Our Commitment to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice

Arlene Guzman and son Ronald plant a tree diversity page 1171x593

Clean water and a healthy environment are important for all. At CBF we engage with residents from all walks of life to make our neighborhoods and watersheds healthier places to live.

Kevin and Janet Spence

Just as biodiversity is the key to a thriving ecosystem, human diversity is the key to saving the Bay. Success depends on people from widely diverse backgrounds, cultures, ethnicities, identities, and races taking collective action. Clean water, clean air, and a safe environment are rights we all share.

Our watershed is shared by more than 18 million people, and it is more diverse than ever. Why does this matter for CBF? Put simply, we believe everyone has the right to clean water and a saved Bay where they can live, work, and play safely. Unfortunately, not everyone experiences this privilege.

That’s why we’re committed to intentionally increasing diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice in our own organization and throughout the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort.

Intolerance and hate make saving the Bay harder. They destroy the collective spirit and social fabric that are absolutely essential to implement the scale and scope of efforts necessary to reduce pollution and restore the Bay. They also undermine why we are saving the Bay. Our work for clean water is focused on improving the health and well-being of our communities—clean water means little if its benefits are only reserved for a few.

We know it’s not enough to just have empathy for those who experience intolerance, hate, and systemic barriers to their well-being. We’re committed to making the changes we want to see, starting with our own organization.

To increase diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation will:

  • Recruit and retain a staff, board, and membership that reflect the diversity of people living within the Chesapeake Bay region;
  • Strengthen and broaden the diversity of our partnerships;
  • Celebrate and value the diversity of staff; and
  • Fight to ensure that everyone has equal access to clean water, clean air, and a safe environment.

What Do We Mean When We Say Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice (DEIJ)?

Diversity: The vast array of different races, ethnicities, genders, ages, cultures, perspectives, incomes, and countless other characteristics that make the more than 18 million people who live in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed unique as communities and individuals.

Equity: Recognizing that these differences shape how we experience the world and the watershed, including systemic advantages or barriers in accessing resources and opportunities—for example, access to clean water and air, green spaces, environmental education, careers in science and environmental organizations, and participation in public decision-making processes, to name a few—and intentionally making resources and opportunities available to everyone according to their need so each person has a fair chance to thrive.

Inclusion: Ensuring a sense of belonging, value, safety, and respect for all. This means actively and meaningfully engaging, celebrating, and amplifying the voices, perspectives, and needs of those who, due to their identities, have been systemically excluded from and underrepresented in the decision-making processes, institutions, and civic movements affecting the environmental and social well-being of their communities.

Justice: Working actively to stop environmental injustices that cause disproportionate pollution and harm to the watershed’s communities of color and those that are economically under-resourced, dismantle unfair systems, and support communities to lead and participate in the decision-making processes that affect their environmental and social well-being.

Racism Hurts the Bay

Blog Post June 5, 2020
Racism makes saving the Bay harder. It destroys the collective spirit and social fabric that is absolutely essential to implement the scale and scope of efforts necessary to reduce pollution and restore the Bay. More importantly, racism undermines why we are saving the Bay. Clean water improves the health and wellbeing of our communities. Racism destroys our communities. Clean water means little when its benefits are only reserved for a few.

We know it’s not enough to just have empathy for those who experience racism and live with its legacy every day. In our own organization, we have made commitments to make the changes we want to see. We are taking steps, but we have a long way to go.
Read the full blog post

Environmental Justice

CBF is engaged in a multitude of efforts to ensure that communities of people of color or lower income residents aren't disproportionately harmed by pollution and other environmental threats.
Find out more

CBF Environmental Justice Staff Attorney Taylor Lilley was featured in an April 2023 Washington Informer article "Environmentalism Has Many Faces." From the article:

On supporting community voices: “A lot of the work that we’ve done can be traced back to just people paying attention and refusing to be shut out of spaces—people supporting other community members, people not ignoring each other. Not everything has to be legal intervention. Sometimes support, advocacy and paying attention is just as important as being able to actually file a comment letter.”

Forty Years of Environmental Justice: Where is the Justice?

In May 2022, an article by CBF Vice President of Litigation Jon Mueller and Environmental Justice Staff Attorney Taylor Lilley was published in the Public Interest Law Review. "Forty Years of Environmental Justice: Where is the Justice?" examines the history of environmental justice (or EJ) primarily through the lens of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the White House, and evaluates the progress made in terms of regulations and permitting. It also examines recent administrative and judicial decisions addressing EJ claims and, in conclusion, provides recommendations for ways in which EJ issues can be better presented and addressed. Read the article

Agricultural Equity

Decades of systemic barriers have blocked pathways to land ownership, capital, assistance, and other programs for immigrant, refugee, tribal, and BIPOC communities. CBF recognizes the need for agricultural equity and has made it an important aspect of our efforts to work with local farmers. In conjunction with our on-the-ground efforts, CBF has also developed resource guides for beginning farmers in Pennsylvania and Maryland for finding assistance with loans, marketing, business development, conservation funding, equipment, and other needs.

