Charter of the Chesapeake Conservation Partnership: Toward the Quality of Life of Communities Across the Chesapeake Bay Watershed


Efforts to conserve and restore important lands and landscapes for multiple benefits in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed commenced in the late nineteenth century and have persisted and grown since at all levels of government, in the nonprofit sector and most recently in the for-profit sector.More recent decades have witnessed the growth of collaborative conservation connecting multiple entities in landscape-scale efforts. Several examples include the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, the growth of heritage areas at the state and national level such as the Journey Through Hallowed Ground, and the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Trail. The development and maintenance of each of these, and the conservation of important lands associated with them, are multi-party endeavors.

Over the past three decades and going forward, the Chesapeake Bay Program (a partnership between the EPA and other federal agencies, the states of Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia and the District of Columbia, the Chesapeake Bay Commission, local governments and other public and private organizations) has overseen a region-wide effort to restore the water quality and living resources of the Bay, its tributary rivers and streams, and its 64,000 square mile watershed.In 2000, the Chesapeake Bay Program formally recognized the importance of permanent land protection to water quality by setting a goal of protecting twenty percent (20%) of the land area of the watershed by 2010. That goal was achieved and as of 2010, approximately 7.8 million acres in the watershed had been permanently protected.

Following the issuance of Executive Order 13508 on the Chesapeake Bay watershed, a group of approximately fifty conservation partners representing federal and state agencies and nonprofits including many national, regional and local land trusts assembled in 2009 and started to formulate strategies to protect another two million acres of land and bring online three hundred new public access sites in the watershed. This assembly became known as the Chesapeake Large Landscape Conservation Partnership; later the name was changed to the Chesapeake Conservation Partnership. In 2014, the leaders of the Chesapeake Bay Program executed a new watershed agreement with various goals to be accomplished by 2025. The agreement endorsed and included the protected land goal above developed by the Chesapeake Conservation Partnership. As of the end of 2016, a little over fifty percent (50%) of the 2 million acre goal had been achieved and, approximately 8.8 million acres or roughly twenty-two percent (22%) of the land mass in the watershed had been permanently protected.

These decades of efforts have made the Chesapeake Bay watershed a national and indeed international model for conservation and restoration.The Chesapeake Conservation Partnership strives to achieve time-limited goals but also works to envision and achieve a long-term sustainable future for the Chesapeake landscape. Thus the purpose of this Charter is to memorialize in one document the vision, mission, and guiding principles heretofore established by the Partnership and to make the Charter widely available to Partnership members and future members. The Charter is a voluntary and legally non-binding statement of the aspirations of the members of the CCP entered into in “good faith and with good intentions.” It is not intended to replace or impinge on any statutory, regulatory or other lawfully prescribed responsibilities, duties or processes attaching to any member of the partnership.

The Charter is a generic “living document” and may be amended from time to time as necessary and appropriate to reflect changing circumstances or the current thinking of its members.


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 millions of us today, as it did our ancestors, and will do for generations who follow.

Reaching this vision requires a long-term landscape conservation agenda for a vibrant, healthy and sustainable Chesapeake region. We 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 as parts of the whole, inextricably linked. Our treasured Chesapeake watershed can only be sustained by continuing our individual and collective efforts to permanently protect and restore: iconic landscapes preserving our history and heritage, critical habitats for wildlife, plants and ecosystem functions, working farms and forests, and open space lands available for public recreation and access to the Bay and its rivers. And in continuing to do so, we enhance the “green infrastructure” essential to the restoration and maintenance of water quality and living resources, as well as protecting hubs and corridors connected in ways to perpetuate the biodiversity of species critical to the continued existence of all life on earth.

We declare and affirm these concerted efforts to be our legacy: not only to honor and respect the first Americans and other ancestors inhabiting these lands and waters but for current and future generations who do or will so inhabit them.


The Chesapeake Conservation Partnership fosters collaborative action among its members and with private landowners to conserve culturally and ecologically important landscapes to benefit people, public health, economies, and nature throughout the six-­state watershed.


“Few words in the lexicon of American geography paint as many pictures as ‘Chesapeake.’ Grand Canyon, Big Sur and Everglades all evoke certain images, but in general they are limited to their spectacular beauty. The pictures painted by Chesapeake include not just images of the Bay’s many waters, but of the great expanse of surrounding lands and the rich tapestry of history, traditions and cultures contained therein.”

Conserving Chesapeake Landscapes—Protecting Our Investments, Securing Future Progress. Chesapeake Bay Commission and Chesapeake Conservancy. December 2010.

