Land Use

Sprawl development. Copyright Nikki DavisSprawl development. © Nikki Davis

What Happens on the Land Matters to the Bay

A profound relationship exists between the water of the Chesapeake Bay and the 64,000 square miles of land comprising the Bay's watershed. Approximately 100,000 rivers and streams run into the Bay. This tributary system directly connects farms, forests, and developed communities in six states and the District of Columbia with the Chesapeake.

Before European settlers began to arrive some 400 years ago, these lands were largely forested with scattered American Indian settlements. Untouched lands absorbed and filtered rainwater as it ran across the land to the Bay. Today, with about 17 million residents in the watershed (a number that grows by about 120,000–150,000 each year), there are significantly greater stresses and less filtering capacity in the ecosystem we call home.

The Chesapeake Bay's land-to-water ratio is 15:1—larger than any other coastal estuary in the world. When the land suffers from pollution and poor management the Bay's water quality also worsens.

The Bay cannot be saved unless we take better care of the land within its watershed.

CBF firmly believes it is possible to restore the Bay. The continuing loss of natural filters and vital ecosystems makes restoration of the Bay, and the achievement of the goals of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, much more difficult to achieve. Smart, sustainable land use is an essential part of the Bay's recovery.

You may also be interested in:
  • Fighting for Maryland's Anti-Sprawl Law Some counties are working hard to implement Maryland's new anti-sprawl law; others are not, and they are putting our waterways and rural lands at risk.
  • Four Seasons: Where & How Not to Grow If constructed, Four Seasons at Kent Island would be one of the largest major subdivisions in Maryland's Critical Area history.
  • Land Use and Pollution Across the Watershed How is land use changing across the Bay watershed and what does it mean for efforts to save the Bay?
  • The Impact of Sprawl Continued sprawl is no longer a future we can afford for our children or the Bay. All of us have the responsibility to take action and demand better-informed and more sustainable patterns of development.
  • Smarter Ways to Grow The fundamental issues at the heart of growth decisions should be quality of life and the future of our environment.
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