We believe the Chesapeake is a national treasure that should be healthy, accessible to everyone, and a watershed where people and wildlife thrive.
We work to influence environmental policy in social, economic, political and cultural areas that will protect water quality, wildlife and our community’s way of life.
Sediment and nutrient pollution, development, infrastructure expansion, climate change and limited public access threaten the unique ecological, scenic, recreational, and cultural resources of the Chesapeake.
The Chesapeake Conservancy works closely with individuals, communities, organizations, state and federal agencies to protect our unique natural and cultural assets. Specifically, we advocate for the following programs and initiatives:
- Land and Water Conservation Fund
- Chesapeake Gateways and Watertrails Network
- Chesapeake Trail
- Chesapeake Bay Program
- United for a Chesapeake National Recreation Area
- Maryland Program Open Space
- Virginia Land Preservation Tax Credit
- Pennsylvania Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund
- Delaware Open Space Program
- James River
- Fones Cliffs
- Mallows Bay
Land and Water Conservation Fund
The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is America’s most important program to conserve irreplaceable lands and improve outdoor recreation opportunities throughout the nation. The program works in partnership with federal, state and local efforts to protect land in our national parks, national wildlife refuges, national forests, national trails, and other public lands; to preserve working forests and ranchlands; to support state and local parks and playgrounds; to preserve battlefields and other historic and cultural sites; and to provide the tools that communities need to meet their diverse conservation and recreation needs.
We are a member of the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition and advocate for annual funding for this important program and for our region.
Chesapeake Gateways and Watertrails Network
The Gateways program has allowed the National Park Service (NPS) Chesapeake Bay Office to provide approximately $22 million in financial and technical assistance for more than 360 projects in communities across the watershed, improving Bay access and fueling our thriving outdoor recreation economy.
The Chesapeake Conservancy supports work beyond what the National Park Service could accomplish on its own, including: improving public access, supporting land conservation, conducting cultural research and environmental analysis, and providing outreach that enrich visitors’ experiences and create a sustainable future for the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Chesapeake Bay Program
Since 1983, the Chesapeake Bay Program has led and directed the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. Bay Program partners include federal and state agencies, local governments, non-profit organizations and academic institutions. Staff members work at our offices in Annapolis, Maryland, and at partner organizations throughout the watershed.
We are a proud partner in the Chesapeake Bay Program and advocate for the authorization and appropriations for this important program.
United for a Chesapeake National Recreation Area
Together with our partners, we are leading “United for a Chesapeake National Recreation Area,” a coalition advocating to create national park status in the Chesapeake. This 21st-century park—a collection of parks in the Chesapeake Bay that bring national and international attention to the Bay’s significant natural, cultural, historical, and recreational resources. Formally connected through partnerships between the National Park Service, and communities and states, these parks would become the Chesapeake National Recreation Area (CNRA) and tell a common narrative about the nation’s largest estuary and one of the world’s largest environmental restoration efforts.
Maryland Program Open Space
Program Open Space is Maryland’s leading land preservation program. In 1969, the Maryland General Assembly created Program Open Space through the institution of a transfer tax of 0.5 percent on every real estate transaction in the state. Thus began the remarkable history of protecting land, and creating parks and playgrounds that helped to make this state such an attractive place to live, work and play.
Program Open Space funds the acquisition and development of state and local parks, the preservation of unique natural areas that harbor rare and endangered species, the preservation of farmland and the protection of locally identified resource lands (farm, forest, historic/cultural) with conservation easements.
This revenue is intended to keep pace with rising land costs and the pace of development and with the loss of open space and farmland. Also, by partnering with non-profit organizations and public agencies, POS leverages resources and increases efficiency, accomplishing more for Maryland taxpayers with less.
The Chesapeake Conservancy advocates for full funding for this vital program in the Maryland State Legislature and is a member of the Partners for Open Space.
Virginia Land Preservation Tax Credit
The Commonwealth of Virginia has created a powerful incentive for land conservation, a transferable credit to pay state income tax. It is an effective, voluntary, free-market mechanism that has proven to vastly increase donations of conservation easements, which protects the integrity of the landscape and benefits the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
In 1999, the Virginia General Assembly passed the “Virginia Land Conservation Incentives Act,” to grant a credit against its state income tax to property owners who donated land or easements to protect conservation values in Virginia. The original tax credit granted was 50% of the value of a qualifying conservation donation in the state.
Today, Virginia allows an income tax credit for 40 percent of the value of donated land or conservation easements. Taxpayers may use up to $20,000 per year through 2020 and $50,000 per year in subsequent tax years. Tax credits may be carried forward for up to 13 years. Unused credits may be sold, allowing individuals with little or no Virginia income tax burden to take advantage of this benefit.
The Chesapeake Conservancy advocates for the maintenance of this important program, which has protected hundreds of thousands of acres across Virginia from development, and is a member of the Virginia Conservation Network.
Pennsylvania Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund
In 1993, the Pennsylvania General Assembly and the general public established the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund. The Keystone Fund and its dedicated funding source, a 15% share of the state’s realty transfer tax, created a dedicated and permanent funding source for making investments in recreation, parks, conservation, libraries, historical preservation, and education.
The Keystone Fund has helped protect 161,000+ acres of green space for county and municipal parks, greenways, wildlife habitat, and other open space uses. This also funds thousands of community park development projects, including ballfields, playgrounds, pools, picnic areas, and recreation centers and trail projects for walking, bicycling, and other recreation uses.
We advocate for the full funding of the Keystone Fund.
Delaware Open Space Program
Delaware’s Open Space Program coordinates the acquisition of parks, open space, natural areas, forests, wildlife habitat, greenways, and access to waterways. These management areas include some of the finest examples of Delaware’s diverse natural and cultural heritage.
The process for acquiring open space lands and conservation easements in Delaware was codified in 1990 with the passage of the Delaware Land Protection Act. The Land Preservation Office in DNREC implements this law by identifying areas of high ecological value and protects these areas by working with landowners who would like to protect their property from development and preserve it in perpetuity. Since the law was passed in 1990, over 57,000 acres of the Delaware landscape has been protected from development.
We strongly support the Delaware Land Protection Act and annually advocate for full funding for this program.
A 500 kilovolt power transmission line across James River is suspended on a series of towers, some about 300 feet tall that are visible from Jamestown Island, America’s first permanent English settlement.
Chesapeake Conservancy joined the National Trust in declaring the river endangered, noted that the James River is considered by many to be our nation’s founding river and is the anchor to the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail.
A private donor, Chesapeake Conservancy and NFWF helped return 465 acres of their ancestral homeland to the Rappahannock Tribe. However, nearby land along Fones Cliffs remains unprotected and vulnerable.
Mallows Bay – Potomac River is home to the “Ghost Fleet,” where years ago, ships built by the Emergency Fleet Corporation between 1917 and 1919 were sunk once they were no longer needed. It is an amazing place to kayak that is steeped in our nation’s history, a thriving ecological habitat, and is just a short drive from the capital of the United States.
Since 2015, Chesapeake Conservancy has been a leading partner in the effort to designate Mallows Bay – Potomac River as the Chesapeake’s first National Marine Sanctuary.