Recent Progress: Increase
Between 2010 and 2021, initial data from the National Environmental Information Exchange Network (NEIEN) show that 16,000 acres of wetlands were created or restored on agricultural lands, which represents an 18.8% achievement of the 85,000 acre goal. These 16,000 acres count towards the 83,000 of the restored acres in the goal that should take place primarily on agricultural lands. Work is underway to identify a consistent means for collecting data by maximizing existing data reporting processes. Currently, tidal wetland restoration is not being tracked and the Wetland Workgroup and Black Duck Action Team are discussing options for aligning tracking efforts using the Black Duck Decision Support Tool.
Outlook: Off Course
The Wetlands Outcome is off course from meeting its 2025 targets. The rate of wetlands acreage gains from restoration and creation in the watershed is not currently adequate to achieve the targets described in the outcome. While our progress includes the creation and restoration of wetlands, wetlands across the watershed are also decreasing due to subsidence and climate change, along with the increasing pressures of development. Enhanced wetlands acreage is not recorded due, in part, to the lack of a comprehensive Bay Program definition of enhancement. Additional capacity and resources are needed to reach the 2025 targets, along with the ability to accurately track loss or gains in wetlands across the watershed and assess whether our actions are yielding the desired progress.
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.
Wetland restoration on agricultural lands is determined through data submitted by the jurisdictions to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through the National Environmental Information Exchange Network (NEIEN). These data include only wetlands that were restored for the purposes of improving water quality. Wetland restoration for the purpose of providing benefits to living resources or functional enhancement of existing wetlands are not included in the dataset.
Additional progress by the Wetlands Workgroup includes collaborations such as the Restoring Wetlands of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Workshop, Evaluating an Improved Systems Approach to Crediting: Consideration of Wetland Ecosystem Services, working with the Geographic Information System (GIS) team to provide wetlands guidance on mapping, and a joint workgroup meeting with the Climate Resiliency Workgroup. The final report for the Goal Implementation Team funded Marsh Migration Model Study was submitted in September of 2022.
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 caused by climate change.
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 2022. It will be reviewed and discussed by the Management Board again in November 2024.
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