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 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.
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 and in Urban Communities
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. Trees help reduce dangerous heat—important in urban communities, cool streams— important for sensitive fish and other aquatic species, improve water quality, reduce the effects of climate change, and provide critical habitat for wildlife. Here are just a few stories of how urban restoration is helping communities in Baltimore, west Philadelphia, and Hopewell.
From Our Blog
June 29, 2022
We fouled our precious waterways, now it is time to clean them up. Over one-third of Pennsylvania's waters are impaired and western Pennsylvania's streams are no exception.
June 8, 2022
Undampened spirit of volunteers and CBF staff quickly turn Keith Campbell Day of Service into 'Days' of service.
June 3, 2022
The announcement from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials, increasing federal funding for Chesapeake Bay restoration earlier this month is cause for celebration, and reason to take careful note of what works.
May 17, 2022
CBF President and CEO Hilary Harp Falk shares a new look at Bay restoration after an insightful first few months on the job.
March 31, 2022
Recent CBF intern Marina McCaney reflects on the trees she planted, the passionate people she met, and what she learned about saving the Chesapeake Bay.
March 11, 2022
This one-of-a-kind vessel has changed the way we restore oysters—and save the Bay.
February 4, 2022
CBF and partners create a unique watershed restoration plan.
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