The lands of the Chesapeake hold the key to the environmental health and economic well-being of our region. The Bay’s land-to-water ratio — 2,800 square meters of land to every one cubic meter of water — is the largest of any coastal body in the world. How we use and protect these lands is the single most profound factor affecting the Bay’s water quality, the 110,000 miles of creeks and rivers flowing into it, the myriad living resources that depend on it, and the quality of life of the 18 million people who live around it.
We believe that land conservation has tangible and critical benefits for the Bay restoration and conservation movement — filtering water, recharging aquifers, sequestering carbon, eating nitrogen, stopping siltation – this is in addition to open space, wildlife habitat and access for recreation. Our research shows that protected forests and wetlands are the hardest working silent partners in the restoration effort that we have and that there is incredible benefit – and immense potential – to be gained from the water quality benefits conservation provides.
In particular, we are focused on supporting federal and state agencies efforts to reach the new goal for conservation of two million acres and 300 access points by 2025. Each Bay state has existing and successful land conservation programs and policies that will contribute to reaching this new goal. For example, during the past decade, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the District of Columbia achieved an average of 125,000 preserved acres per year. If that level of success were to remain constant for the next 16 years from 2010 to 2025, it is feasible to reach the target of protecting two million acres. In addition, land preservation efforts in the Bay watershed portions of Delaware, New York and West Virginia, which were not included in the previous 2010 goal will now be counted under the new federal goal. We are working to maintain existing federal and state land conservation programs and generate private funding to enhance these efforts.
Examples of our land conservation efforts include Werowocomoco, Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park, and Fort Monroe National Monument.
In October 2014, Chesapeake Conservancy hosted the National Conference on Large Landscape Conservation with keynote speaker U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.