Mount Vernon Environmental Expo: How you can act on climate change, Nov 16

Supervisor Dan Storck invites you to participate in the 2nd Annual Mount Vernon District Environment Expo: How YOU Can Act on Climate Change on Saturday, November 16, 2019, from 8 a.m. – noon at Walt Whitman Middle School. This event will educate and inform local residents on environmental challenges that we face on a daily basis, including ones that are unique to Fairfax County given our proximity to water, transportation challenges and recent intense storms. Attendees will leave the Expo with simple actions you can take to make an impact on climate change. Please share information about this event with your family, friends and neighbors!

Join them for the morning to LEARN, ENGAGE and ACT to save our environment!

Expo Schedule

8 – 11:15 a.m. – Exhibit Hall Open

8 – noon – Electric & Hybrid Car Showcase

9 – 9:30 a.m. – Opening Remarks

9:30 – noon – Film Screening

9:30 – 10:15 a.m. – Concurrent Workshops

11 – 11:45 a.m. – Concurrent Workshops

11:45 – noon – Closing Remarks

Workshop Topics

Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, presented by Beck Modini, Pachamama Alliance

Can we reverse global warming and stop climate change?  What would it take?  What can you do to help?  Come to this introduction to the work of Project Drawdown, which gathered data on 100 actions that lower carbon emissions or take carbon out of the air, and then did the math. The result is a science-based global plan to actually reverse global warming by 2050. Come away with a new framework for thinking about climate change and access to tools for action.

Small Choices, Big Impact, presented by Zach Huntington, Clean Fairfax

Simple steps we can all take to minimize our impact on the planet from the importance of eating local, to the products we purchase, and how we won’t be able to recycle our way out of our worldwide litter problem. We’ll also discuss how the daily decisions we make can either mitigate the impacts of or contribute to climate change and what strategies are the most effective in addressing systemic climate challenges.

Reducing Your Carbon Footprint Through Energy Efficiency, presented by Elenor Hodges, EcoAction Arlington

Learn about reducing your carbon footprint whether you live in a single-family house, townhouse, condo or apartment. The presentation will focus on energy and water efficiency in the home, detailing techniques to reduce energy and water use through sealing air leaks, installing energy-efficient lighting, and switching to low-flow water devices in the kitchen and bathroom. We will also discuss the energy use of a variety of household appliances and learn how to measure how much energy each one uses with a kilowatt meter.

Flooding, Storm Surge and Sea Level Rise—Tools for Living with the Water, presented by Molly Mitchell, Virginia Institute of Marine Science

This workshop will take look at the changing flood threats from sea level rise, changing precipitation, and increased development.  We will discuss the tools available to help project storm surge flooding and future sea level rise impacts and discuss how these tools can be used in decision making.

“The 4 R’s” Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, presented by Eric Forbes, Fairfax County Solid Waste Management

“The 4R’s” will cover what we all can do to help reduce our waste footprint as well as the services the Solid Waste Management Program provides for Fairfax County residents.

The Right Tree in the Right Place, presented by Jim McGlone, Fairfax County Urban Forestry

Trees have an important role in reducing the impacts of climate change. Attend this workshop to learn about the native trees that thrive in our region and where best to plant these.

Adding Habitat Value in our Gardens:  Mow less, Grow more!, presented by Joanne Hutton and Tami Scheiffer, Plant NOVA Natives 

Avenues to Better Air Quality, presented by Tom Reynolds, Fairfax County Department of Transportation

Traffic congestion and tailpipe emissions combine to be a major contributor to greenhouse gases in the region. Fairfax County is progressing down several ‘avenues’ to reduce congestion and improve air quality. Learn how individuals can play a part in the County’s efforts to reduce emissions, shift the mode share away from single occupancy vehicles, take advantage of a growing pedestrian/bicycle environment and see how transit is being considered in new developments.

Download and share the flyer

Using native plants to deal with drought (and deluges)

Margaret Fisher

Neither droughts nor deluges are new to Northern Virginia, but as everyone has noticed, weather extremes are becoming more common. The prolonged drought this year that followed a wet 2018 was particularly hard on plants, as roots that have been weakened by too much water and accompanying fungi are more vulnerable the following year. When choosing which species to plant, we need to keep in mind the likelihood of these stressors repeating themselves in the future.

People living in the western part of the United States are more used to xeriscaping – planting for a dry environment – than those of us on the east coast. Lawns in California are being converted to native plantings at a rapid rate. But Virginians have been lulled by plentiful rainfall into settling for empty expanses of turf grass as the default landscaping choice, and those lawns start to look pretty peaked after weeks of drought. Fortunately, most native Virginia plants that have been installed in appropriate conditions held up quite well during our recent long dry spell. The gorgeous asters and goldenrods that define our fall landscape were no less beautiful this year. Having evolved here, they are used to both wet and dry summers. The exceptions tended to be plant species that have been experiencing ongoing stresses from disease, such as the Flowering Dogwood, and new plantings – all plants need appropriate amounts of water until they get established. By “appropriate,” we mean “not too much!” After the first few days, rainfall may indeed provide all that is needed during a wet spell, and supplying so much water that the plant never dries out is a good way to kill many native plants.

