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When Captain John Smith arrived in Virginia in 1607, he discovered a paradise in the Chesapeake Bay. In the centuries that followed, the Bay changed vastly – and not for the better. European landowners and enslaved Africans slashed, burned, and cleared the surrounding forests to grow tobacco. Watermen overfished oysters, shad, and sturgeon, decimating these crucial species. Baltimore, Washington, and Richmond used its rivers as urban sewers. By the 1960s, the Chesapeake was dying.
A crossroads of life and culture, the Chesapeake straddles the North and the South, mixes salt water with fresh, and is home to about 18 million people and 3,600 species of animals and plants. Although recent cleanup efforts have improved its overall health, they have not been enough to save this national treasure. In The Chesapeake in Focus, award-winning writer Tom Pelton examines which environmental policies have worked and which have failed.
Based on Pelton's extensive experience as a journalist and as the host of the public radio program The Environment in Focus, this sweeping book takes readers on a tour of the histories of the Chesapeake, as well as the ecological challenges faced by its major tributaries. It details the management of blue crabs, striped bass, and other wildlife, profiles leaders and little-known characters involved in the restoration campaign, and warns of the dangers of anti-regulatory politics that threaten to reverse what has been accomplished. Looking to the future, Pelton offers a provocative vision of the hard steps that must be taken if we truly want to save the Bay.
Tom Pelton is the host of the public radio program The Environment in Focus on WYPR and a former environmental reporter for the Baltimore Sun.
"Tom Pelton's The Chesapeake in Focus masterfully captures the people, places, critters, and policies of the Chesapeake Bay region. It is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding the difficult fight to protect the Bay."
– Howard R. Ernst, author of Chesapeake Bay Blues and Fight for the Bay, U.S. Naval Academy, Political Science Dept.
"Pelton brings a clear-eyed analysis to what has worked, and not worked, in our decades-long effort to save the Bay. This book is destined to enter the canon of Chesapeake Bay literature. It is a worthy successor to Tom Horton's classic Turning the Tide."
– Bryan MacKay, author of A Year Across Maryland: A Week-by-Week Guide to Discovering Nature in the Chesapeake Region