New Report Marks Land Conservation Progress in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed

Most Comprehensive Regional Survey of Conservation and Funding in a Decade Shows Conservation Goals Are on Track and Calls for an Ambitious New Goal

Annapolis, MD – Today, the Chesapeake Conservation Partnership (CCP) released Marking Milestones: Progress in Conserving Land in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. The report is the most comprehensive survey of land conservation and funding in the Chesapeake watershed in a decade.

Marking Milestones showcases the tremendous value of the Chesapeake watershed and the remarkable success stories of people working to protect the land that supports our quality of life. Eighteen profiles provide examples, from new wildlife management areas, to newly protected farms and urban parks. The report also recognizes there is still much more to do as the Chesapeake Bay watershed—and the Earth itself—face challenges such as ecosystem decline, the resulting loss of plant and animal species and land conversion due to population growth.

Data from the Chesapeake Bay Program shows that as of the end of 2018, 1,358,456 acres of land throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed have been permanently protected since 2010. This achieves 68 percent of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement goal to protect an additional two million acres by 2025. CCP has five and a half years to conserve the remaining approximately 640,000 acres to achieve this goal. The agreement was signed in 2014 by the governors of Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia, the mayor of the District of Columbia, the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on behalf of the federal government, and the chair of the Chesapeake Bay Commission. 

“America’s great estuary, with all the benefits it provides, must be managed as a system,” said Thomas Lovejoy, known as the “Godfather of Biodiversity.” Lovejoy is a senior fellow at the United Nations Foundation and professor in the department of environmental science and policy at George Mason University. “The pioneering and farsighted Chesapeake Conservation Partnership report spotlights the remarkable achievement of protecting 22% of the land in the watershed. Yet that is not enough. Emerging scientific consensus recognizes the need to protect 30% of the watershed by 2030 and 50% by 2050 – setting a visionary example for the world on how to save the environment and humanity.”

“The six states within the Chesapeake Bay watershed have some of the leading land conservation programs in the nation. Collectively, these states invested more than $300 million in just one recent fiscal year. The federal government also plays an important role, though at a smaller scale. This report showcases the impact of these efforts and highlights the ongoing commitment of landowners to conserve their lands. But it also documents that landowner interest far exceeds available funding.” said Chesapeake Bay Commission Executive Director Ann P. Swanson. “We should address this head on by growing our state and federal financial resources and technical assistance. After all, conserving land is one of the most sure-fire ways we know of to ensure the health of our watershed.”

“Land conservation successes and challenges in the Chesapeake watershed present an international example of how communities can use innovative science, partnerships, and finance to achieve ambitious conservation goals,” said Joel Dunn, president and CEO of the Chesapeake Conservancy and a lead convener of the CCP. “The Marking Milestones report provides very convincing evidence that if we sustain and enhance current public funding and attract new private capital investments, then it will be possible for us to meet our 2025 goal of protecting two million acres and more ambitious goals in the future.”

“We choose to do this important land conservation work because we all depend on land for clean water, for habitat so that our wildlife can thrive, and for sustaining and enhancing our way of life. We choose to do this because we believe that current and future generations deserve the opportunity to enjoy a healthy Chesapeake and a livable planet. The Chesapeake Conservation Partnership has accepted this challenge and will continue to work together to create and expand protected areas, leverage science and take conservation actions around the watershed in concert with our community priorities,” continued Dunn.

The report can be found at http://www.chesapeakeconservation.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/CCP_publication_SD_FD-R-FINAL.pdf.

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The Chesapeake Conservation Partnership is a coalition of more than 50 partner organizations working at every level within the watershed to extend the conservation of culturally and ecologically important landscapes to benefit a vibrant, healthy, and sustainable quality of life for the Chesapeake region. For more information, please visit www.chesapeakeconservation.org