Determining which plants can withstand drought is not entirely straightforward. For instance, some of the best trees for dry, compacted soil are ones such as Baldcypress that normally live in swamps. They tolerate standing water not so much because they need the extra moisture but because they can deal with conditions of low oxygen. One way to quickly assemble a list of drought-tolerant plants is to look at recommendations for rain gardens. Rain gardens are designed to hold water for a couple days after a storm but then to absorb the water into the soil, leaving the plants dry in between. Another good reference is the plant lists for professionals page on the Plant NOVA Natives website. The plants in bold have been curated to include those that are particularly reliable as well as widely available, with detailed notations about their cultural needs.

Are you puzzling over where to install native plants instead of turf grass? Start where it is difficult or dangerous to mow, or where grass is growing poorly already. Or simply plop some shade trees in the middle of your lawn. In time, the summer temperatures in your yard will be noticeably lower.

Planning for 2020 City Nature Challenge: Please complete survey

Photo (c) by Barbara J. Saffir

In case it’s not on your radar already, save the dates for April 24-27 for making observations during the City Nature Challenge, then adding identifications until the results are announced on Monday, May 4, 2020.

There are well over 100 cities participating again. To recap how we’ve organized in the DC area, anyone is welcome to participate & organize events and communication within your organization/neighborhood/groups. We’ll have monthly calls to share pertinent information, probably starting in December.

For individuals who are interested in taking a leadership role in organizing across the region (for things like outreach, social media, etc), please fill out this survey if you haven’t already. Stella Tarnay and Carrie Seltzer will be in touch for next steps with last year’s leadership group and anyone who fills out the survey.

Winter Salt Watch, your help needed!

With a chill in the air and snowstorms already blowing through some parts of the country, we know that ice, snow, and salt aren’t far behind. It’s time to gear up for Winter Salt Watch!

Last year Winter Salt Watch volunteers helped Izaak Walton League learn more about chloride levels in 17 states across the country. Volunteers and community groups took more than 300 readings using their Salt Watch kits! You can join this nationwide citizen science project and find out how road salt is affecting your local waterways. Order your FREE Winter Salt Watch kit today – even if there’s no snow on the ground yet. You can use your kit right away to take a reading before the road salt starts to pile up. These readings are called “baselines”, and they give you a number against which to compare your winter chloride readings. Without a baseline, you can’t effectively track changes in chloride levels and what’s causing these changes, such as road salt application. Aquatic life is affected by chloride when levels exceed 230 ppm (parts per million). Water treatment plants are not equipped to filter out extra salt, so it can end up in your tap water and even corrode your pipes.

This year Izaak Walton League plans to synthesize and share the Salt Watch data with participants regularly throughout the season. Don’t miss an update – request your FREE Salt Watch kit right now!

Learn more about the connection between road salt and water quality.

Explore last year’s results – and see this year’s baselines!

Youth Education Mini-Grants

The Audubon Society of Northern Virginia is pleased to announce the 2020 youth education mini-grant program. This program aims to help teachers, schools, and non-profit organizations educate youth about birds and the environment. ASNV anticipates awarding three mini-grants, up to $500 each. Applications will be available in February 2020 and due March 15, 2020. Please contact youtheducation@audubonva.org with questions.

Sign Up for the 38th Annual Manassas-Bull Run Christmas Bird Count, Dec. 15th

Audubon Society of Northern Virginia (ASNV) will host the Manassas-Bull Run Christmas Bird Count (CBC) on Sunday, 15 December 2019. The center of the 15-mile diameter count circle is near the intersection of Routes 28 & 29 in Centreville. Birders of all skill levels are needed. A complimentary hot lunch will be available to participants.

If you participated last year, your sector or route leader should be in touch soon. If you don’t hear from anyone, or if you’d like to be in a different sector, contact Phil Silas at epsdcva@aol.com.

ASNV will also be offering an opportunity for feeder watchers. If you or someone you know lives within the count circle and cannot go out in the field, he or she can observe from inside, counting the birds that come to a feeder or yard on December 15 as an alternate way to participate.

If you are new to the CBC, signing up is easy! Just contact Phil Silas with your phone, email, and birder level (B=Beginner, I=Intermediate, E=Expert), and any notes or comments.

Please see the related post on training for this bird count which will take place on November 24th.

ASNV Accepting Applications Now for Educator Scholarship, deadline Feb 14, 2020

Each summer Audubon Society of Northern Virginia offers a full scholarship and transportation to “Sharing Nature: An Educator’s Week” at National Audubon Society’s Hog Island Camp in Maine. Next year’s session is July 12-17, 2020 and will feature workshops on educational techniques, a boat trip to the restored Atlantic Puffin and Tern colony on Eastern Egg Rock, intertidal explorations, and hiking through Hog Island’s unspoiled spruce-fir forest.

