The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States, an incredibly rich and diverse ecosystem, and a national treasure. It is also a water body with serious water quality impairments that has become the focus of one of the most ambitious environmental restoration and protection efforts ever attempted.
The 64,000 square mile Chesapeake Bay is a single watershed that drains a varied landscape that includes smaller, nested watersheds, each defined by a series of creeks that run into larger streams and rivers, and those into the major tributaries of the Susquehanna, the Potomac, and the James, to name but a few. For many of the nearly 17 million inhabitants of the vast Bay region, it is these local watersheds that define the natural places they most care about — whether a local forest, a secluded trout stream, or a neighborhood park.
Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced an ambitious “pollution diet” for the Chesapeake Bay, based on the requirements of the federal Clean Water Act. The message is clear: to solve the serious water pollution problems facing the Bay region, we need to step up environmental protection efforts in each and every community, and each and every sub-watershed of the Bay as a whole.
The three critical ingredients to achieving this are local leadership, innovation, and heightened stewardship. We need leadership by city and town councils to educate local citizens and empower local officials to build green communities. We need innovation and new technology to construct buildings and roads so that they produce less polluted runoff. And we need broad public participation and engagement in these efforts and a heightened sense of personal responsibility — stewardship — for the role each and every one of us can play in address these common problems.
The Chesapeake Bay Trust accomplishes this by investing in education, leadership development, and innovative on-the-ground projects that demonstrate how communities can become more sustainable and individuals can become more effective stewards. In 2010, the Trust awarded more than $4 million in grants to over 350 schools, community groups and local organizations to fund projects and programs designed to improve the Chesapeake Bay and its waterways. Through these grants, we have pioneered innovative restoration techniques like “living shorelines” and green infrastructure approaches like “green streets.” We have worked with other foundations to build the strength and capacity of organizations throughout the Bay watershed. We have worked with partners to advance robust environmental literacy standards in schools and initiated a Chesapeake Conservation Corps to help young people advance careers in the environment.
We invite you to visit www.cbtrust.org to learn more about our programs and discover how you can help!
Photo courtesy of Chesapeake Bay Trust
NOTE: This is a guest post from Dr. Allen Hance, Executive Director of the Chesapeake Bay Trust. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.