Protecting Our Heritage, Safeguarding Our Future: The Chesapeake Bay Initiative

Protecting Our Heritage, Safeguarding Our Future: The Chesapeake Bay Initiative

By: Keefer Stiles '23

Background: Over the summer, Keefer Stiles ‘23 joined a group of teenagers determined to protect the Chesapeake Bay and other national watersheds. This year, they drafted something they’ve called the ‘Watershed Outdoor Bill of Rights,’ a document that outlines what they think all people living in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed are entitled to have. Below, he explains why he joined and how his Delone Catholic education informs his actions.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) has been working for years to restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay. As an organization, it has started many environmental programs, including the Student Leadership Program. The CBF Student Leadership program is composed of high school students from Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia, who come together to help advocate for a change in our environment and to protect the environment.

Through the Student Leadership program, members learn about the Chesapeake Bay Watershed (which we live in), and ways we can help to improve the environment in the watershed, talk to local and state government officials, discuss climate justice, ways we can help those who live in a poor environment, and so much more. Over the summer, we normally would have summer expeditions, where we go down to the Chesapeake Bay for a week, and talk with experts and produce Student Action Projects (SAP) to help communities in this area. These are great experiences, and a way to learn what's out there, besides your little town or city in Pennsylvania.

With COVID-19, things have changed, and we were moved to a virtual setting instead. During one of those virtual summer expeditions, a group of student leaders, drafted a Watershed Outdoor Bill of Rights (WOBoR). The WOBoR is a list of 10 Rights that we believe all people living in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed States are entitled to have. We hope it will serve as a guideline for ensuring that all people in the Chesapeake Bay watershed have access to these basic environmental rights. 

“The mission of these rights is to provide our government officials with a list of requirements that will ensure all people have equal access to basic natural experiences,” (CBF Student Leaders).

With the WOBoR, which we hope to have approved by the CBF Board of Directors, and eventually make its way to state legislation in the watershed states. The CBF Student Leaders, in partnership with Gunston Hall (a museum at the home of Founding Father George Mason, who drafted the Virginia Declaration of Rights, and which has preserved and protected the environment), will be hosting a webinar to present the CBF Student Leadership Watershed Outdoor Bill of Rights. This webinar will take place on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020 on Gunston Hall’s Facebook Page, from 7:00 to 7:30 p.m. It is a free experience, and a way for both adults and students to learn about their environmental rights, with viewership from all over the world. If you can not attend, I urge you to watch the recorded version that will be posted on the Gunston Hall Facebook Page.

In hindsight, we often forget about our environment, and how we impact our environment by everyday choices. As people of God, he said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on all the earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food; and to all the wild animals, all the birds of the air, and all the living creatures that crawl on the earth,” (Genesis 1: 29-30). He gave us this earth to care for and cultivate, and we need to continue to protect our environment. We have so much to learn from the environment, for, "They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea," (Isaiah 11:9). Everyone should be able to continue to learn and grow in our environment, and future generations should as well. 

If you are interested in the joining the CBF Student Leadership, please check out the link below:

And please join us on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020 at 7:00pm for a presentation of the Watershed Outdoor Bill of Rights, by CBF Student Leaders and Gunston Hall: