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Chesapeake Bay Watershed

Using Forests and Forestry to Restore Water Quality

The Chesapeake Bay is the nation’s largest estuary and one of the most productive ecosystems in the world. The Bay supports a wealth of wildlife, fish, and birds, as well as a thriving fishing industry whose harvests of fish and shellfish are enjoyed by people throughout the country. The trees and forests in the Chesapeake Bay watershed are critical as they filter out pollutants before upland waters enter the Bay. Once, over 95 percent of the 43-million-acre watershed was forested, but that number has dropped to 56 percent due to development and agriculture. Current forest loss in the watershed is estimated to be 100 acres per day.  To learn more about forests and the Chesapeake Bay, go to

The Forest Service and government agencies from Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, West Virginia, New York, and the District of Columbia, as well as nonprofit groups, work together to conserve and restore watershed forests through the Chesapeake Watershed Forestry Program. In 2007, the partners set a goal to permanently protect 695,000 acres of forests valued for protecting water quality, in addition to slowing the loss of forests.  Partners are also working to expand tree canopies in 120 communities and conserve and restore riparian forests until they occur on 70 percent of streams and shorelines in the watershed.

The Forest Service coordinates regularly with other federal agencies –e.g., NOAA, Park Service, and US Fish and Wildlife Service, to fulfill the mandates of a 2010 Executive Order Strategy to restore and protect the Chesapeake Bay.  Goals include planting 14,400 miles of riparian forest by 2025, and producing two comprehensive strategies to restore forests and to conserve working lands.

Chesapeake Watershed Forestry uses geospatial analyses to prioritize conservation and restoration work.  The Forest Service has enlisted many partners—including USGS and EPA--- to practice green infrastructure planning on a regional basis while improving water quality and habitat. 

Sally Claggett, USFS Chesapeake Bay Liaison:
visit or call 1-800-YOUR-BAY.
Claggett 2005. Epstein 2005.