Brent Leggs, Executive Director of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund set an inspirational tone for the Chesapeake Conservation Partnership’s 10th Annual Meeting, challenging the group to ramp up efforts to engage with communities of color and help conserve the places important to them.

Brent Leggs, Executive Director, African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, NTHP

Over sixty-five members of the Chesapeake Conservation Partnership gathered this week for the Partnership’s tenth Annual Meeting at the National Conservation Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. A decade after first coming together to explore actions for advancing land conservation and public access in the 64,000 square mile Chesapeake Bay watershed, the group reflected on major successes and planned for the decade ahead.

Since 2009, the Partnership has: formed short and long term conservation goals (like protecting an additional 2 million acres by 2025, now already 68% achieved); convened partners to develop watershed-wide mapping and analysis to guide conservation; brought tens of millions of dollars of new funding to land protection and supported hundreds of millions of dollars in state programs; developed policy options for advancing conservation and strategies and a toolkit for communicating the value of land protection; and more. Read about more successes and the status of Partnership goals in our recent, major report Marking Milestones

But, this year’s Annual Meeting focused primarily on the future, and the ambitious call for conserving 30% of the watershed by 2030 outlined in Marking Milestones. Strategy discussions focused around two major opportunities and challenges for the next decade of our work: engaging a new, intentionally inclusive generation of conservationists; and addressing the climate crisis, particularly through how land conservation might be fueled through carbon sequestration markets. 

Mark Conway, Executive Director, Baltimore Tree Trust

The Partnership brought in a series of brilliant and compelling speakers to stimulate, motivate and challenge the group in its discussions: 

Brent Leggs outlined the urgency of preserving places important to African Americans, too long ignored, and gently, but clearly, prodded members to engage with these communities.

Mark Conway detailed the profound legacy of redlining, the issues impacting low income neighborhoods in Baltimore and efforts to improve the quality of life in those communities. 

Maite Arce reflected on the myths and truths surrounding the Hispanic and Latinx communities in the nation and shared the urgency of engaging with these communities for the future of conservation. 

Peter Stein detailed the new world of remarkable land and forest conservation work being carried out through private sector investment in the regulatory and voluntary carbon markets. 

These presentations were buttressed by a series of recent partner success stories related to working with under-served communities and addressing climate change — protecting a historic African American cemetery; conserving land for the Chickahominy Tribe; providing bilingual interpreters at Sandy Point State Park; protecting land along the Kittatinny Ridge; the challenges of sea level rise on the Eastern Shore; new opportunities for working on resiliency projects with the Department of Defense’s REPI program; and conserving farmland owned for generations by an African American farming family. 

Partners used all of this information as the stimulus for discussions to improve the Partnership’s strategic plan and identify top priorities for the coming years. We’ll be encapsulating all of this into a revised plan in the coming weeks. Stay tuned for more in the future! 

Maite Arce, President & CEO, Hispanic Access Foundation 

Peter Stein, Managing Director, Lyme Timber Company

John Muir even made an appearance to talk about conservation of the American forest, and greeted our own John Reynolds.

Lightning Update is a regular communication of the Chesapeake Conservation Partnership. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect positions of the Partnership or member organizations.
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Support for the Chesapeake Conservation Partnership is provided by:
National Park Service Chesapeake
EPA Chesapeake Bay Program
USDA Forest Service
Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources
Maryland Department of Natural Resources
Virginia Outdoors Foundation
US Fish & Wildlife Service
Chesapeake Conservancy

The Chesapeake Conservation Partnership is co-convened by: