The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the US. Its 64,000 square-mile watershed includes parts of six states and the entire District of Columbia and is home to more than 17 million people. The bay and its watershed also support more than 2,700 species of plants and animals, including 348 species of finfish, 173 species of shellfish and at least 29 species of waterfowl. It is a vital corridor for migratory waterfowl and fish. Nearly one million waterfowl winter on the Bay —approximately one-third of the Atlantic coast’s migratory population. However, water pollution, disease, urbanization, and degraded stream corridors have altered this landscape. The result is poor water quality in much of the Chesapeake system and corresponding reductions in some of the Bay’s keystone fish and wildlife species.
NFWF’s Chesapeake Business Plan focuses on the recovery of four key species: oysters, crabs, river herring and Eastern Brook Trout. Each of these species has been dramatically reduced, is important from a cultural and economic perspective, and serves as an important indicator of the overall health of the Chesapeake Bay, its rivers and streams. NFWF has three overarching strategies to achieve its goals for Chesapeake Bay recovery:
- Focus Restoration in Targeted Watersheds: Using a science-based approach, NFWF has identified 16 watersheds where investments will result in measurable increases in species populations, and improvements in water quality and habitat. Specific investments include promoting private landowner stewardship with an emphasis on protecting and restoring stream corridors and wetlands; removing barriers to fish migration; and, restoring native oyster reefs.
- Support Innovation on Cross Cutting Issues: Invest in innovative methods and new technologies that hold the promise to drive down costs, expand the effectiveness of restoration practices and accelerate the pace of recovery. Specific areas for investment include habitat restoration, manure management, stormwater finance, fisheries management, and energy development.
- Advance Local Government Green Infrastructure Solutions: Over 1800 units of local government have authority over decisions that will determine the future of the Chesapeake Bay. NFWF helps local governments restore their rivers and streams while meeting the challenges posed by Chesapeake restoration. Specific investments help local governments integrate green infrastructure practices into capital improvement programs and develop long-term, sustainable financing strategies to fund the Bay recovery effort.
For more detail on priority activities, please see the Chesapeake Bay Business Plan.