In the near term, the Partnership works collaboratively to achieve two specific outcomes by 2025:
- Protect an additional two million acres of lands throughout the watershed—currently identified as high-conservation priorities at the federal, state, or local level—including 225,000 acres of wetlands and 695,000 acres of forest land of highest value for maintaining water quality.
- Add 300 new public access sites, with a strong emphasis on providing opportunities for boating, swimming, and fishing, where feasible.
Over the long term, the Partnership works to achieve a series of conservation goals that support our vision: “From Cooperstown to Virginia Beach, from Appalachian mountaintops to the home of the blue crab, a labyrinth of 180,000 miles of healthy small streams and great rivers feeds the Chesapeake Bay. Our vast watershed with its conserved farms, forests, fisheries, and open spaces sustains and refreshes 18 million of us, as it did our ancestors.”
Reaching this vision requires a long-term landscape conservation agenda for a vibrant, healthy and sustainable Chesapeake region. Our goals set out what is needed over the long term — principally in terms of our relationship with the land and all it includes. They recognize all is interconnected — a vibrant economy, strong communities, healthy people, working farms and forests, vital habitat for native wildlife, clean water, our shared heritage, recreation and quality of life. We treasure all these values, while we focus on select goals — not as disconnected parts, but as parts of the whole, inextricably linked. In fact, in many places on the land multiple values overlap, bringing those with diverse interests together to work toward their conservation.
These goals help drive our conservation work. We illustrate and map where these values exist. We collaborate in conserving these values, building the resources to do so. We track and celebrate progress. More information on each, including maps representing them, can be found at LandScope Chesapeake.
The productive land and prime agricultural soils of the Chesapeake watershed support a rich heritage of working farms—almost 8 million acres (17%) of the region is in agricultural use. Many farms and related businesses have added economic and cultural value as well: orchards, vineyards, wineries and more. Yet our most valuable farm lands are often close to population centers and subject to intense development pressure. Farther away, other regions supplying the largest share of produce coming into the mid-Atlantic are beset by climate change that may have far-reaching impacts. Conserving our region’s farms and prime farmland for long-term food production and security is a priority.
Protect the Chesapeake watershed’s productive farms and prime farmland from conversion and secure space for urban farming to ensure permanent, sustainable ‘close to home’ sources of food for the region’s population and to support the economic and cultural value of our working farms and farmers.
Forests cover 60% of the watershed and provide over $24 billion in ecological services and $22 billion in forest products industry output each year. Yet, forest loss and fragmentation from development threatens up to 5.5 million acres of the most valuable forests. And science shows that streams and rivers degrade when the percent of forest cover in a sub-watershed drops below 70%. Conserving our region’s forests is key to maintaining wildlife, drinking water supplies, water quality, recreation, tourism and economic sustainability.
Protect the Chesapeake watershed’s most ecologically and economically valuable forest land from conversion–headwater and riparian forests, large forest blocks, woodlots providing multiple values, and forests conducive to timber harvests.
The Chesapeake region is central to sustaining wildlife and fish on a vast scale. Hundreds of fish species use the Bay, rivers and headwater streams for some portion of their life cycles. Many–such as shad, striped bass, brook trout and more–hold tremendous ecological, commercial, recreational or cultural value. Hundreds of migratory bird species rely on the forests, wetlands and meadows of the watershed for food, resting spots or nesting. Millions of migrating ducks, geese and swans overwinter on the Chesapeake. Conserving the habitat that supports fish and wildlife is critical to sustaining a recreation, tourism, commercial uses, and a broader ecosystem.
Protect a network of large natural areas and corridors sufficient to allow nature to respond to a changing climate and land development and to support thriving populations of native wildlife, migratory birds, fish and plants and sustain at-risk species.
The Chesapeake landscape is rich with small and large places of outstanding significance to communities and our nation. Some are formally designated, like byways, scenic rivers, trails on land and water, parks, historic districts and heritage areas. Think of the Appalachian Trail and Journey Through Hallowed Ground. Others may simply be broadly recognized, like certain scenic vistas or indigenous, historic or cultural landscapes — Shenandoah Valley or Lancaster County come to mind. But all support tourism, the economy and our cultural identity. They are what identifies this region as unique and make our communities special. Yet, many special places face significant development pressure and risk being lost. Conserving these places for this and future generations is vital.
Protect the treasured landscapes of our collective heritage from development that would alter the scenery and character that conveys their importance — along our designated trails and scenic rivers and byways, at our parks, and throughout our state and national heritage areas, valued cultural landscapes and historic districts.
We need the outdoors. Research on the benefits of being outside in nature continues to accumulate. We need places in our cities and communities to walk, run, sit, play, read, and reconnect. We need trails, pocket parks, big parks, and natural areas. We need access to the water, to put in a boat or a canoe, to swim, to fish, to camp nearby. We need these places close to us, so they are a daily part of our lives — so they can keep us active and healthy. Some people have less access to parks and the water than they deserve and need. We must change that.
Provide people access to parks and trail networks within walking and biking distance of their homes and communities. Provide sufficient opportunities along waterways to ensure nearly all residents are within 30 minutes of reaching a public access site at water’s edge.