Land conservation is a critical part of restoring the Chesapeake Bay, and governments need to maintain their current pace of conserving land to achieve new land preservation goals, according to a new report issued by the Chesapeake Bay Commission and the Chesapeake Conservancy.
The report, Conserving Chesapeake Landscapes: Protecting Our Investments; Securing Future Progress, recommends six actions to accelerate progress conserving land throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
The Chesapeake Bay’s land-to-water ratio of 14:1 is the largest of any coastal water body in the world. This means that what we do on the land has a significant effect on the health of the Bay.
“Land conservation is vital to the Bay’s and the region’s health,” said Maryland Senator Thomas McLain "Mac" Middleton, chair of the tri-state Chesapeake Bay Commission. “What happens on the land profoundly influences water quality.”
Chesapeake Bay Program partners have surpassed their original Chesapeake 2000 goal of permanently preserving 20 percent of the watershed’s land. New goals have been set to conserve two million acres of land and create 300 public access points. Virginia has set a separate goal to protect 400,000 acres of land by 2014.
To achieve these new goals, the government and private sector need to maintain the pace of conservation set during the past decade, when Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia protected 1.24 million acres of land, according to the report.
The report states that there is a large and untapped potential for conserved lands to contribute to pollution limits established under the Chesapeake Bay TMDL. For example, if two million acres are conserved in targeted areas and conservation practices are established on those acres, several million fewer pounds of nitrogen could reach the Bay each year.
To achieve the greatest benefit for the Bay’s health, the report recommends that land conservation efforts follow six main principles:
- Focus on “working lands”: farms and forests
- Maximize water quality benefits
- Enhance public access
- Strengthen state, local and non-profit land conservation programs
- Expand federal land conservation investments
- Support the emerging role of the private sector in ecosystem markets
Visit the Chesapeake Bay Commission’s website for more information about the land conservation report.