Access to the water, parks, green space, healthy foods, and more are all related to land conservation. And all among the many components of public health. (Photos (clockwise from top left): MDDNR; Google Maps; Doherty)

The connections between land conservation and public health have never been more clear. We’ve explored aspects of this in multiple Lightning Updates since March, including most recently in Red-line Heat and Redressing Land Wrongs

Back in 2016, the Chesapeake Conservation Partnership adopted five long-term land conservation goal statements to provide a set of watershed-wide, inclusive, cumulative, and mappable aims that further inform and support land conservation. These goals extend beyond time-based milestones set in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement and articulated by the Partnership. They are framed and mapped around five topics: Farms, Forests, Habitat, Heritage, and Human Health. Today’s update focuses on the last of these. 

As originally adopted, the Human Health goal focuses on public access to parks and the water as fundamental to health. Partnership discussions at annual meetings and within the Partnership’s Steering Committee have consistently recognized that the other four land conservation goals (Farms, Forests, Habitat, and Heritage) also contribute directly and indirectly to human health. However, discussion participants also identified a need for expanding the health goal itself to address components not otherwise addressed

The New Proposed DRAFT Public Health Goal 

In the context of a pandemic and a national reckoning with racial inequities, a work group of members tasked by the Steering Committee met several times to propose a new draft goal. 

We want your feedback, thoughts, and suggestions on this new draft. Here is the text below.

Read through it and then click on the link beneath it to give us your reactions. 

Public Health: Protect, conserve, and enhance lands that support equitable public health for all, with an urgent focus on under-served communities, both urban and rural: 

  • safeguard land protecting drinking water, clean air, and cooling environments;
  • support access to locally grown and raised food;
  • provide neighborhood green spaces (interconnected where feasible) with a diversity of uses to enhance overall public physical, mental, and spiritual health;
  • ensure all people have access to natural areas, parks, trails and/or public green spaces within a ten minute walk; and
  • provide public access sites along Chesapeake Bay waterways within 30 minutes for all. 

The Rationale: Nature’s role in protecting our air and water is well known but not always acted upon equitably. Research continues to accumulate on the health benefits of being in and near nature. We need to accelerate protection of the lands and waters that will facilitate and sustain a higher quality of life, equitably, and especially in under-served communities. We need safe places in our communities to walk, run, sit, play, read, rejuvenate, and reconnect. We need places that integrate trees everywhere to cool and clean our air, protect our drinking water, and keep us healthy. We need interconnected networks of trails, pocket parks, big parks, and natural areas. We need access to the water, to put in a boat or a canoe, to swim, to fish, to camp nearby. We need these places as a daily part of our lives — so they can make us active, healthy, and connected, as individuals and communities. 

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.
To share a success story, news, or important event, send your information to:

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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: