It’s been a rough year. And we know the hard parts, living with them every day, many of us feeling them more acutely than others of us. 
In this month, sometimes called the “season of light,” let’s take a few moments to find some cheer in twenty pieces of good news from 2020. They all relate to some aspect of Chesapeake conservation.


T186 Returns!

Tundra Swan T186 already had more than 113,400 flight miles under her wings when she headed back to Alaska in March. Banded on July 27, 2006 in the Colville River Delta, T186 has wintered in the waters around Annapolis every year since. Some Annapolis residents call her Julia. Now, she’s back again, having been spotted in her usual winter locale on the South River, just last week, fourteen years old and counting!

(Photo: Hugh Vandervort)


Equity Drives 5 New Richmond Parks

The City of Richmond’s “Green Team” convened to identify city-owned parcels of land to become parks and green spaces in areas of the city in which access is poor. Using the city’s Climate Equity Index, the Green Team found access tends to be poorest in communities of color south of the James River.

In November, the City Council adopted an ordinance creating five new parks in Southside neighborhoods on 36 acres. The parks will be created with community input to improve access to green spaces for local residents. Read more at City of Richmond.

(Image: City of Richmond)


50,000 Pounds of Local Food

Since March, with the help of partners and supporters, the Piedmont Environmental Council has provided 25,000 pounds of vegetables, 25,000 gallons of milk, and more than 11,000 pounds of local beef and pork to the food-insecure in the nine-county region in the northern Piedmont.

That’s more than 50,000 pounds of locally sourced products for local food banks, which has a very different impact on the local economy than shipping in 50,000 pounds of food from somewhere else. Read more at PEC.

(Photo: PEC/Marco Sanchez)


Endangered Dusky Shark Returns

According to tagging and tracking conducted by the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC), as of November 2020, the endangered dusky shark population is growing in the Mid-Atlantic region.

Dusky shark populations plummeted in this area during the 1980s and 1990s due to overfishing, wiping out 65%-90% of their population. The Mid-Atlantic Shark Closed Area prohibits bottom longline gear from January through July, allowing for the shark populations to recover. Read more at SERC.

(Photo: Smithsonian Ocean Portal/ Danielle Hall)


Over 17 Million Visit Maryland State Parks

This year due to the pandemic, more and more people have turned to spending time outdoors. The Maryland Park Service noted there had been a general upward trend in park visitations for the last couple of years, but this year easily smashed records, with attendance in state parks being over 17 million.

Most parks around the US noted higher attendance this year, further proving how communities rely on open and green spaces. Read more at Chesapeake Bay Magazine.

(Photo: Sandy Point State Park/ Visit Annapolis)


347 Acre Farm Permanently Preserved

Belle Vue Farm sits on the Oakington Peninsula, an area full of land rich in natural and cultural resources. Acquisition of the farm completes a longstanding goal of permanently preserving the remaining undeveloped area of Chesapeake Bay shoreline in Harford County. The property is contiguous to Swan Harbor Farm and Old Bay Farm to the north and Eleanor and Millard Tydings Park to the south.

Together, these four properties total 1,250 acres of preserved land, 90% of which is now public parkland. The acquisition was supported by Harford County Government, Maryland’s Program Open Space and Aberdeen Proving Ground in partnership with the Harford Land Trust. Chesapeake Conservation Partnership.


(Photo: Harford Land Trust)


Over $180,000 Raised for Oysters!

Chris Hopkinson raised over $180,000 by stand up paddleboarding across 207 miles of the Chesapeake Bay. Hopkinson, along with the Oyster Recovery Partnership, raised this money which will fund the planting of more than 18 million oysters within the Chesapeake Bay, leading to higher water quality throughout. Read more at Bay Paddle.

(Photo: Chris Hopkinson on his journey/ Bay Paddle)


Binghamton Farm Combats Flooding

Like many areas in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, Binghamton New York has faced increased flooding in recent years. To combat continued flooding, city planners have expanded use of green infrastructure and building more resilient bridges and buildings.

