The Chesapeake Bay is North America’s largest and most biologically diverse estuary, home to more than 3,600 species of plants, ﬁsh and animals. For more than 300 years, the Bay and its tributaries have sustained the region’s economy and deﬁned its traditions and culture. The region’s estimated $1 trillion economy is heavily linked to the Bay: tourism, ﬁsh and shellﬁsh, even real estate. The watershed’s historic and cultural resources are incalculable.
In a watershed that was once 95 percent forested, 16 million Americans now live, work, and recreate. Millions of acres of resource lands have been converted by development, degrading the watershed with nutrients and sediment. Today the Bay supports less than half the underwater grasses that were present in the 1950s, and the native oyster population has fallen to two percent of mid-20th century levels.
Starting in 1983, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia, the Chesapeake Bay Commission, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), representing the Federal Government, have signed historic agreements establishing the Chesapeake Bay Program partnership. Since 2003 the “headwater” states of Delaware, New York, and West Virginia have also joined in a cooperative effort to restore water quality. Annually the chief executives of the jurisdictions and the EPA Administrator meet and provide policy direction to the partnership. The Chesapeake 2000 agreement outlines 100 speciﬁ c commitments in ﬁ ve policy areas:
1. Living Resources.
2. Vital Habitat.
3. Water Quality.
4. Sound Land Use.
5. Stewardship and Community Engagement