The Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Montgomery Parks issued a warning today about “Critters in Crisis,” at a special event at Maydale Conservation Park. Certain insects, fish, and amphibians are now considered at-risk in local streams due to water quality issues.
According to county natural resource specialists, pollution in county creeks and streams is having a serious negative impact on the wildlife, including changes to, or loss of, habitats, lower oxygen content in water, and the reduction of the variety and hardiness of organisms.
“There is a direct connection between the quality of water in our streams and the vitality of local wildlife,” said DEP Director Adam Ortiz. “Clean water allows for wildlife to thrive and flourish. Unfortunately pollutants, pesticides, and even pet waste that wash from our streets and lawns flow into our County creeks and streams. The result is stream critters that should be thriving, are instead at risk because of human actions.”
“Montgomery Parks is working with DEP to monitor our streams so we can make informed decisions on how to keep them healthy through land acquisition, stormwater management, and other strategies,” said Mike Riley, Director of Montgomery Parks. “There are many ways the public can also help improve water quality and protect wildlife, including picking up litter and pet waste and volunteering for park cleanups.”
Each of the “Critters in Crisis” has a unique history to Montgomery County and interesting attributes. They include:
- American Eel—the only fish in our area that begins life in seawater (Bahamas and Bermuda area) and travels to freshwater streams for adulthood.
- Acuminate Crayfish—unique to Montgomery and Prince George’s counties (found largely in the Anacostia watershed).
- Giant Stonefly—very sensitive to water pollution. Its lack of abundance is an indicator of less than pristine conditions.
- Marbled Salamander—has a poison tail that helps fend off predators.
- Yellow Lance Mussel—Federally Threatened Species in Maryland, not found in Montgomery County for over 50 years until DEP biologists recently found them in the Patuxent Watershed.
DEP’s programs such as RainScapes, Tree Montgomery, and Green Streets help to reduce pollution from flowing into our creeks and streams. Each of us must play a part in reducing pollution and keeping our water clean. That means
- planting native trees and plants,
- reducing or replacing non-porous surfaces like driveways and sidewalks and
- using environmentally friendly soaps when washing your car at home.
Remember any time it rains everything left on the ground will get washed into our creeks, streams, rivers, and the Chesapeake Bay.
DEP and Montgomery Parks regularly monitor County creeks and streams for biological, chemical, and physical stream changes and trends. Biologists test water for oxygen content and assess habitats and stream features for changes.
For more information on Critters in Crisis, visit My Green Montgomery for blog posts on each of the critters listed https://mygreenmontgomery.org/(opens in a new tab)