© Chesapeake Bay Program (Chesapeake)

Our Valued Lands

There are 64,000 square miles in the Chesapeake watershed, or 41 million acres of land. About 11 percent of that area is developed in cities, towns, homes, roads, businesses and industry. But the 18 million of us who live here also rely on the remaining large portions of rest of the watershed to support our lives:

  • That is where we find 22 million acres of important forests that protect our water supplies and climate and help control flooding.
  • It is where we find 19 million acres of important wildlife habitat, much of it on those forested lands.
  • It includes 20 million acres of land that can support farming, including 7 million acres now being farmed. We rely on those working farms for food and supporting the economy -- orchards, vineyards, wineries, crop and vegetable fields, dairies and more, plus the businesses they support.
  • It is also where we find 24 million acres of history, farms, forests, and habitat that represents our cultural and natural heritage -- the places we have said are important to who we are as a people; that provide us with recreation, hunting, fishing, tourism and other vital economic sectors.

Interestingly, each of these core values -- farms, forests, habitat and heritage, equate to approximately half the watershed. Building on our goals for these values, the Chesapeake Conservation Partnership has created a composite map intended to represent the full range of places we collectively value -- Our Valued Lands.

A composite of the Farms, Forests, Habitat and Heritage goal maps depicts the full range of places we collectively value -- Our Valued Lands. These fall in three categories:

Lands Already Protected: Lands already protected through conservation easements or public ownership.

Most Valued Lands: The portion of the composite map with the highest numbers of multiple farm, forest, habitat and/or heritage values overlapping on currently unprotected lands. This equates to approximately 11.5 million acres of land.  

Other Valued Lands: The rest of the composite map where either one conservation value exists, or there is some degree of overlap -- again, on currently unprotected lands. This equates to around 19.7 million acres of land.

Today, just under a quarter of the watershed--22 percent or 8.8 million acres--is permanently conserved. Future conservation of the “most valued lands” -- an addtional 28% -- would retain half the watershed in the conditions that make us whole. This would still retain another half of the watershed--of which only 11% is currently developed--for other uses.

Conservation Priorities in the Chesapeake

  • Chesapeake: Our Valued Lands

    Chesapeake: Our Valued Lands

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  • Conservation Priority: Human Health

    OUR GOAL: Provide people access to parks and trail networks within walking and biking distance of their homes and ommunities. Provide sufficient opportunities along waterways to ensure nearly all residents are within 30 minutes of reaching a public access site at water's edge.

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  • Conservation Priority: Heritage

    OUR GOAL: Protect the treasured landscape of our collective heritage from development that would alter the scenery and character that conveys their importance - along our designated trails and scenic rivers and byways, at our parks, and throughout our state and national heritage areas, valued cultural landscapes and historic districts.

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  • Conservation Priority: Habitats

    OUR GOAL: Protect a network of large natural areas and corridors sufficient to allow nature to respond to a changing climate and land development and to support thriving populations of native wildlife, migratory birds, fish and plants and sustain at-risk species.

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  • Conservation Priority: Forests

    OUR GOAL: Protect the Chesapeake watershed's most ecologically and economically valuable forest land from conversion - headwater and riparian forests, large forest blocks, woodlots providing multiple values, and highly productive timber growing soils.

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  • Conservation Priority: Farms

    OUR GOAL: Protect the Chesapeake watershed's productive farms and prime farmland from conversion and secure space for urban farming to ensure permanent sustainable 'close to home' sources of food for the region's population and to support the economic and cultural value of our working farms and farmers.

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