Education Equity

Many students miss out on the benefits of nature because they lack access to outdoor learning experiences. Environmental education cannot be limited to textbooks and lessons within the walls of the classroom. That’s why CBF is committed to providing education programs that get students outside, that support teachers in using the environment as a context for learning, and that empower school leaders to embed environmental education into their curriculum. CBF partners with public and independent school systems across the Chesapeake Bay watershed in rural, suburban, and urban communities ensuring that our programming is accessible to all. Through equitable pricing, thoughtful recruiting efforts, and partnership building, CBF ensures our programming is accessible to under-resourced communities.

DEIJ In Action

Following are stories about how we are putting our beliefs into action in our local communities.

  • A river cuts through a forest in York County, Pennsylvania.

    For Environmental Justice, Fully Engage Communities and Analyze Cumulative Effects of Rules, CBF Tells EPA

    January 18, 2024

    The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) filed comments to the EPA stressing the importance of involving environmental justice communities early in the rulemaking process and considering the cumulative impact of climate change and multiple sources of pollution.

  • Nikki Bass, Nansemond Tribal Council Member, in traditional dress.

    Nansemond Indian Nation: Restoring Connections Through Oysters

    November 10, 2023

    After centuries of displacement, the Nansemond Indian Nation is rebuilding connections to their ancestral waterway, raising oysters for restoration work and volunteering to build living shorelines.

  • Four people finish planting a tree next to a road.

    A Place for People

    November 6, 2023

    Centering people in the conservation movement means taking into account the environmental, social, and economic intersections of our work and how we create solutions that meet all people’s needs.

  • Creek running through wetlands with industrial factories in the background

    Pipeline Plan and Petersburg Compressor Station Raise Pollution, Environmental Justice Concerns

    June 6, 2023

    The proposed expansion of the Petersburg Compressor Station would increase emissions of many pollutants that threaten public health, including increasing nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide to unhealthy levels higher than air quality standards. People in environmental justice communities live as close as 1,200 feet from the compressor station site. The census tract next to the project site is in the 89th percentile for levels of people suffering from asthma and 69th percentile for low-income population.

  • A river cuts through a forest in York County, Pennsylvania.

    Enhancing the Environmental Justice Policy in Pennsylvania

    April 6, 2022

    The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) released a draft update of its Environmental Justice Policy. Among other things, the policy addresses how DEP will consider the impacts of its decisions on people living in lower income and BIPOC communities, the permit review process, how EJ can be included in the state's climate action plan, and more.

  • CBF Environmental Justice Staff Attorney Taylor Lilley.

    Environmental Justice, More Than Just A Check Mark

    October 1, 2021

    "Environmental justice is not merely a box to be checked," wrote Judge Stephanie Thacker in her opinion striking down a permit for a proposed natural gas compressor station in the historic, predominantly African American community of Union Hill in Buckingham County, Virginia.

  • Harriet Tubman.

    Freeish Since 1865

    June 14, 2021

    Juneteenth is a reminder that we must keep digging, deeper and deeper, until we have uprooted anti-Black racism in America and beyond.

  • Three tree-planting volunteers pose with their tools

    Greening Southside Richmond

    April 9, 2021

    In formerly redlined neighborhoods, community groups and CBF are planting trees at sites suffering from extreme heat linked to racially-motivated housing discrimination that occurred decades ago.

  • A Residential Security map of Richmond is colored green, blue, yellow, and red.

    Formerly Redlined Areas of Richmond Are Going Green

    September 15, 2020

    Excessive heat, discriminative housing practices, and trees are three things that may not immediately seem connected, but in Richmond, Virginia, their connection is coming to light.

  • Nikki Bass, Nansemond Tribal Council Member, in traditional dress.

    The Nansemond Indian Nation Joins the Chesapeake Oyster Alliance

    August 19, 2020

    Despite being pushed from their land, the Nansemond people preserved their identity and are helping to bring back the Bay's keystone species.

  • CBF's Jay Ford starts the webinar

    Clean Water is a Right: Equity and Environmental Justice Around the Bay

    August 11, 2020

    In this webinar, CBF staff and a panel of elected leaders and community advocates offer their perspectives on recent environmental justice victories around the Bay watershed. They also discuss where this critical conversation needs to go in the coming years.

  • Environmental Justice in Rural Virginia

    July 17, 2020

    Hear from the people of Charles City County, Virginia, a rural community east of Richmond being targeted for two large new natural gas plants and a pipeline expansion.

  • Dirty Air

    July 16, 2020

    Clean air should be a top priority for EPA. But the agency is ignoring the science yet again, putting human health and water quality at risk by refusing to strengthen standards for particulate matter pollution.

  • New Courses Aim to Help Teachers Inspire Environmental, Social Justice Advocacy in Students

    July 15, 2020

    As part of our Chesapeake Classrooms professional learning program, we're offering a timely new course for teachers focused on the intersection of two of the most important issues we face today—protecting the environment and advancing social justice.

  • Trump Administration’s New Rules Subvert Goals of Environmental Review Law

    July 15, 2020

    CBF denounces the Trump administration for subverting the goals of the National Environmental Policy Act.

