The Chesapeake Bay is a local and national treasure on par with Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon. But unlike those places, the bay and its surrounding watershed are home to more than 17 million people.
While the bay’s health has declined over the last century, we still depend on it as the natural engine that powers our region’s economy and ecology.
Commercial seafood catches of 500 million pounds every year provide jobs and help feed the nation. The bay also serves as a nursery for ocean life and provides critical stopover habitat for migratory birds. Two endangered species, the shortnose sturgeon and Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle, ply its waters.
Our Chesapeake Bay supports more than 2,700 plants and animals in all, including 173 shellfish species and 348 fishes. Many fishes, including rockfish (striped bass), are born in the bay and migrate into the Atlantic Ocean before gracing your dinner table.
Hundreds of miles of streams and rivers flow from New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, the District of Columbia and Virginia to feed into the bay.
Water quality in these watershed streams and in the bay itself has suffered from too much of a good thing. Too many nutrients, especially nitrogen, wash into streams from agricultural lands.
And now, urban stormwater runoff has emerged as a growing problem — in fact, the only source of bay pollution that remains on the rise.
The health of our Chesapeake Bay depends on sustaining and improving clean water. The Nature Conservancy’s focus reflects our core expertise: protecting and restoring habitat such as forests, wetlands, and oyster reefs that serve as natural filters.
To date, the six Conservancy chapters working together through our Chesapeake Bay Program have conserved more than 250,000 acres of these habitats throughout the watershed.
Today, we work toward more strategic and accelerated public-private investments in natural habitats to advance three top goals:
- Reduce pollution from agricultural lands and cities, targeting the largest sources in critical locations.
- Protect and restore bay habitats that filter water. In 2015 we completed the largest oyster-restoration project on the planet in Maryland’s Harris Creek.
- Protect forests and healthy streams feeding clean water into the bay. With 3 million new watershed residents projected by 2030, we’re helping forge new policies to prevent deforestation and keep clean water affordable.
Working in Partnership
To achieve our goals, we foster partnerships based on innovative science and impact-investment opportunities.
Our forestry conservation programs encourage sustainable timber management in places like Dragon Run in Virginia and Pennsylvania’s West Branch Wilderness. Working in concert with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in Pennsylvania on the Susquehanna as well as on the Delmarva Peninsula’s Nanticoke River, we’re working with the local agricultural community to encourage environmentally friendly farming methods and preserve wooded river banks and streams to protect water quality.
We work not only to protect and restore critical habitat, but also to document water-quality improvements and other natural benefits that, in turn, help us influence stronger policies.