In upstate New York, from Otsego Lake at Cooperstown to the rolling hills and farmlands near Corning and Elmira, people treasure a rural landscape at the headwaters of the Susquehanna River. A bit south and west of there, visitors travel to the Pennsylvania Wilds, a land once deforested like so many on the region at the end of the nineteenth century, now home to dense forests again as well as to the largest elk herd in the eastern United States. Still further south lies the internationally known Amish farming country of Lancaster County, where off the main roads one sees and feels part of a different way of life. From Gettysburg on down to South Mountain and Antietam and through the Shenandoah Valley are the fields and small towns where our nation tore itself apart in the 1860s; now hallowed ground. The Appalachians roll off to the west and to the east lies the vast coastal plain surrounding the main stem of the Chesapeake Bay. Along these shores are landscapes once indigenous, then colonial, later maritime, and today urban, suburban, rural and recreational, sitting at the heart of this larger place.

This vast landscape of the Chesapeake watershed is a mosaic of all of the above, drawn together in countless ways: by the great rivers of the Bay: James, Rappahannock, Potomac, Susquehanna, Patuxent, Nanticoke and many more; by layers and layers of history at the crux of the nation’s story; by interconnected waters, marshes, and forest corridors; by a tradition of local and regional farming and forestry still part of the region’s identity; and by multiple federal, state and local trails and greenways criss-crossing and connecting states and communities within them.

The greater Chesapeake landscape–in all of its diversity–has inspired conservation efforts for well over one hundred years. The historic preservation movement was born here in the 1860s at Mount Vernon, President George Washington’s farm estate along the Potomac River in Virginia. Throughout the first half of the twentieth century conservationists worked to protect and restore overwhelmingly deforested lands, forming the basis of what has become now an extensive series of state and national forests and state parks–managed to meet sustainable forestry goals and public recreation.In the 1950s and 1960s, Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas was a vocal advocate for establishing what would become the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park– a significant landscape conservation corridor along the Potomac River, and one that crosses another major Chesapeake landscape, the Appalachian National Scenic Trail.

And in the 1960s and later, leadership at the state level generated innovation that set national examples and stimulated comparable programs across broader regions. Vastly successful land conservation programs were created in the latter half of the twenty-first century in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia. For example, Pennsylvania established one of the first heritage programs and Maryland followed suit. Maryland’s “GreenPrint” approach to targeting important ecological landscapes and Virginia’s natural landscape assessments are examples of cutting-edge large landscape prioritization efforts initiated by the states. States and the District of Columbia also sponsored the conservation and development of trail and greenway systems within their jurisdictions and regionally across the watershed. All of this took place in the context of a rapid expansion of the number of nonprofit land trusts which have protected a wide array of significant lands throughout the region. By the close of the nineteenth century, very little land in the Bay watershed had been permanently protected– just one or two percent if that. However, one hundred plus years of efforts have resulted in a different landscape picture evolving. Both larger landscapes as well as many special places within the watershed have been permanently protected. The result: by the end of 2016, approximately 8.8 million or roughly twenty-two percent (22%) of the land mass is under protection.Across this vast landscape, the mixture of ecological, historical and cultural themes naturally varies. But many important landscapes have multiple benefits that reflect and strengthen each other. These special places enrich the Bay region on several fronts, with the power to transform localities into communities and citizens into stewards.

The health of our diverse communities–from both personal and civic perspectives–is fundamentally linked to a combined sense of place and the ecological health of the landscape.


Despite the gains in the permanent protection of approximately 8.8 million acres of land in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, challenging trends require that we redouble our efforts.

There are approximately 18 million people resident in the watershed now, most in the great arc of metropolitan areas surrounding the Bay from the cities of Hampton Roads to Richmond to Washington, to Baltimore and extending north to Harrisburg. And population projections suggest that there may be another 3 million living in the watershed by 2040. The inexorable impact of development on the landscape will result from this this continued population growth. So the pace of change quickens, even more so as climate change and its effects on land, water, wildlife, forests and farms, and people unfold. Loss of ecosystem functions and biodiversity, land fragmentation, invasive weeds, water quality and availability , the quest for energy, even the survival of stories and cultures all present challenges that extend across jurisdictions, organizations, and landscapes. The imperative of nurturing linkages and connectivity and scaling up partnerships to extend across the region, along rivers and trails, and between towns and countrysides springs from these increasingly complex challenges.

