January 01, 2020

Interview: Jesse Iliff—South Riverkeeper

Interviewed by Milo Mason

Jesse Iliff is an attorney who obtained his JD with a certificate of concentration in environmental law from the University of Maryland Carey School of Law. A native of Arnold, Maryland, he interned with the Maryland Office of the Attorney General’s Environmental Crimes Unit while studying for the bar exam. He then entered private practice in 2010 and litigated a variety of cases in state and federal court. While in law school, Iliff received a Public Service Award for designing a pro bono project for environmental law students to assist in litigation regarding unsound wastewater treatment and retention practices by surface mining companies in West Virginia. He also served as co-executive of the Maryland Environmental Law Society, designing and implementing conservation and fundraising programs for the student organization, and he completed an Asper Fellowship with the Anne Arundel County office of Law’s land use and natural resources division. Before joining the Arundel Rivers Federation, Iliff provided pro bono counsel and representation to several community groups and nonprofit organizations through the Chesapeake Legal Alliance, most notably securing a permit from the Maryland Department of Environment to construct a living shoreline for the Pines Community Association on the Severn River in 2014.

NR&E: Jesse, what do riverkeepers do?

ILIFF: Riverkeepers are like any other waterkeepers . . . there are lots of different kinds. We’ve got lakekeepers and soundkeepers, even a glacierkeeper, too. Our job is to be the voice and the eyes and ears for the water body that we protect.

NR&E: How do you keep busy?

ILIFF: On the South River here, and then on the state level, I focus a lot of my efforts on enforcement of existing environmental law and the development of new law and policy that will help protect the waterways. As you know, the South River watershed is not very agricultural. It doesn’t have a lot of big, heavy industry. So, for me, that takes the form of advocating for better enforcement of a lot of erosion and sediment control laws for development that goes on in the watershed. Anne Arundel County is a very desirable place to live, and in the state of Maryland we’ve had more development pressure than any other county for several years in a row. The biggest pollutant to the South River is simple dirt sediment, and the largest source of sediment is open construction sites. So, it’s not hard to put two and two together and find out what the dragon I have to slay is.

NR&E: Doesn’t the law prevent that kind of erosion from construction sites?

ILIFF: There are regulations and laws in place, both state and local. I found early on in my tenure as riverkeeper that enforcement was often inconsistent between private property owners and large institutional developers, and even though it was inconsistent, it was still far below the standard that one would expect for enforcement to prevent pollution of such important resources. I took this job in late 2015, and when you’re a professional environmentalist, you have deep green people coming out of the woodwork to tell you about all the horror stories of development close by their homes and how the government either failed to do its duty or decided not to with respect to enforcing laws that should prevent that kind of pollution. Being an attorney, I decided I would take an empirical look at that. Fortunately, in Anne Arundel County, the Department of Inspections and Permits that is in charge of enforcement keeps their data online and available. So, I was able to see how many complaints were opened in a given year. Of those, how many were found to have merit? Of those found to have merit, how many times was a consequence imposed? I found out, disappointingly, that even in cases for which the county acknowledged a violation of environmental law, there was a consequence imposed only about 25 percent of the time. That’s by the county’s own data. So, it became an advocacy platform for me.

NR&E: There are construction sites that erect the silt fences properly and those that don’t put them up properly and they fail. There’s all kinds of excuses of why noncompliance happens.

ILIFF: There are, indeed, yes. You know, the law allows for some discretion as to what consequences, if any, are imposed when there’s an acknowledged violation of these erosion and sediment control laws. I should note, just for the record, that the environmental enforcement issues are not all about erosion and sediment control. A lot of it is, but as many readers may know, Maryland has a Critical Areas Act, which says that within a thousand feet of tidal waterways there are a number of different development restrictions. That’s unique to the areas immediately adjacent to tidal waters. There are other states that have similar laws in effect. That was another feature of the enforcement review that I did. Yes, sometimes there are honest-to-goodness mistakes that are made. And sometimes there are the sort of nefarious cost-cutting, corner-cutting kinds of efforts that developers do, hoping nobody will notice.

