Since the Chesapeake Bay Program’s foundation in 1983, its partners have used written agreements to guide the restoration of the nation’s largest estuary and its watershed. Setting goals and tracking progress holds partners accountable for their work, while developing new agreements over time ensures our goals are aligned with the best available science to attain restoration success.
In 2009, it became clear that we needed a new agreement that would accelerate the pace of restoration and align federal directives with state and local goals to create a healthy Bay. Bay Program partners gathered input from residents, stakeholders, academic institutions, local governments and more to draft an inclusive, goal-oriented document that would address current and emerging environmental concerns.
On June 16, 2014, the Chesapeake Executive Council signed the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement (amended January 24, 2020). Signatories include representatives from the entire watershed, committing for the first time the Bay’s headwater states to full partnership in the Bay Program. This plan for collaboration across the Bay’s political boundaries establishes goals and outcomes for the restoration of the Bay, its tributaries and the lands that surround them.
The agreement named adaptive management as a core principle. Adaptive management is a process that supports making decisions in the face of uncertainty, reducing uncertainty over time and responding to changes. The Chesapeake Bay Program applies this process through the Strategy Review System, the documentation for which can be found on ChesapeakeDecisions.
Chesapeake Bay Program partners envision an environmentally and economically sustainable Chesapeake Bay watershed with clean water, abundant life, conserved lands and access to the water, a vibrant cultural heritage, and a diversity of engaged citizens and stakeholders.
This agreement contains 10 goals that will advance the restoration and protection of the Bay watershed. Each goal is linked to a set of outcomes, or time-bound and measurable targets that will directly contribute to its achievement.
These goals are interrelated: improvements in water quality can mean healthier fish and shellfish; the conservation of land can mean more habitat for wildlife; and a boost in environmental literacy can mean a rise in stewards of the Bay’s resources. Our environment is a system, and these goals will support public health and the health of the watershed as a whole.
Poor water quality and harvest pressure challenge the health of species across the region, while our increasing need for land and resources has fragmented and degraded the habitats they depend on. Supporting sustainable fish and shellfish populations and restoring habitat for native and migratory species will support a strong economy and a balanced ecosystem.
Excess nutrients, sediment and toxic contaminants degrade our waterways, harm fish and wildlife and pose risks to human health. Reducing these pollutants is critical to creating safe, healthy waters for animals and people alike.
Storms, floods and sea level rise will have big impacts across the watershed. Monitoring, assessing and adapting to these changing environmental conditions will help our living resources, habitats, public infrastructure and communities withstand the adverse effects of climate change.
Changes in land use and development can impair water quality, degrade habitats and alter culturally significant landscapes. Conserving lands with ecological, historical and community value is integral to maintaining a healthy ecosystem and vibrant culture.
The long-term success of the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort depends on the work of individuals and communities living throughout the watershed. Connecting with current environmental stewards and encouraging future local leaders helps build the network that will keep our work moving forward.
Following the adoption of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, our Goal Implementation Teams will spend one year developing management strategies for the outcomes that support the Agreement's goals. These strategies will explain how we will accomplish the outcomes and how we will monitor, assess and report progress. The adoption of these strategies may vary by signatory, and the implementation will take place in two-year periods.
To track the progress of one or more management strategies, visit our Management Strategies Dashboard.