  • In a Win for the Bay, Atlantic Coast Pipeline Cancelled

    July 13, 2020

    In a landmark victory for the environment and people across the watershed, earlier this month Dominion Energy and Duke Energy announced they are cancelling the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project

  • rafiyqa muhammad rain garden

    Environmental Justice Projects Take Hold

    June 30, 2020

    With CBF's help, residents in low-income sections of three southcentral Pennsylvania cities continued to make the most of opportunities to improve local water quality, reduce flooding, and beautify their neighborhoods.

  • Approval of Groundwater Withdrawal Permit Raises Concerns about Drinking Water

    June 29, 2020

    The Virginia State Water Control Board approved a groundwater withdrawal permit for the proposed Chickahominy Power Station in Charles City County, Virginia.

  • CBF and Partners Return to Court to Protect Successful Limits on Toxic Emissions From Power Plants

    June 19, 2020

    CBF announces its participation in litigation challenging the Trump administration’s unwarranted reversal of the legal foundation for limiting emissions of mercury and other toxic air pollutants from fossil fuel-fired power plants.

  • CBF staff in t-shirts bearing the CBF logo and Pride rainbow walk in the parade.

    CBF has Pride

    June 1, 2020

    CBF is honored to be a sponsor of Annapolis Pride since its inception. Join us in the 2019 Pride parade.

  • CBF Opposes EPA’s Dangerous Reversal on Mercury and Air Toxics Rule

    April 16, 2020

    EPA’s finding that it is no longer “appropriate and necessary” to limit toxic air emissions from coal- and oiled-fired power plants is irresponsible and carries dangerous implications not only for the Chesapeake Bay, but for future regulation of all hazardous pollutants.

  • Environmental Court Win Comes at Pivotal TIme in Virginia

    January 15, 2020

    A major court win last week for the people of Union Hill could help move the needle in the right direction for Virginia to meaningfully apply environmental justice.

  • Dozens of residents wave and display their oyster gardening cages on a pier in Baltimore.

    The Great Baltimore Oyster Partnership

    The Partnership was created to connect the Baltimore business community and residents to their Harbor in ways that engage and inspire stewardship for the local waterway, wildlife and Chesapeake Bay restoration. There are many barriers associated with accessibility to the water; including transportation, awareness and overall acceptance. By connecting residents to their Harbor through hands on restoration connections are made to what was previously perceived as a lifeless environment.

  • A man and woman laugh while planting a tree.

    Expanding Urban Tree Canopy and Green Infrastructure

    CBF's Hopewell Restoration Project is adding important green infrastructure practices to Hopewell's environs to reduce flooding and polluted runoff, and create additional green space for its more than 23,000 diverse residents.

  • Latina students empty a bushel of oyster shells containing baby spat over the side of a CBF education vessel.

    Latina STEM Participants Get Introduced to the Chesapeake Bay

    August 9, 2019

    Two students in the Pathways to Science program, twins Keyli and Jalyn Jimenez Garcia, share their CBF summer education experience.

  • Black youngsters dash across the sandy beach of CBF's Brock Environmental Center.

    Summertime Learning, Brock Center Style

    August 7, 2019

    Students from diverse socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds spent summer days at CBF's Brock Environmental Center in Virginia Beach. The students were participants in An Achievable Dream, Pathways to Science, and The Virginia Wesleyan Environmental Institute’s Summer Scholars programs.

  • A couple dances in the street while others clap and gather infront of a music stage.

    Speaking the Bay's Language

    July 11, 2019

    Dr. Lorelly Solano moved to Maryland from Costa Rica in 2008 to study green infrastructure in graduate school. Now she's sharing her passion for the Bay and the environment with a new generation of immigrants and Spanish-speaking citizens on the Eastern Shore.

  • CBF Educator Rick Mittler rigs rods on a fishing trip with Richmond, Virginia Hispanic leaders.

    Heaven on Herring Creek

    May 29, 2019

    Out on the water, it seems like a magic moment could always lie just around the bend. Kenny Fletcher shares his day fishing with Richmond Hispanic leaders on Virginia's Herring Creek.

  • Environmental Justice

    May 10, 2017

    In this episode, CBF President Will Baker and Litigation Fellow Alayna Chuney discuss the importance of a healthy environment for all.

  • Three volunteers hold boxes of fresh green beans and greens.

    From the Ground Up

    For more than 40 years, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Clagett Farm has provided free, fresh produce to people living in poverty and near-poverty in Washington, D.C. The project, a collaboration with Capital Area Food Bank, blends local, sustainable organic agriculture with social justice. CBF calls the program, "From the Ground Up."

The Bay Needs You

The State of the Bay Report makes it clear that the Bay needs our support now more than ever. Your donation helps the Chesapeake Bay Foundation maintain our momentum toward a restored Bay, rivers, and streams for today and generations to come.

Donate Today


Do you enjoy working with others to help clean the Chesapeake Bay? Do you have a few hours to spare? Whether growing oysters, planting trees, or advocating for a clean Bay, there are plenty of ways you can contribute.

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