NR&E: Fines are the cost of doing business.

ILIFF: Exactly. And I’ve heard off the record from people in that industry that is, indeed, a budget line item. You can assume you’re going to have X number of dollars of fines imposed on you. If you don’t, then great, you walk away with a windfall. But I think that most of the time there is a certain degree of carelessness involved. It’s not that people are intentionally trying to get away with something, it’s that the buttoning up of a site and keeping a site clean take a back seat to getting the job done on time and on budget. Many times, that deprioritization of the environment results in pollution, not surprisingly.

NR&E: Yes. That’s similar to the BP oil spill, right? Cutting corners to get the job done as quickly as they could. That sort of phenomenon extends to all sorts of different industries, certainly above and beyond real estate development.

ILIFF: I agree.

NR&E: What jurisdiction do you have? How large is this watershed of the South River? Is it five miles by two miles or . . . ?

ILIFF: The area of the South River’s watershed is pretty small. It’s about 60 square miles, which includes the area of the river itself. Being a tidal estuary, it is broad and flat and has a lot of surface area that is the water itself. So, the land in the watershed is closer to 50 square miles, which even by the Chesapeake Bay standards, is pretty small . . . and I should note that it’s entirely within Anne Arundel County. The City of Annapolis, of course, drains partially into the South River also, but that is entirely in Anne Arundel County, too. So, it gives me the opportunity to have a real strong focus, to have one municipality, one local government, and one state that I need to deal with. A lot of my counterparts in other parts of the bay, like the Susquehanna riverkeepers and the Potomac riverkeepers, have countless counties, small towns, and several states that they all need to kind of keep an eye on, which has allowed me to become something of an issue expert because I don’t have such a diffuse geographic territory to work with. There are different enforcement agencies or subagencies that are vertical.

NR&E: Well, you’re an attorney. How does that help you do your job here? How did you decide to become a riverkeeper?

ILIFF: I went to the University of Maryland, their law school, which has a really robust environmental law program. I always knew that I wanted to do environmental law. I went to law school for that exact purpose and I concentrated my studies there on environmental law. I participated in the Environmental Law Clinic, which gave me the opportunity to represent the former Potomac riverkeeper in litigation related to the disposal of fly ash from a power plant on the Potomac River. In Charles County, there was a facility that had been leaking all sorts of nasty chemicals for decades. The state had not done an adequate job, at least in our view, of preventing and remediating that pollution. So, using the citizen suit provisions of the Clean Water Act, we brought suit in the Circuit Court for Charles County. During that process, I had a number of occasions to be on the phone with my client, the riverkeeper, and got a flavor for what riverkeepers do and what the nature of this movement is. And it is a movement—it’s a global movement. We have over 300 waterkeepers throughout the world now on all inhabited continents, and we work every day to ensure that every waterway in the world is fishable, swimmable, and drinkable if you have a fresh water body, for instance. I don’t have to worry so much about the drinkable part here because everybody that lives in my watershed gets water from aquifers. However, the interplay between surface water and groundwater is an emerging body of science that definitely will have increasingly important relationships develop as sea levels rise and aquifers get drawn down. The distance, I guess, in time and space that people have enjoyed between groundwater and surface water is shrinking every day. That’s sort of an ancillary issue that I’ve started to learn more about because nothing gets people’s attention like expressing how pollution will affect their health and their children’s health. If you hear something like, “Well, you know, the fish are dying,” but you’re not a fisherman, you might not care. But everybody wants to know that they can have safe water coming out of their tap, and everybody—or at least many people, although perhaps the residents of Flint, Michigan, would argue with me—but most people in this country take it for granted that what comes out of their tap is going to be clean and fresh and palatable. And that is something that I think more and more people are going to find is a misplaced assumption as time goes on.

