Forests play a critical role in the health of the region and the Chesapeake Bay itself, from northern hardwoods and oak-hickories in New York and Pennsylvania, to the bald cypress and loblolly pine forests down south. Forests clean our air and water, provide habitat for wildlife, support a large economy and give us places for recreation. That’s why Chesapeake Bay Program partners have made protecting forestland a goal in the Watershed Agreement.

In order to meet this commitment, everyone around the region must do their part to protect and grow the region’s forests. One of our partners, the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, annually honors individuals and groups that have made a considerable difference in furthering the conservation and preservation of forest land.

From left, Craig Highfield and Jenny McGarvey of the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, Judy Okay of J&J Consulting, Kris West of Finger Lakes Land Trust, Jed Shilling of Loudoun County, Va., and Sally Claggett of U.S. Forest Service are pictured at the Chesapeake Forest Champion awards held during the annual Chesapeake Watershed Forum in Shepherdstown, W.Va., on Nov. 3, 2017.

At the 12th annual Chesapeake Watershed Forum, the organization celebrated three Chesapeake Forest Champions who work to protect, grow and restore the area’s forests.

  • Most Effective at Engaging the Public: For more than 30 years, the Finger Lakes Land Trust has worked to conserve land in New York. They’ve conserved more than 19,000 acres, half of which lies within the upper reaches of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
  • Greatest On-the-Ground Impact: Judy Okay, of J&J Consulting, has worked for over 25 years to promote, plant and restore riparian forest buffers and tree canopy. She has served on the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Forestry Workgroup and contributed her expertise on forest buffers to the Bay Program’s watershed model. At the state level, Okay coordinated Virginia’s efforts to establish forest buffers. To this day, she works with foresters to create better buffers and engage with landowners.
  • Exemplary Forest Steward: In 1991, when Jed Shilling and his wife, Jane Pratt, bought an abandoned cow pasture in Loudon County, Virginia, they were told that it would take 34 trees to build the frame for their house. So, they decided to plant 34 trees to offset those used for construction. In the 26 years since then, Shilling has worked to reforest more than 31 acres on their land. Now, he has placed a conservation easement on the property to preserve the newly created forest.

These three recipients remind us that we all have a role to play in forest conservation, from taking part in a tree planting to properly managing our forestland.

Did you know that 70 acres of forest are lost in the Chesapeake Bay region every day? Learn more about the state of forests.



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