© Chesapeake Bay Program (Chesapeake)

Conservation Priority: Heritage

 Our Goal:

Protect the treasured landscapes 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.

The Chesapeake landscape is rich with small and large places of outstanding significance to communities and our nation. Some are formally designated, like byways, scenic rivers, trails on land and water, parks, historic districts and heritage areas. Think of the Appalachian Trail and Journey Through Hallowed Ground. Others may simply be broadly recognized, like certain scenic vistas or indigenous, historic or cultural landscapes -- Shenandoah Valley or Lancaster County come to mind. But all support tourism, the economy and our cultural identity. They are what identifies this region as unique and make our communities special. Yet, many special places face significant development pressure and risk being lost. Conserving these places for this and future generations is vital.

The conservation goal for heritage identifies a number of mappable aspects, including both designated areas and the resource values that convey their importance. Due to availability of existing data, mapping to date focuses mostly on the former.

Two complementary maps are prepared for this goal. The “Important Heritage Resources” map depicts the varying recognized and designated heritage resources. An “Important Heritage Resources Concentrations” map represents a composite picture of those designated heritage resources, illustrating the relative concentrations of important heritage hotspots and landscapes. Both are based on the following designations:

National Register of Historic Places: The National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) is the official list of the Nation's historic places worthy of preservation. Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 and administered by the National Park Service, the NRHP is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America's historic and archeological resources.

National Historic Landmarks: National Historic Landmarks (NHL) are nationally significant historic places designated by the Secretary of the Interior because they possess exceptional value or quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States. Today, just over 2,500 historic places are designated nationwide. NHLs are one subset of resources listed in the NRHP.

Historic Districts: This consists of historic districts listed on the National Register of Historic Places (see above) in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware, West Virginia and District of Columbia.

National Historic & Scenic Trails: The National Trails System is the network of scenic, historic, and recreation trails created by the National Trails System Act of 1968, as amended. These trails provide for outdoor recreation needs, promote the enjoyment, appreciation, and preservation of open-air, outdoor areas and historic resources, and encourage public access and citizen involvement. These maps include designated national historic trails and national scenic trails in the Chesapeake watershed: Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, Star Spangled Banner National Historic Trail, Washington Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail, Appalachian National Scenic Trail, and Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail.

American Battlefield Protection Program Core Areas: The American Battlefield Protection Program (ABPP) promotes the preservation of significant historic battlefields associated with wars on American soil. The goals of the program are 1) to protect battlefields and sites associated with armed conflicts that influenced the course of our history, 2) to encourage and assist all Americans in planning for the preservation, management, and interpretation of these sites, and 3) to raise awareness of the importance of preserving battlefields and related sites for future generations.  

National, State, and Local Parks and Publicly Managed Conservation Lands: This includes: local, state and national parks, state and national wildlife management areas and refuges, and state and national forests.

State and National Scenic Byways: This includes designated scenic byways at the state and federal level. Generally, scenic byways help recognize, preserve and enhance selected roads based on criteria at the state or federal level. The U.S. Secretary of Transportation recognizes certain roads as All-American Roads or National Scenic Byways based on one or more archeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational and scenic qualities.

State Scenic Rivers: This includes state designated scenic rivers. Virginia, Maryland, New York and Pennsylvania have such programs. There are no national wild and scenic rivers designated within the Chesapeake watershed. (Data sources: NY State Dept. of Transportation, VA Dept. of Conservation and Recreation, MD Dept. of Natural Resources, PA Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources)

National and State Heritage Areas: This includes designated state and national heritage areas. There are state heritage area programs in Maryland and Pennsylvania. There are all or parts of seven national heritage areas within the Chesapeake watershed. Generally, heritage areas are places where historic, cultural, and natural resources combine to form cohesive, state or nationally important landscapes. Unlike parks, heritage areas are large lived-in landscapes.

Appalachian Trail Landscape: Protecting land along the 2,200 mile Appalachian National Scenic Trail (A.T.) has been a priority since the Trail was established in 1923. In addition to protecting the Trail treadway, public and non-profit partners work to conserve landscapes along the Trail; this has resulted in a 250,000 acre greenway around the Trail that connects significant public lands in the eastern United States. The dataset included in this map was prepared by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and represents the natural, cultural, historic, scenic, recreational and community values associated with the Trail and the spine of the Appalachian Mountain Range.

Pennsylvania Conservation Landscapes:  These areas recognized by the Commonwealth represent large regions working collaboratively to drive strategic investment and actions around sustainability, conservation, community revitalization, and recreational projects. Known as conservation landscapes, these collaborations are developing in landscapes where there are strong natural assets, local readiness and buy-in, and state-level investment support.

Maryland Rural Legacy Focal Areas: Maryland’s Rural Legacy Program provides funding to preserve large, contiguous tracts of land and to enhance natural resource, agricultural, forestry and environmental protection while supporting a sustainable land base for natural resource based industries. The program creates public-private partnerships among land trusts and local governments to determine the best way to protect the landscapes critical to the Maryland economy, environment and quality of life.

Analysis identifies 24,737,130  acres of land associated with designated areas, about 60% of the Chesapeake watershed. 7,626,684 acres (31%) of this land is permanently conserved.

We anticipate these numbers changing--potentially substantially--as new data depicting the resource values associated with designated areas becomes available. Note that important heritage lands overlap substantially with all other conservation goals.

Heritage Priorities in the Chesapeake

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