NR&E: Especially when the EPA and the federal standards are ignored. Or unenforced.

ILIFF: Yes. And, to get back to your original question, how does being a lawyer help in this job. You know, understanding what the rights and the obligations and the duties and the discretionary duties of government actors are, having that basic framework, is incredibly helpful. Because I’ve had it happen to me already where people have tried to assert that the law says X. Oftentimes they’re wrong, and oftentimes what the law says is subject to interpretation and has been interpreted. And you find yourself talking with regulators who have a technical background—engineers and professions like that—who were told one thing at one time in their career and that’s for them, and there’s this sort of tunnel vision that sets in where what we do is this. When you go to those folks as an advocate, asking for them to do more, there’s often sort of a recalcitrance where they say, “We’ve always done it X way and so X way is the only way it can be.” Being a lawyer and understanding how fluid the regulatory framework around these things is enables me to say, “Well, look, if you’re right and it’s always been done X way, then I’m gonna go and try to change that and will you help me? Do you think you have a problem or not?” If you change the conversation to ask whether things are going the way that person thinks they should and you open up the door to interpretation for them, you get a lot more valuable feedback from the people that you need to work with who have the actual ability to enforce the law without going to the courts.

NR&E: That’s sort of asking advice and helping you along and them along instead of creating confrontation.

ILIFF: Oftentimes. There are certainly times when you run into either an industry, a private party, or a government regulator that just will not make any effort to see things your way or to do what’s right by the waterways within which they operate. And in those cases, confrontation is fine. That’s another thing that makes being a lawyer a useful skill set and a useful background to have because I am a litigator by training. That’s what I did before I became a riverkeeper, and I’m not afraid to go to bat if that’s what has to happen. But I find that it often saves me a lot of time and saves a lot of unbridged and broken relationships to try and open doors for people and let them walk through voluntarily rather than trying to push and shove too much.

NR&E: Excellent. You said you’ve been a riverkeeper now for four or five years.

ILIFF: It was four years in October.

NR&E: I want to ask you what needs to be done, but when you’re talking about being an attorney and how that’s helped you, do you have any advice for young natural resources and environmental attorneys or students who are wanting to go into the field?

ILIFF: Yes, and I’ve had occasion to do this already . . . talking to someone in law school, or contemplating law school, fresh out and looking for a job. I’ve talked with them about what it takes to do the kind of work that I do. The first thing that I tell them is that you have to be really damn stubborn because . . .

NR&E: [Laughter]

ILIFF: . . . because you’ve got an uphill row to hoe when you want to take a resource like the Chesapeake Bay that has 18 million people and growing who live there. The forces of development and human consumption are really, really difficult to fight against and to work within when you’re trying to preserve a resource that is being used and exploited for better or for worse in countless ways. And it would be really easy to get discouraged. You’re going to encounter failures as often as you’re going to encounter successes and perhaps more often. But the important thing is that you take the progress you can make and you celebrate it, and you learn from the setbacks you encounter and figure out a better way to do things next time. A lot of times you encounter the same issue over and over again. And to return to the issue for me on sediment and erosion control, not only have I seen the same fact patterns play out of different government bodies pointing the finger at each other about who is responsible for a pollution event, but I’ve seen that exact fact pattern play out at the same site that has been opened up for more than two or three years, and it’s just up the street from where we’re sitting now. You know, people saying that the inspectors say that the Soil Conservation District that approved the plans shouldn’t have approved the plans. And the Soil Conservation District says that the inspectors are free to require more than the plans say. That sort of merry-go-around just goes on and on. And it can be really frustrating because progress often doesn’t come at the rate that those of us who work in this space would like to see. In this particular instance, this is a company that bills itself as America’s largest homebuilder. So, presumably there’s some deep pockets, and if there was some will there, then they might be able to go above and beyond what is required of them. But, again, this company is not a nonprofit environmental group; it is a for-profit development company, and it’s a question of priorities. So shifting priorities is a recurrent effort that I have to engage in. I help educate people and help them understand why what they do matters. And it’s only when it’s very clear that people either cannot understand or will not understand that it becomes time to try and force people to understand.

