-informed choices about pollution-reducing practices to help the Bay,” Leigh said. 

The compendium differs from other tools like CAST (Chesapeake Assessment Scenario Tool), which is designed for scientists and experts in the environmental field. It also differs from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency tools used to quantify the value of local practices and determine how each state in the Chesapeake Bay cleanup effort is meeting their water quality goals.

“Whether you’re an elected official, government administrator, farmer, conservationist, or homeowner, you will find planning tips, scientific data, and financial suggestions about best management practices,” Leigh said. “Complete with local project examples, the information contained in this compendium should be consulted before committing resources toward the work still ahead of us to achieve clean water in our local creeks, streams and rivers.”

Best management practices can be implemented by a wide variety of entities, including private property and business owners, farms, local and state governments, and nongovernmental organizations. These practices vary widely in type and application. Installing them on land is one of the top ways to meet Watershed Implementation Plan goals, which are required as part of Chesapeake Bay cleanup. A state’s pollution reduction progress is measured based on the estimated effectiveness of the installed best management practices.

The Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology is a nonprofit organization affiliated with the University of Maryland College Park and the University System of Maryland. Founded in 1999, the Center brings together diverse interest from the agricultural, forestry and environmental communities for the purpose of retaining Maryland’s working landscapes and the industries they support while protecting and improving the health of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Visit our website at agresearch.umd.edu/agroecol.

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