Progress toward this outcome is measured against a 2010 baseline, as it was at this point that jurisdictions adopted the Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs) that outlined the pollution-reducing practices that would help them meet the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (Bay TMDL). Wetland restoration targets were included in these pollution-reducing practices.
As of 2010, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coastal Change Analysis Program, there were approximately 282,291 acres of tidal wetlands in the watershed’s estuarine drainage area. This marks a loss of 1,566 acres since 1992.
Between 2010 and 2017, 9,103 acres of wetlands were established, rehabilitated or reestablished on agricultural lands. While this outcome includes a target to restore 85,000 acres of tidal and non-tidal wetlands in the watershed, 83,000 of these restored acres should take place on agricultural lands. The wetlands restored on agricultural lands between 2010 and 2017 mark an 11 percent achievement of the 83,000-acre goal.
Wetland restoration (which results in gains in wetland acreage) is tracked separately from wetland enhancement (which results in gains in existing wetland function). Wetland restoration on agricultural lands is determined through data submitted by jurisdictions to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through the National Environmental Information Exchange Network (NEIEN). Any negative values that are reported in a particular year can indicate that a state has corrected previously submitted data. In 2016, for example, a state data review resulted in corrections to data that was previously submitted by Pennsylvania and West Virginia. This could explain the decrease in cumulative acres restored between 2016 and 2017.
Healthy wetlands provide critical habitat for fish, birds, mammals and invertebrates, and support recreational fishing and hunting. Wetlands trap polluted runoff and slow the flow of nutrients, sediment and toxic contaminants into rivers, streams and the Bay. By soaking up stormwater and dampening storm surges, wetlands also slow the erosion of shorelines and protect properties from floods.
Tracking our progress toward restoring wetlands on agricultural lands is critical to understanding our progress toward enhancing climate resiliency. Because wetlands reduce the impact of heavy precipitation, mitigate upstream floods and diminish the extent of property damage caused by storm events, wetlands help us prepare for some of the disruptions climate change can cause.
To achieve this outcome, Chesapeake Bay Program partners have committed to:
- Improving the wetland restoration reporting and tracking process;
- Identifying barriers to wetland restoration and developing solutions to address them;
- Increasing our technical understanding of the factors that influence restoration success;
- Prioritizing areas for wetland restoration, with special consideration given to those projects that would benefit black ducks and other wildlife species requiring high-quality wetland habitat; benefit water quality; withstand the impacts of development and climate change; leave agricultural lands in production; lead to large acreage gains; and help partners meet multiple goals and outcomes; and
- Expanding the involvement of local stakeholders.
Monitoring and assessing progress toward the outcome will occur through acreage data submitted by jurisdictions through the National Environmental Information Exchange Network (NEIEN).
As part of the Chesapeake Bay Program’s partnership-wide implementation of adaptive management, progress toward this outcome was reviewed and discussed by the Management Board in November of 2020. It will be reviewed and discussed by the Management Board again in November 2022.
Logic & Action Plan
Chesapeake Bay Program partners have committed to taking a series of specific actions that will support the management approaches listed above.
Completed actions from this outcome's Logic & Action Plan include:
- In May 2016, the Wetland Workgroup and OpinionWorks released a report on their work to identify barriers to wetland restoration among agricultural landowners. Information collected through surveys and focus groups with landowners in South Central Pennsylvania and Maryland’s Eastern Shore showed that barriers to wetland program adoption exist in five categories: a lack of awareness, concerns for privacy, financial uncertainty, a desire for flexibility and an audience that is difficult to reach. As a result, related outreach to landowners should focus on the message, mitigate the barriers, rely on trusted messengers and prompt and support conversations between landowners and specialists.
- In November 2018, the Chesapeake Bay Program launched a website to accelerate wetland restoration on private lands in the watershed. Wetlands Work features educational information about the benefits of wetlands and the incentives of wetland restoration, as well as a collection of restoration success stories and a search function that connects private landowners with funding programs and wetland planners in their area.
Participating partners include:
- Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (State of Delaware)
- Maryland Department of the Environment (State of Maryland)
- Maryland Department of Natural Resources (State of Maryland)
- Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (Commonwealth of Pennsylvania)
- Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (Commonwealth of Virginia)
- Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (Commonwealth of Virginia)
- Virginia Institute of Marine Science (Commonwealth of Virginia)
- West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (State of West Virginia)
- West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (State of West Virginia)
- Department of Energy and Environment (District of Columbia)
- Maryland Director’s Office (Chesapeake Bay Commission)
- Natural Resources Conservation Service (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
- Chesapeake Bay Field Office (U.S. Geological Survey)
- Patuxent Wildlife Refuge Research Center (U.S. Geological Survey)
- Biohabitats, Inc.
- Chesapeake Bay Foundation
- Ducks Unlimited
- The Nature Conservancy
- Troutman Sanders
- Upper Susquehanna Coalition