Working at the landscape level is not easy but increasingly in the best interests of the people of this region and their quality of life. We need our knowledge – building to include information at scales relevant to managing our water, adapting to climate change, preserving remaining intact ecosystems and biodiversity, ensuring that our resource lands remain viable, and protecting our wildlife and historic resources. And we need to work across large landscapes to develop structures and processes  that strengthen dialogue, support shared actions, expand and leverage resources, and enhance collaboration. That is what we have started here, and we have a history of success to build upon.

So we view these and other challenges not yet known as opportunities. Accordingly, we set out long-term goals for permanent protection and restoration of additional lands within the Bay watershed.


The Chesapeake Conservation Partnership adopts the following ” shared principles ” to underscore and guide our collaboration in pursuit of preservation and restoration of landscapes within the Bay watershed. These are what we stand for and what we desire to be known for and should be used to hold us accountable.

  • All for One and One for All:All the partners will endeavor to support each partner’s individual priorities, and each partner will work to support the collective priorities of all partners.
  • Public and Private Preservation: We support all forms of land preservation whether initiated by government for public access and enjoyment or by private landowners. In either case, we respect the rights of private land owners and all our actions to preserve lands are only done collaboratively with landowners.
  • Array of  Resources:We pledge our continuing best efforts to not only maintain current resources for preservation and restoration but also to expand the availability of additional funding and revenue measures to assist partners in meeting individual and collective goals. We need an array of measures to allow partners to meet the varying needs, preferences and circumstances of landowners if the partnership is to achieve its long term goals.
  • Diversity:We pledge our concerted efforts to meaningfully engage all communities in our conservation and restoration efforts, especially those who have been forgotten or ignored.
  • Shared Information and Knowledge: We value the benefits of sharing expertise, data, tools and best practices to facilitate collaboration and communication.
  • Action Focused: While the partnership is a network of networks where we learn from each other and collaborate, we need to couple these relationships with initiating actions which achieve concrete results and build success.
  • Green Infrastructure Platform: The permanent preservation of iconic landscapes  and other lands  represent a growing platform of green infrastructure upon which to achieve many other co-benefits including: Bay water quality and living resources restoration, habitat and biodiversity protection, source water protection, food and fiber, recreation of all forms so critical to public health, our heritage and history,  and reconnecting both children and adults with the beauty and benefits of the natural world.
  • Long-Term Sustainability: We ultimately seek to create the conditions necessary to contribute to the long-term environmental, economic and social health of all communities throughout the Bay watershed, both for current and future generations.


A. Description of the Committee:

  1. There is a Chesapeake Conservation Partnership Steering Committee (the Committee). The Committee will consist of current members as of the adoption of this charter.  The Committee’s major responsibility is to provide leadership in the development and  implementation of the Partnership’s annual goals, priorities and strategies.
  2. Members may continue to serve or retire from their service based on their own wishes.  Members may be asked to retire should they leave an organization that is a member of the Partnership.
  3. The Committee will appoint new or replacement members with the purpose of reflecting the diversity and interests of the Partnership members.
  4. Committee should not exceed 20 members, unless otherwise determined to be necessary by the Committee.
  5. The Committee may develop and issue administrative and operating guidelines from time to time provided they are circulated to all partners and published on the Partnership website.

B. Expected Contributions of the Committee:

  1. Bring energy and leadership to the Partnership and the Committee.
  2. Recommend annual priorities to the Partnership and oversee progress in the implementation of these annual work plans. They develop the agendas for annual Partnership meetings.
  3. Appoint a Program Manager and provide guidance and direction to the person serving in this capacity.
  4. Appoint as necessary standing and ad hoc committees to assist in developing or implementing annual priorities and to serve as members of such committees.
  5. Provide or secure resources, either financial or in kind staff expertise, for enabling the achievement of the annual priorities of the Partnership.
  6. Select a chair from time to time and can designate one alternate from the member’s organization to represent the member at Committee meetings.

C. Committee members should attempt to consult with Partnership members within their states and keep them informed from time to time as appropriate on developments and issues important to the Partnership.


The Partnership is a region-wide network of networks providing a forum for connection and collaboration across sectors, states and geographies to advance to the goals, priorities and strategies we establish for large landscape-scale conservation, restoration and related co-benefits.

The Partnership’s strength is in the diversity of its individual organizations that actively engage in creating and executing  a collaborative agenda to continue to achieve the permanent protection of landscapes. Partnership members include a wide range of organizations and agencies working in land and landscape-scale conservation. Members add their voices to advancing this work. There are no specific commitments attendant to membership. Rather the only requirement is to make a “good faith” and legally non-binding commitment to join with other partners in achieving the Partnership’s vision, mission, goals, and annual priorities in light of its guiding principles.