In the four centuries since the explorations of Captain John Smith, the Chesapeake Bay has lost half of its forested shoreline, more than half its wetlands, nearly 80 percent of its underwater grasses, and more than 98 percent of its oysters. Across the watershed, approximately 1.7 million acres of once-untouched land were developed by 1950. Development accelerated dramatically between 1950 and 1980, with an additional 2.7 million acres built on or paved over. Development has continued across Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia at a rate between 30,000 to 40,000 acres per year.
The human pressure of these changes has imposed heavy negative impacts on the health and resilience of the Bay. Although we will never return to the level of abundance experienced prior to colonization and development, CBF is fighting to return this fragile ecosystem to balance.
Restoring Healthy Soils and Clean Water
CBF works one-on-one with farmers to implement regenerative agriculture practices that keep valuable nutrients and soil on the land—rather than in the water. These practices, which include rotational grazing, planting cover crops, and planting streamside buffers, also help improve farms' resilience to climate change and support vibrant agricultural economies that allow thousands of small farms across the watershed to survive and thrive. Learn how regenerative agriculture practices are helping local farmers succeed.
Another form of restoration that protects water quality is the living shoreline. CBF works with landowners to create living shorelines along river and Bay waterfront using native wetland plants and grasses. This not only prevents erosion, it captures sediment, restores habitat, and filters pollution.
Planting Trees on Farms, Along Streams, and in Urban Communities
Trees provide countless environmental, health, and economic benefits. At a time when the Chesapeake Bay watershed is struggling to meet water quality goals, planting trees remains one of the most successful and cost-effective solutions to reducing polluted runoff and cleaning local waterways. Through our tree planting initiatives, CBF staff and volunteers work directly with landowners and community groups to plant trees along rivers, streams, and shorelines, as well as in urban neighborhoods.
Forested stream buffers cool streams— important for sensitive fish and other aquatic species—improve water quality, stabilize stream banks agains erosion, and provide critical habitat for wildlife. Planting trees also reduces the effects of climate change.
Restoring Native Oysters
Native oysters filter pollutants out of the Bay and their reefs provide crucial habitat for fish, crabs, and other Bay species. To reverse centuries of pollution, overharvesting, and disease that left oyster populations at a fraction of their historic levels, CBF restoration teams, volunteers, and partners raise juvenile oysters and work from the bottom up to rebuild reef habitat in targeted restoration areas. Learn more about our oyster restoration work in Maryland and Virginia.
From Our Blog
August 23, 2023
A Virginia project doubles as a testing ground for the latest innovations in oyster restoration technology.
January 9, 2023
Former CBF student leader and current Baltimore educator Jess Jenkins describes what brought her back to the Bay.
November 4, 2022
As EPA plans cleanup, pollution sparks concern in a Portsmouth community. High tides and heavy rains wash floodwaters over the contaminated site in low-lying Hampton Roads, polluting waterways, threatening wildlife, and creating a public health risk.
October 27, 2022
For the Islamic Society of Baltimore's Green Team, caring for nature is caring for each other.
October 21, 2022
Our monthly roundup of engaging and educational content. This month we look at a legislation model to advance clean water protections and climate action, the federal Clean Water Act, and a pivotal Supreme Court case that could jeopardize wetlands.
September 20, 2022
Nancy Kelly has waded, assessed, and protected the Bay's rivers for decades.
July 15, 2022
CBF and Branch's Baptist Church look to nature to solve environmental, health, and economic problems in Richmond.
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