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The Chesapeake Bay is America's largest estuary and one of the most productive bodies of water in the world. This watershed spans 64,000 square miles, touching on six states and is central to Maryland's identity and its economy.These reports are produced as part of WYPR's collaboration with Delaware Public Media and Virginia and Delmarva Public Radio stations to examine a broad spectrum of issues affecting the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

Congress Allocates $11Million For Land Conservation in Watershed

U.S. Department of Agriculture via Creative Commons
Credit U.S. Department of Agriculture via Creative Commons

  Environmentalists saw a victory last week when congress allocated close to 11 million dollars of the 2016-spending bill for land conservation along the rivers of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

For the past four years environmentalists from the region have been urging Congress to permanently protect close to 15,000 acres of land in the watershed.

Joel Dunn, the President and CEO of the Chesapeake Conservancy based in Annapolis says 35 nonprofits, four Indian tribes, five governors, nine U.S. Senators and 17 members of the house, put together a large proposal to protect vital areas along the rivers of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and the Captain John Smith trail.

In total their proposal called for appropriation of 60 million dollars for the protection of 15,000 acres across five states.

Earlier this year, President Obama recommended for Congress to allocate a little more than half of that, 33 million dollars, toward preservation of the Bay. Congress approved 11 million dollars to be given to federal agencies for the purchase of more than 2100 acres of land. Those areas are now permanently protected.

But what about the remaining unprotected areas?

Dunn says the other areas along the trail may not be developed immediately, although some of them are under high threat. He urges private philanthropists who are considering investing in protecting the bay, to make their moves now.

Dunn says, “Once their developed and turned into a parking lot, they’re gone forever.”

Despite the potential loss of land, Dunn and the Chesapeake Conservancy applaud the decision. “I have a six month old daughter,” says Dunn, “and I want her to be able to kayak down the Nanticoke River and see it the way the Native Americans saw it 400 years ago. Future generations will [be thankful] for Congress’s foresight.”

The Chesapeake Conservancy will continue to make proposals for next year.

Copyright 2015 WYPR - 88.1 FM Baltimore

Connor Graham