NR&E: Yes. What are the issues that you’d like to see resolved or dealt with, besides erosion, as a riverkeeper?

ILIFF: One thing that I think is really important is for people to take a critical look at how they use the property they own. And specifically what I’m thinking of is Americans’ fixation with having lawns around their houses, which is something that is a strange anachronism and fallback to feudal England when protectors of castles would clear the forest around their castle so that if there was some marauding horde coming to take over their hold fast, they could see them coming and have a few minutes lead time to get some archers up on the walls or whatever. So, peasantry saw anyplace that had lots of open space around it as a status symbol. And somehow that has persisted throughout the centuries and takes the form now where lawns are the largest irrigated crop in the country by acreage. There’s nine billion gallons of water per day being used to irrigate lawns throughout this country and the amount of fertilizers . . .

NR&E: Fertilizer used. Pesticides, herbicides . . .

ILIFF: Fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides . . . those all run off into the receiving waterways. Another thing that a lot of people don’t think about is the mowers, which emit far more greenhouse gasses than a car would burning the same amount of fuel, and they also emit a lot of nitrogen. Many people don’t realize that in the Chesapeake Bay, the big pollutants that we always worried about every day are nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment. But one-third of the nitrogen that enters the bay comes from atmospheric deposition. So, all of the lawn mowers going on every weekend in the summer—that particulate matter is settling back down into the waterways, and it’s causing the algae blooms that cause dead zones and deplete the fisheries. Lawns are just an incredible pestilence on the countryside that so many people don’t use. I can’t tell you how many times I cruise up and down the South River and find vast, sprawling lawns in front of multimillion-dollar houses. I’m out on the water at least every week, once a week, for seven months of the year, and I pass houses where I can see two acres of grass that I’ve never seen anyone doing anything on except for hired help mowing the stuff. There are no croquet tournaments going on; there are no children playing pick-up baseball games on these lawns. They are just there for decoration, and that decoration is really harmful . . . there aren’t even archery targets, no trebuchet set up, nothing.

NR&E: Local versus national rules, what works best?

ILIFF: I’d say that local rules are the most directly impactful. Whether they work best or not I suppose is a question of how the locality is enforcing the rules. You know, without enforcement, law is just good advice. That’s a quote from Abraham Lincoln and it holds true. And if your locality takes the protection of your natural resources seriously, they have the local on-the-ground knowledge, they have the historical knowledge, so they can tell. If you have somebody who’s been doing this job of an inspection for environmental law for 20 years, they don’t just know the law and they don’t just know the technical and cost considerations that go into its enforcement, they also understand the historical land use and they might know the prior owners and what was done there. So, they might have a better understanding of what is going on now. I would argue they do have a better understanding of what’s going on now than anybody who comes from a local federal field office that might be dozens or hundreds of miles away from the site in question. But, of course, there is agency capture, if you will, at the local level, too. And there are plenty of developers who rightfully feel like they’ve built towns or they’ve built communities because they have, but with that comes this misplaced sense of entitlement that they then get to do whatever they want to pursue their interests because they build a house for someone, or because they employ people in the process. Of course, they would never say that out loud. There is this conflation of private interests with a general, economy-wide public interest that develops all the time, but which is nonetheless false.

NR&E: My research on riverkeepers revealed that it’s not fish versus man, but fish versus water pollution. The Hudson River had the first riverkeeper?

ILIFF: That’s right.

NR&E: And it didn’t ignite like Lake Erie, but it was in real bad shape.