Applicants must be a public classroom teacher, specialist or school administrator in the ASNV chapter territory. Counties: Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, and Stafford. Independent cities: Alexandria, Falls Church, Fredericksburg, Manassas, and Manassas Park.

Application Deadline: February 14, 2020

Scholarship Announcement: March 16, 2020

Link to scholarship application: http://audubonva.org/hog-island-scholarship

Questions: info@audubonva.org. For further information about this session at Hog Island, visit https://hogisland.audubon.org/sharing-nature-educator-s-week.

101st Green Breakfast: Helping the Land Heal, Nov 9th

Brion’s Grille
10621 Braddock Rd, Fairfax, VA 22032
Saturday, 9 November
Breakfast begins at 8:30am, $10 at the door, cash preferred
No prior registration required

Kristen Sinclair, Ecologist
Fairfax County Park Authority, Natural Resource Management Branch

As the county’s largest landowner with 23,890 acres in 427 parks (August 2019), much of the responsibility for preserving Fairfax County’s rich natural heritage rests with the Fairfax County Park Authority. These landholdings include large, biodiverse forests along the Potomac Gorge and in the western region of the county, emergent wetlands at Huntley Meadows, a tidal freshwater marsh on Mason Neck, and nearly all of Fairfax County’s stream valleys. They also include dozens of community parks and numerous lakefront parks.

The Park Authority’s Natural Resource Management Plan is structured to support several guiding principles that will inform all aspects of natural resource management on parkland, including stewardship of our natural capital, preserve biodiversity and sustain wild and healthy ecosystems, protect, restore, and expand ecosystem services, manage resources adaptively and learn through experience, and preserve a legacy of natural heritage for present and future generations.

Join us for a presentation by Kristen Sinclair, Ecologist with the FCPA-Natural Resource Management Branch, who will give an update on the Park Authority’s ecological restoration program, known as “Helping Our Land Heal” and highlight other recent projects completed by the FCPA-Natural Resources Branch.

Breakfast includes an all-you-can eat hot buffet with fresh fruit and coffee, tea, orange juice or water. No prior registration required. If you have any questions, please contact the Northern Virginia Soil and Water District at conservationdistrict@fairfaxcounty.gov.

Learn all things bluebird, conference Nov. 16th

Dorothy Hart Community Center
408 Canal St, Fredericksburg, VA
Saturday, 16 November 2019
8am – 3pm

The Virginia Bluebird Society’s 2019 Biennial Meeting will be an all day bluebird fest. The keynote speaker will be Bet Zimmerman Smith, a North American Bluebird Society board member and Life Member of NABS. Her highly regarded and hugely popular website, sialis.org was ‘developed as a resource for people interested in helping bluebirds and other native cavity-nesters survive and thrive.’

The registration fee ($40 VBS-members, $50 non-members) includes continental breakfast, lunch, programs and door prizes.

View the breakout session topics and register here.  Master naturalists, earn 3.5 hours of continuing education credit.

Cutting edge: Water Chestnut Program (WCP) Meeting, Nov. 15th

Twin Lakes Golf Course, Club House, Ball Room
6209 Union Mill Rd., Clifton VA 20125
Friday, 15 November 2019
10 am – 2 pm

The Fairfax Chapter of Virginia Master Naturalists is facilitating an informational meeting about the invasive water chestnut (Trapa bispinosa).

The water chestnut program (WCP) would be an early detection and rapid response project for naturalists who would like to identify, verify, map and remove this novel species of water chestnut before it becomes established. The focus area is within the Potomac River watershed in Virginia.

This type of water chestnut, discovered by Virginia Game and Inland Fisheries (VGIF) in the tidal Potomac River at Pohick Bay in 2014, is not known to be established elsewhere in the USA. Scientists at the US Geological Survey (USGS) have found that it is spreading, but it is not yet considered widespread, or outside the Potomac Watershed. This is an opportune time to take measures to remove it before it becomes a huge menace in the Potomac River and watershed. Species of water chestnut (Genus, Trapa) are known to spread extensively and be invasive in Virginia and other regions of similar climate. Trapa can quickly grow over the surface of shallow water, completely shade out native submerged aquatic plants, impede water flow, clog irrigation pipes, alter biodiversity, and obstruct recreational boating and swimming.

Come to learn about this water chestnut species and explore options for eradicating it.  Virginia Master Naturalists, natural resource managers, pond owners, gardeners, naturalists, invasive species managers, pond management companies, and other interested parties are welcome to attend.

Program is free and open to the public. Please see the agenda and register here.  Questions? Email vmnfairfax@gmail.com.

Fairfax Master Naturalists:  This program qualifies for Continuing Education credit.