The city has also leased several lots located in areas that are more likely to flood to Volunteers Improving Neighborhood Environments, Inc. to expand the Binghamton Urban Farm. Because of this, Binghamton residents have more access to affordable food and green space within their communities. Read more at Chesapeake Bay Program.

Kyle Rittenburg, manager of Binghamton Urban Farm (Photo: Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program)


441 Acres Preserved for Addiction Recovery

The Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ESLC) announced in September they recently finalized a conservation easement in Cecil County Maryland with the help of the U.S. Army and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

The conservation easement covers 441 acres off of Back Creek and McGill Creek. The protected land will be used as the Bracebridge Hall location for the Recovery Centers of America (RCA). RCA’s mission is to “save 1 million lives from the disease of addiction using evidence-based practices and clinical expertise to deliver quality patient care tailored to individual patients’ needs.” Read more at ESLC.

(Photo: Eastern Shore Land Conservancy)


Great American Outdoors Act Signed

On August 4th, the Great American Outdoors Act was signed into law, with the Act passing easily in both the Senate and House earlier this year. The passage of the Act will allow for a dramatic increase in federal resources for land conservation and maintenance for “national parks, wildlife refuges and other natural areas.”

While funding details for the Chesapeake are still a bit fuzzy, the Act is expected to produce important increases in Land and Water Conservation Fund grants to states and support federal land conservation as well. Read more at Chesapeake Conservancy.

Solomon’s Island Bridge. (Photo: Sara Ramotnik)


1,026 Acres of Timberland Preserved

Through the finalization of two conservation easements, 1,026 acres of timberland will be protected forever. The land is located in Virginia, northeast of Lake Anna State Park and is one of the “Knights Branch” properties sitting along Knights Branch stream. Trees in the area include loblolly pines, native mixed-pine stands and significant mature hardwood. Chesapeake Conservation Partnership

(Photo: Land Trust of Virginia)


Pamunkey Tribe Saving Endangered Atlantic Sturgeon

Atlantic sturgeon have long played an important role in the lives of the people of the Pamunkey tribe, being used for food, income, and even being ridden as a rite of passage for young men. The fish that were once abundant in the Chesapeake Bay were placed on the Endangered Species List in 2012 due to overfishing, habitat loss, and poor water quality.

The Pamunkey Tribe received a Species Recovery Grant from NOAA in 2018 to span over three years, allowing them to tag and track sturgeon to learn information that may help improve population numbers. Now in 2020, two years after their efforts formally began, it’s great to hear that the Pamunkey tribe is leading the comeback for these fish populations. Read more at NOAA Fisheries.

Tribal members Desiree Nuckols (left) and April Deacy (right) with an Atlantic sturgeon. (Photo: NOAA Fisheries)


BLISS Meadows Established in Baltimore

Atiya Wells took a neglected plot of land in Baltimore City and established it as the homestead for her new nonprofit BLISS (Baltimore Living in Sustainable Simplicity) Meadows. Wells repurposed the 10 acres to provide those in the neighborhood with an easily accessible green space in an urban area. The organization hired a contractor to cultivate a field to grow crops and all produce is donated to neighbors.

Wells has big plans for BLISS Meadows including offering survival skills courses, setting up beehives on site and rehabilitating a nearby house to become an education center. Read more at Bay Journal.

Atiya Wells of BLISS Meadows
(Photo: Dave Harp/Bay Journal)


Conservancy Conserves Bat Habitat

The ClearWater Conservancy and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finalized a permanent conservation easement along the Frankstown Branch of the Juniata River. The easement protects over 210 acres which provides habitat for the federally endangered Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis) and the federally threatened northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis). Read more at ClearWater Conservancy.

(Photo: ClearWater Conservancy)


Park Renamed for Indigenous Activist Zitkala-Ša

Zitkala-Ša, an 8 year old member of the Yankton Dakota Sioux, was taken by missionaries to attend a school in Indiana. She went on to become an activist for American Indians, lecturing nationwide promoting preservation of tribal and cultural identities, and co-founding the National Council of American Indians.