ILIFF: Yes, it was. There were a number of industrial facilities along the length of the Hudson that caused its degradation over time. And, in fact, General Electric was just in the news recently because the EPA is going to let them off the hook for cleanup that was required of them that was falling short of the goals that led to the litigation that they were a part of. So, the State of New York is suing the EPA to force them to do better in terms of reaching the objectives for cleanup that G.E. was required to do. But G.E. is just one of many. The waterkeeper movement started in the Hudson with a collection of commercial fisherman whose livelihoods were on the line as the pollution got so bad that the fishery declined such that they couldn’t afford to feed their families anymore. And, in fact, one of them ultimately became a state senator and was able to influence policies on the other side, Terry Baecker. You know, commercial fishermen and really hardcore recreational fishermen—a lot of them are waterkeepers. They come from that background because that working familiarity with the water and watching its progress or its decline over time is what really motivates somebody to say, “You know what? I don’t see the things that I know need to get done getting done, so I’m gonna do it.”

NR&E: Does the public trust doctrine play a role?

ILIFF: The state holds these tidal waters in trust for the citizens of the state. And, on the one hand, it’s a beautiful idea because it means that even the poorest person in the state still has this treasure trove out there that, at least in legal theory, they can use and they can own and they can use it to improve their lives. They can fish and crab and recreate and drink water. But on the flipside, when everybody owns it, nobody owns it. And then its pollution is not your problem specifically unless, like commercial fishermen, you have a really direct stake in the health of the waterway. It’s sort of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it is this beautiful idea. You know, in Maryland any citizen in the state can go out during the winter months and fish a bucket full of oysters out of the river. And that’s great. Of course, it’s really difficult to fish for oysters. If you don’t have a boat you can’t do it, and if you aren’t physically well you can’t do it. So, there are a lot of elements of privilege that go into enjoying this right that we have. But at the same time, it becomes the tragedy of the times and everybody thinks that it’s somebody else’s problem. And, of course, when everyone thinks it’s somebody else’s problem, then things go downhill rapidly.

NR&E: I had the honor of interviewing Gaylord Nelson. So, tell me what more needs to be done. I know the Arundel Rivers Federation, the Chesapeake Legal Alliance, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation do good things, and it never seems to be enough.

ILIFF: Waterkeeper Alliance is the umbrella organization that holds the licensed trademark waterkeeper or riverkeeper or whatever information you are looking at. And in order to retain that license you need to observe a number of quality standards. You need to be a full-time paid employee. You’re not a volunteer. You need to have a vessel to be able to patrol your waterway and search for sources of pollution. You can’t have conflicts of interests like working for industries that pollute the waterway and other things that are similarly obvious. But for my organization, the Arundel Rivers Federation, we have two waterkeepers on staff, myself and Jeff Holland, the West Rhode Riverkeeper. We’re a staff of nine, and we do lots of other work besides the sort of advocacy and enforcement work that water-keepers are obligated to do to hold the license. We’re entirely privately funded with the caveat that we have a restoration program that resuscitates degraded streams and does a lot of projects in the ground to fix historical pollution, to rectify the things of the past. And those projects are funded with a lot of government grants, state, local, and federal. And some of the administration of those grants from our shop is funded that way. But we are otherwise entirely privately funded.

As far as what needs to happen, the Chesapeake Bay does have a total maximum daily load that was promulgated by EPA in 2010, and we are more than halfway through the timetable for completion of the TMDL, and some states are doing better than others. A lot of the Bay watershed lies in Pennsylvania, which is riding behind. There are six states in the watershed and Pennsylvania is the elephant in the room. It is a productive agriculture area in the center of the state that the Susquehanna River runs right through. The Susquehanna delivers something like 40 percent of the fresh water to the Chesapeake and a large percentage of the pollution. And the problem is, again, it’s a question of education; it’s a question of perception. Those of us who live in Maryland, anyone who is familiar with the shape of the state of Maryland knows that it is dominated by the Chesapeake Bay. I’ll tell you, in Anne Arundel County we have over 530 miles of shoreline in one county in one state. But people in Pennsylvania never see it. Nobody in Pennsylvania is out here on a daily basis going sailing or going fishing. And there’s this perception that downstream problems are someone else’s problems. The issue of Pennsylvania is that if you don’t see it and you don’t use it, you don’t care as much. And you can dump whatever you want to dump down the drain or off the road. A big part of that, the nutrient problem, is from agriculture . . . it’s very diffuse. To lay out the difference here: with point sources, pipes and “discrete conveyances,” just depending on where they’re at, there is a much stronger ability to measure the pollutants that are coming out of the end of that point source and, therefore, they regulate them. But when you have diffuse non-point sources, like stormwater runoff, whether it’s urban or rural agricultural, it’s a lot harder to measure, and since it’s a lot harder to measure, it’s a lot harder to regulate.

