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Preserving Chesapeake Country

1.3 million acres protected this decade

      At a time when preservation efforts are being diminished, from monuments in the West to endangered and threatened species, a report this week from the Chesapeake Conservation Partnership offered good news.

            From 2010 until the end of last year, more than 1.3 million acres of land throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed has been permanently protected, according to a report citing data from the Chesapeake Bay Program.

            That amounts to more than two-thirds of the 2025 goal set a decade ago by the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, an alliance between Maryland and six other jurisdictions dating back more than three decades.

            Ann Swanson, executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, said the report highlights the commitment by people to conserve lands they own. But she observed that interest far exceeds the available funding.

            “We should address this head-on by growing our state and federal financial resources and technical assistance. After all, conserving land is one of the most sure-fire ways we know of to ensure the health of our watershed,” Swanson said in a statement.

            Thomas Lovejoy, a George Mason University environmental science professor and pioneer in the study of biodiversity, referred to the success thus far as a remarkable achievement.

            “Yet that is not enough,” he said. “Emerging scientific consensus recognizes the need to protect 30 percent of the watershed by 2030 and 50 percent by 2050 — setting a visionary example for the world on how to save the environment and humanity.”

            In Maryland, $52 million of $88 million invested in preservation came from two Program Open Space allocations; $26 million from Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation funds and $10 million from the Rural Legacy program.