Until her death in 1938, Zitkala-Ša served as the Council’s president, fundraiser, and speaker, working to unite the tribes to gain suffrage for all Indians. For the last 13 years of her life she lived in Lyon Park, a neighborhood in Alexandria, Virginia. On Saturday, the county board approved renaming Henry Clay Park as Zitkala-Ša Park. Read more at ARLnow.

(Photo: Gertrude Kasebier, 1898/ Smithsonian Institution)


James River Bald Eagles Tops 300 Pairs!

Almost 60 years of aerial surveys show the dramatic increase from zero pairs in the 1970s to today. Now, “there’s no question that the Chesapeake Bay is a huge fountain of eagle production flowing to the surrounding states,” said Bryan Watts, director of the Center for Conservation Biology. “No one could have anticipated the heights we’ve reached.” Read more at Bay Journal.

Bald Eagle on the James River
(Photo: Dave Harp/Bay Journal)


Five New Easements in Northern Virginia

The Northern Virginia Conservation Trust (NVCT) is excited to announce that this year they completed easements in Loudoun, Stafford, Fairfax and Spotsylvania Counties and the City of Alexandria. The easement in Stafford County consists of 443 acres along the Potomac River, bringing NVCT’s total of conserved land to over 8,000 acres in Northern Virginia. These conserved areas will allow for citizens to enjoy the protected green space as well as preserve it for future generations. Read more at NVCT.

(Photo: Potomac Stafford Land Company/ Northern Virginia Conservation Trust)


Chesapeake Bay Dead Zone Shrank in 2020

The Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) reported that Chesapeake Bay “dead zones” — areas with low oxygen levels — have been much smaller in 2020 than in previous years. VIMS says this is due to a “cooler spring and fall, brisk summer winds” and most importantly successful continued efforts to reduce runoff. The less dead zones in the bay, the more fish, oysters and crabs can survive. Read more at Daily Press.

(Photo: Washingtonian/Edwin Remsburg)


Friends of Midland Become Owners of Historic Cemetery

Midland Cemetery is a historically significant African-American cemetery located outside of Steelton, PA.

Established in 1795, the cemetery holds the remains of Buffalo Soldiers, those once enslaved, and members of the surrounding community. The cemetery was neglected for decades until the Friends of Midland were formed 30 years ago and stepped up to care for and restore the historic landmark. This year, the Friends of Midland became the official owners of the cemetery and will continue to care for the area as well as encourage visitors to tour, reflect and enjoy the environment. Chesapeake Conservation Partnership

(Photo: Friends of Midland)


Marsh Creek Land Preserved in PA

Marsh Creek flows through southwestern Adams County, Pennsylvania and south into the Monocacy River. It serves as one of the “county’s major sources of drinking water and also drains farms that have been under cultivation since before the Civil War.”

n 2020, the 159-acre Brown Farm in Highland Township was conserved, bringing the total protected area along Marsh Creek to more than 1,100 acres. Chesapeake Conservation Partnership

(Photo: Sarah Kipp)

And a Big 2020 Bonus for the Chesapeake …


America’s Conservation Enhancement Act

The America’s Conservation Enhancement Act was signed into law in October with three big wins for Chesapeake conservation included:

Chesapeake Bay Program reauthorized: The Act reauthorizes the long-standing EPA supported program coordinating watershed restoration through 2025.

Chesapeake Gateways: The Act reauthorizes the Chesapeake Bay Initiative Act of 1998 and the National Park Service’s Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network through 2025. Through this program, the National Park Service has co-convened and supported the Chesapeake Conservation Partnership since 2009.

Chesapeake WILD: The Act includes the Chesapeake Watershed Investments for Landscape Defense (WILD) Act, which creates a new $15 million grant program for habitat restoration in the watershed.

(Photo: Forsaken Photos/Flickr)
2020 Chesapeake Good News compiled by Sara Ramotnik, with Jonathan Doherty

For more good news from 2020, please check out our Conservation Success Stories website. If you have a conservation success story that you would like to be featured, please provide the details included on our checklist and email your story to [email protected].

They’ll land in the new and growing collection at, a tool we can all use to show collective impact. See the checklist below for easy-to-follow, simple guidelines.