Historically, agriculture has been largely overlooked, I’d say, in terms of Clean Water Act enforcement, but that’s changing a lot these days, and there are certain best management practices that have been widely recognized as very effective. One of them, the best one in terms of cost effectiveness, is by planting riparian buffers. So, if you have a farm that extends up to a waterway, plant trees between the cropland and the waterway and you will drastically reduce the amount of nutrient pollution that enters that waterway. The problem is, first of all, if you are a row crop agriculturalist growing corn or soybeans or something like that, you lose acreage right off the bat if you’re starting to plant trees where you used to have product. But on top of that, you don’t just lose the footprint of the trees, there’s a shading problem, where you don’t get as much sunlight for an extra acre of space that is in the shadow of those trees. But there are ways to get around that. There are lower lying shrubs and other sorts of plants that are nutrient thirsty and also water thirsty and so they prevent a lot of that without as much of a shading, but you still lose the acreage that you put into buffers.

All of the governments in the bay watershed are wrestling with how can we keep farmers in business and keep feeding our growing population while, at the same time, creating less of an impact on the receiving waterways. It’s a tough nut to crack and that’s why people who work throughout the Chesapeake Bay are focusing so much on the Delmarva Peninsula, where most of Maryland’s agriculture is, and Pennsylvania, where most of the agricultural activity in the watershed is. And every time you can get a farmer onboard with planting buffers, that is a permanent solution. It’s a permanent improvement to the land that will reap rewards in the form of pollution savings in perpetuity. That’s a big fight, though, and it’s one that ebbs and flows in terms of where the state of bay restoration is. My small watershed for the South River here in Anne Arundel County does not have much agriculture at all, mostly a lot of hobbyists with glorified and expanded gardens or an equine facility or something that doesn’t have a lot of fertilizer application or anything.

No-till ag is certainly another practice that can reduce the impact of the agricultural operation. But as with so many investments, there’s an upfront cost that only gets recouped many years down the road. With changing climate and changing weather patterns, a lot of people are getting pretty risk averse. You know, people have been hit hard in lots of places by drought or flooding or both in subsequent years. So, the idea of completely overhauling the operation causes some justifiable concern. There are programs out there that either will subsidize certain practices, or there are financial incentives from land trusts, for instance, for folks who are willing to put property under conservation easement. I’m not sure how much this extends beyond our local jurisdiction, but if you take the example of the Maryland Forest Conservation Act, this is this law that said there are certain forest conservation thresholds you need to meet, and if you don’t, you need to replant. If you can’t replant, you need to pay a fee in lieu of replanting. And those funds, in theory at least, are supposed to be used by the local governments enforcing the law to place permanent forest conservation easements on property. The problem is that the owners of forested land in the state give up development rights forever in exchange for a finite tax rebate. So, it will only last 15 or 20 years—that varies depending on the jurisdiction. But it seems like kind of a raw deal if you have to give up development rights forever but you only get a percentage of your tax reduced for a generation or two, not quite the right balance and not enough incentive.

