Recent Progress: Increase

Between 2014 and 2022, 4,310 acres of wetlands were gained within the Chesapeake Bay watershed, which represents a 5.07% achievement of the 85,000-acre goal. This includes 616 acres on agricultural lands, only 0.74% of the 83,000-acre goal for restored acres on agricultural lands. In addition to the created and restored acres, 60,666 acres of wetlands have been enhanced from 2014 to 2022. This represents 40.44% of the enhancement goal of 150,000 acres.

Recent progress toward this outcome includes the use of a new tracking system, the Habitat Tracker, to report all created, restored and enhanced wetlands, rather than just the acres created or restored through water quality efforts. However, it is still likely that reported gains and enhancements have not accounted for all wetland restoration activities in the watershed. Due to the transition in reporting, data is missing from Delaware and the District of Columbia, and some states do not track all of their data to the degree of resolution required for data standardization.

Outlook: Off Course

The Wetlands Outcome is off course from meeting its 2025 targets. The rate of wetlands acreage gains and enhancements in the watershed is not currently adequate to achieve the targets described in the outcome. While this outcome tracks acres of wetlands that are created, restored and enhanced, wetlands across the watershed are also decreasing due to subsidence and climate change, along with the increasing pressures of development. These losses are not currently accounted for in this outcome, but the Wetlands Workgroup hopes to track losses in the future.

Progress toward this outcome is measured against a 2014 baseline because the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement was signed in that year. The comparison to 2014 most accurately represents progress toward the goal established in that year.

High-quality, abundant wetlands are vital to the restoration of a healthy Chesapeake Bay. 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.

Learn About Factors Influencing Progress

Management Strategy

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.
  • Expanding the involvement of local stakeholders.

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 December 2023.

Download Management Strategy (.pdf)

Logic & Action Plan

Chesapeake Bay Program partners have committed to taking a series of specific actions that will support the management approaches listed above.


  • Fostering information exchange at Wetland Workgroup meetings.
  • Developing strategies to increase wetland restoration program participation among local stakeholders.
  • Exploring how those wetlands that are performing greater ecosystem function can receive greater pollution-reducing credit in the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Watershed Model.
  • Improving wetland mapping to document the loss of tidal wetlands.
  • Investigating factors that affect wetlands, modeling the loss and migration of tidal wetlands due to sea level rise and assessing the vulnerability of tidal freshwater wetlands.
  • Completing a pilot wetland mapping project in Pennsylvania and evaluating its expansion to other states.
  • Developing a framework for enhancing the Wetland Workgroup’s capacity to meet this outcome.
  • Identifying opportunities to restore large wetland acreages in each jurisdiction and/or priority watershed.
  • Identifying areas in each jurisdiction and/or priority watershed in which wetland restoration would greatly benefit water quality and wildlife habitat.
  • Developing an inventory of wetland restoration projects and programs that fund wetland restoration in each state and determining how to share this information with practitioners who interact with local stakeholders.
  • Establishing Wetland Outreach Coordinators in each state and/or priority watershed to build outreach among local stakeholders.
  • Working with the Chesapeake Bay Program Black Duck Workgroup to identify priority restoration areas.

Recently Completed


  • Submitted the final report for the Marsh Migration Model Study.
  • Collaborated on the Restoring Wetlands of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Workshop.
  • Worked with the Geographic Information System (GIS) team to provide guidance on wetlands mapping.
  • Held a joint workgroup meeting with the Climate Resiliency Workgroup.
  • Collaborated on Evaluating an Improved Systems Approach to Crediting: Consideration of Wetland Ecosystem Services.
  • Implemented select solutions from a Ducks Unlimited and Nature Conservancy stakeholder report to address barriers to wetland restoration among local stakeholders, improve outreach and identify areas to implement outreach.

Learn About Logic & Action Plan

Participating Partners

The Vital Habitats Goal Implementation Team leads the effort to achieve this outcome. It works in partnership with the Water Quality and Healthy Watersheds goal implementation teams.

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