The American Conservation and Stewardship Atlas

Written by: Jamal Childs and Ben Alexandro

In the realm of conservation, information is power. Two atlases, the American Conservation and Stewardship Atlas on and the Chesapeake Conservation Atlas, have emerged as valuable tools in the effort to protect our lands and waters. Let’s take a closer look at what these atlases offer to conservation enthusiasts.

American Conservation and Stewardship Atlas:

On April 19th, 2024, the Biden-Harris Administration announced the long-awaited launch of their American Conservation and Stewardship Atlas on a new website,, and renewed their commitment to protect 30% of America’s land and waters by the year 2030 in the American the Beautiful Initiative. is a centralized hub for conservation information and resources across the United States. It informs and inspires individuals, land managers, policymakers, and communities to take action in their own backyards. It provides users with a wealth of tools and data to support land and water conservation projects nationwide. This hub provides ways to get involved, including job postings, volunteer opportunities, and financial assistance. It also provides examples of conservation ranging from corridors to urban areas to tribally led conservation. The hub also includes an open data catalog to enable users to access all the data used in the atlas.

The Atlas on is an interactive map with a wide-reaching scope encompassing biodiversity, climate change impacts and equity. There are layers covering everything from habitats of concern and wildlife corridors to nature-deprived communities and a social vulnerability index that users can view, overlay, and download. clearly shows that the Biden administration has made impressive conservation progress nationwide, and this atlas captures some of the recent largest landscapes protected as well as newly protected marine areas. However, despite the atlas’s broad reach, some limitations are apparent in this first version. does not yet have a complete inventory of protected land layers. While the Biden administration announced that it reached the goal of protecting 30% of America’s waters already, and the administration’s atlas points to more than 41 million acres of land and water conserved in just three years, it does not give an actual percentage or a baseline number of how many acres of land area is currently conserved. Many acres of conserved lands, especially conserved land on private property and land protected through state and local programs, are not yet shown on this first version of the American Conservation and Stewardship Atlas. states, “Although additional data are needed to develop a more precise estimate through the preliminary framework, CEQ projects that U.S. protection, conservation, and restoration efforts will need to stay at or above 2021-2023 levels of expansion to achieve the 30 percent goal for lands by 2030 and to expand geographic and biological representation to ensure ecosystem health and resilience.” This shows that there may be opportunities to continue to add additional information and conservation and examples in future iterations. While it may not present a complete picture of all conservation everywhere in America, is positioned to assist the Biden administration in tracking projects and advancing transparency in federal conservation initiatives.

Chesapeake Conservation Atlas:

Chesapeake Conservation Partnership has been working on assessments and priority maps for at least nine years. The Chesapeake Conservation Atlas is a more regionally focused tool that has been available and continually evolving for several years, honing in on the conservation of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The Protected Lands Indicator data included in the Chesapeake Conservation Atlas and the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Chesapeake Progress shows millions of acres worth of conservation that could be added to other national-level tools. Thanks to the hard work of data scientists across the Chesapeake watershed, the newest Protected Lands Indicator data included in the Chesapeake Conservation Atlas and the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Chesapeake Progress shows a more complete and inclusive picture of the smaller-scale conservation of individual parcels across the landscape, especially in terms of showing the great contributions of private conservation efforts on private lands.

The Chesapeake Conservation Partnership’s new dashboard displays progress toward 30×30 in our watershed more directly, while the Chesapeake Bay Program’s related Protected Lands Viewer provides a more thorough breakdown of protected land by jurisdiction in the watershed. Developed and maintained by the Chesapeake Conservation Partnership, the Chesapeake Conservation Atlas serves as a comprehensive guide to conservation planning in the region. It identifies highly valued lands for conservation, such as farms, forests, habitats and heritage sites, providing stakeholders with detailed information to inform decision-making processes. With its emphasis on the specific needs of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, this atlas serves as a vital resource for local conservation efforts.

Examples of protected areas along the Appalachian Trail corridor in northern Virginia as shown on the American Conservation and Stewardship Atlas
Protected parcels along the same Appalachian trial corridor in northern Virginia as shown on the Chesapeake Conservation Atlas.

In terms of functionality, both atlases offer interactive features to engage users. provides tools for exploring conservation efforts, outdoor recreation opportunities, volunteer opportunities and even financial assistance options. Meanwhile, the Chesapeake Conservation Atlas allows users to visualize, overlay and measure datasets, as well as explore detailed compositions of information through story maps.

The launch of and the American Conservation and Stewardship Atlas contributes to a new, exciting era for collaborative conservation. As the Biden Administration looks for ways to include more examples of conservation across the nation, the Chesapeake Bay watershed, with more than 9 million acres protected, offers a treasure trove of conservation and robust datasets of conserved areas.

By incorporating data and layers from the Chesapeake Conservation Atlas and the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Chesapeake Progress, future updates and iterations of could use the progress in the Chesapeake Watershed to inspire conservation across the nation. Certainly, the collaborative work and achievement in conservation in the Chesapeake watershed can be hailed as an example of success, and the plethora of tools in our region can assist with expanding what the national atlas offers.

Image credit:

  1. Ben Alexandro
  2. Ben Alexandro
  3. Alice Kitterman/ U.S. National Science Foundation

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: