Bringing Native Species Back from the Brink
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 pristine territory explored by Captain John Smith during those early voyages, CBF is fighting to return this fragile ecosystem to balance.
For years, CBF has been a leader in restoration efforts that improve the capacity of rivers, streams, and the Bay to treat pollution. In programs across the watershed, many of them conducted with CBF volunteers and partner organizations, CBF is restoring native oysters, planting underwater grasses, and planting trees, to restore the Bay's natural filters. Check our calendar for upcoming volunteer opportunities.
Restoring Oyster Habitat
In 2018, the Lafayette became the first river in Virginia to meet oyster habitat restoration goals set for 10 tributaries across the Bay—a remarkable comeback for one of the most urbanized rivers in the Bay watershed. Since 2009, CBF and partners have restored 32 acres of oyster reefs. When combined with 48 acres of existing "historic" reefs the Lafayette has reached its 80-acre target for oyster habitat. Get the full story.
Stream and Shoreline Restoration
Stormwater runoff from farmland and urban and suburban areas wash nutrients—often excessive amounts of them—into our streams and rivers eventually leading to the Bay. Too much of these nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus in particular) do great harm to our waters' critters, plants, and underwater life.
By building and restoring forested buffers (multiple rows of native trees, shrubs, and grasses) along streams and rivers, we are able to capture and filter out the pollution from runoff through these buffers. They also provide important habitat for wildlife and aquatic species, stabilize stream banks against erosion, and help keep rivers cool in summer.
In addition, CBF creates living shorelines along river and Bay waterfront with native wetland plants and grasses. These areas help restore habitat, prevent erosion, capture sediment, and filter pollution. Check our calendar for upcoming volunteer opportunities.
Working With Farmers to Reduce Pollution
The evidence is clear: Reducing pollution on agricultural land is far and away the cheapest, most cost-effective pollution-reduction strategy. But for individuals tasked with getting the job done, the financial costs can present a challenge, even for those who really want to do the right thing.
CBF has helped scores of farmers find funding and implement conservation practices that have dramatically reduced pollution running off their land. CBF is working hard to remove the road-blocks and accelerate progress through restorations like the one on the Plouse family dairy farm.
Through The Maryland Grazers Network, dairy farmers like Myron Martin and Ron Holter are proving that sustainable farming can help increase profits. Developed by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Clagett Farm, the network is a mentorship program that provides farmers with technical assistance and expertise in pasture and forage management, financial management, marketing, and funding.