You know, I wouldn’t want to be the elected official that has to grapple with this problem because, at the same time, everybody and their brother in the community expects a certain level of government services that need to be funded. And you can’t really afford to give up tax revenue in perpetuity. So, there are a lot of little wrinkles that a lot of smart people are working on all the time. But as we both know, progress is often slower than a lot of us would like to see.

It’s easy to point fingers at large-scale commercial enterprises, whether they’re agricultural or industrial, whether it’s a government’s wastewater treatment plant or a chemical processing facility, everybody has it in their power to do something to improve the situation. When there’s sufficient education of the 18 million people whose lives get washed into the Chesapeake Bay, they can change those lives to improve how it works. Lawns are a great example. If you own property and you own a lawn, you can make a permanent impact by just planting trees instead of grass or by planting other native plants that don’t require watering and don’t require fertilizing and don’t require pesticides and mowing. That’s the biggest one and that’s the soapbox I will always jump on whenever I’m talking to anybody. But even the simple steps that have been around and been talked about for decades matter. Whether it’s walking when you can walk or riding a bike when you can ride a bike instead of driving somewhere—that will cut down on those atmospheric depositions of pollutants and will at least make a dent in pollution, and make you healthier besides. recycling. Using less plastic. Paying attention to the water you use. All of that makes a difference.

NR&E: When I asked you for an interview, we chatted about conservation and preservation of the waterways. There’s always and often been a debate over whether preservation or conservation is best for nature and our natural landscape. What are your thoughts on that debate?

ILIFF: Yes, you know, it’s funny you should put it that way because when I was interviewing for this job, I was asked how my law practice would help me work for the river. And I said, “Well, the first thing that will be easier for me is I will only have one client now and it’s my river. Representing that client daily will require many multifaceted different efforts, sort of like being house counsel, you know? But to get to the preservation and conservation issue, I suppose at bottom, I am more of a conservationist than a preservationist. And I say that because I like to eat crabs, I like to eat oysters, I like to eat fish. And I also like to go waterskiing. And I do that for me. I love the river and I love the animals that live there. But being a human being myself, I tend to think of how it can be preserved for human beings. Now, that said, if you’re going to be a good conservationist, you have to preserve a lot of things. And that old dynamic was first articulated between Gifford Pinchot as the quintessential conservationist and John Muir as the quintessential preservationist. I think that it’s a spectrum, and there are a lot of places that deserve to be held inviolate with nothing done to them ever, purely because of other ecosystem services or just because of their raw natural beauty. There are a few places like that still left on the South River, even though it is very suburbanized. There’s nothing that is pristine and untouched by the hands of man around here.

NR&E: Not the wilderness.

ILIFF: No. But, that said, there are some beautiful little spots that, if you close your eyes and you focus really hard, you can pretend you’re a Native American in a canoe and that this is the way it used to be. There are places that don’t have any houses and don’t have any millionaires within sight, where the sounds of birds outweigh the sounds of cigarette boats, and you can really grasp how important it is that those places be kept that way. When you’re in a river where those spaces are becoming fewer and further between, their value only goes up. It’s a supply and demand question. So, I will continue to crab and fish myself and enjoy the fruits of other people’s labor who are professionals fishing the Bay. But there are some places that I think should just have a hard stop, absolutely not allowing building anything or fishing for anything, or any other use besides passive enjoyment of the area. Maryland has been good about this in some ways. We have oyster sanctuaries, for instance, in 52 different tributaries throughout the bay where you do not fish for oysters, period. The only exception is if you put them there. You can still open an oyster aquiculture lease in certain sanctuary areas, but you need to demonstrate there are no oysters in the area you propose for a lease.

NR&E: Thank you, Jesse.

ILIFF: Thank you.


Interviewed by Milo Mason

Mr. Mason is a Washington, D.C., attorney who lives in Annapolis, Maryland, and recreates, cruises, and fishes in the Chesapeake Bay. He is a member of the editorial board of Natural Resources & Environment and may be reached at milomason@aol.com.