DeShawn Wheeler spots birds through binoculars while on a nature walk with classmates and staff from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Aquarium at Masonville Cove in Baltimore, Md., on May 13, 2015. (Image by Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program)

Home to more than 3,600 species of plants and animals and over 18 million people representing a variety of races and ethnicities, the Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States, providing approximately 8.3 million jobs and an annual income of almost $400 billion across its watershed. This type of unique ecosystem requires a unique partnership to guide and protect the diversity of its lands, people, culture and waters.

The Chesapeake Bay Program may have a physical office in Annapolis, Md. but its powerful presence spreads across the 64,000-square-mile watershed. Underneath its umbrella lies federal agencies, academic institutions, non-profit organizations, state agencies, local governments and businesses that come together to move the needle on Bay restoration.

The voices of all these partners speak for the forests, fields, rivers and people that make up the watershed. Since the first Chesapeake Bay Agreement was signed in 1983, we’ve recognized that our strength lies within our ability to collaborate and convene as partners, working across geographical and political boundaries.

The most recent Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, signed in 2014, was a landmark document that spanned geographic boundaries to bring the Bay’s headwaters states into the partnership for the first time. The agreement contains 10 goals, of which each is linked to a set of outcomes, 31 in all. It recognizes that our environment is an interrelated system and to achieve a healthy Bay, it not only requires clean water, abundant life, conserved lands and access to the water, but a vibrant cultural heritage and a diversity of engaged citizens and stakeholders.

For the first time, the Chesapeake Bay Program committed to further involving diverse stakeholders not currently represented in our leadership, decision-making or restoration efforts. When diversity is considered in the planning and implementation of conservation and restoration work, it is likely that all watershed communities will benefit. Including previously underrepresented communities in our work fosters creativity, drives innovation and ensures all people in the watershed share in the vibrancy of the region.

Our partnership works together not only in pursuit of a healthy Bay, but to restore and enhance our communities, to ensure every person, regardless of age, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious faith or income level, has access to and can enjoy the many bounties of this national treasure.

A diversity of voices is both an asset and a necessity to restoring our Bay and local waterways. To that end, the Chesapeake Bay Program is in the process of finalizing a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice Strategy, which will be released this summer. As partners, we are stronger together in our mission to ensure our work is done in an equitable and just manner. And we stand together to support one another in our commitment to diversity and inclusion. Please read on for statements from the many partners who make up the Chesapeake Bay Program.



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