Save the Bay News: Honoring Will Baker


Will Baker and U.S. Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland participate in a 2010 tree planting at CBF's Holly Beach Farm near the Bay Bridge in Annapolis, Maryland.

Nikki Davis

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Tenacious. Relentless. Laser-focused. For more than four decades, William C. Baker has led the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in passionate pursuit of a singular goal: Save the Bay. Baker will retire at the end of the month. CBF is now more than 300,000 members strong, the movement to Save the Bay is internationally renowned, and, despite serious remaining challenges, far less pollution flows into the Bay today than when the restoration effort started. It took enormous effort to get here. In the following stories, we take you back to Baker's early days as a CBF intern in the 1970s, when he edited the CBF News and quickly became indispensable at CBF's office on the second floor of an old church in Annapolis. We delve into the fraught and monumental days of the 1980s, when scientists concluded the Bay was dying, and Baker, newly named executive director of CBF, pushed the need for restoration to national attention. We trace the evolution of "fish politics" through the 90s and the genesis of CBF's oyster restoration efforts. Finally, we look at the fight for the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint and the challenge taken up by thousands of people Baker has inspired to care for the Bay. The work continues—to control polluted runoff in cities, secure resources for agricultural conservation practices, and more, as this month's news roundup attests. The Bay Journal summed it up best, "Through it all, Will Baker has been there, insisting with seemingly inexhaustible enthusiasm that the Bay can be saved."

Man speaking at a podium.

CBF President Will Baker rallies the crowd at CBF’s annual DC on the Half Shell event.

Ben Droz Photography

A Relentless Champion

In 1976, Will Baker was fresh out of college and working a summer job as a tree surgeon when he was first asked to help Save the Bay. He was soon championing the Bay's cause in the national spotlight, and over the next 45 years built an enduring movement ready to achieve the world's greatest environmental success story.

Older, black and white, photo of a large group of people holding a flag that reads Save the Bay.

A scrappy, dedicated staff in the early days of CBF.


Fighting for Fish—In Tweed

At first, they were seen as "tweedy" environmental interlopers, remembers Bill Goldsborough, CBF's retired Director of Fisheries. He reflects on the decades he worked with Baker to "represent the fish" in Bay fishery debates once reserved for industry players. They tackled everything from rockfish management to rebuilding oyster reefs (and had some fun along the way).

Man at a table speaking with audience and member of the press behind him.

CBF President Will Baker testified at a Senate subcommittee hearing in late summer 2013 on the progress seen through the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.

Tom Pelton

A Crossroads

Will Baker sat down with the Bay Journal to reflect on his 45 years at CBF. Though the Bay has improved in important ways, it is still out of balance and steep challenges remain. Baker argued against letting up pressure and moving the goalposts beyond the 2025 deadline to reduce pollution. "We're not giving up," he said.

VIDEO: Around the Bay in 60 Seconds

In this month's news roundup: Critical funding for agricultural conservation programs makes an important move in Congress; Pennsylvania farmers find benefits to growing trees in livestock pastures; Blue Water Baltimore and CBF challenge stormwater permits in Baltimore City and County; Virginia celebrates a 95-year-old oyster restoration volunteer, and more.

What You Can Do

  • Explore what you made possible in our 2021 Year in Review.
  • To all who Save the Bay, thank you. This video is for you.
  • Want a simple way to protect your future and the future of the Bay? Support all that you care about by creating your free will today!
  • Now through December 31, your gift to save the Bay is worth DOUBLE. Give today to have your donation matched dollar-for-dollar by CBF's Board of Trustees.

Issues in this Post

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