20 Milestones Hero PA

Planting protective forest buffers around streams help farmers control pollution from erosion, manure, and fertilizers. State lawmakers need to establish a dedicated, stable, state agricultural cost-share program to help farmers invest in these and other conservation practices.

© Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program

Rebuilding Our Rivers, Streams, and Bay

CBF performs hands-on restoration work with community partners across the watershed to reduce pollution at its source and rebuild the Bay's natural filters—oyster reefs, forests, and wetlands. These efforts not only improve water quality in the Bay and its rivers and streams, they also protect shorelines, provide habitat for fish and wildlife, cool cities, and increase our resilience to climate change.

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.

Urban trees help reduce dangerous heat islands and reduce flooding. Here are just a few stories of how urban restoration is helping communities in Baltimore, West Philadelphia, and Hopewell.

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

  • Oyster Innovation on Living Shoreline

    August 23, 2023

    A Virginia project doubles as a testing ground for the latest innovations in oyster restoration technology.

  • More Than Just a Love of Oysters

    January 9, 2023

    Former CBF student leader and current Baltimore educator Jess Jenkins describes what brought her back to the Bay.

  • Toxic Waste Hits Home in Hampton Roads

    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.

  • Be the Change

    October 27, 2022

    For the Islamic Society of Baltimore's Green Team, caring for nature is caring for each other.

  • Save the Bay News: Environmental Rights, Wetland Fights, and Clean Water

    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.

  • Speaking for the Streams

    September 20, 2022

    Nancy Kelly has waded, assessed, and protected the Bay's rivers for decades.

  • To Unpave Paradise, Pull Up a Parking Lot

    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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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.

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Founded in 1967, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) is the largest independent conservation organization dedicated solely to saving the Bay.

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