Almost 18 million people live, work and play in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. We all rely on the natural world, and we all play a role in protecting it. Connecting watershed residents to this world is vital to fostering stewardship, and fostering stewardship is vital to the long-term health of the environment. Bringing students outdoors helps them understand and enjoy the natural world. Connecting the individuals, organizations and local governments already protecting the lands and waters in their communities helps us achieve our common goals. And building a larger, broader and more diverse community of stewards will ensure our work is more successful than ever before.
Physical access to the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries is very limited, with real consequences for quality of life, local economies and long-term conservation. Increasing public access to local waterways for fishing, swimming, boating and other activities fosters a shared sense of responsibility and increased stewardship that supports watershed restoration goals.
The future well-being of the Chesapeake Bay watershed will soon rest in the hands of its youngest citizens—more than three million students in kindergarten through twelfth grade. Establishing strong, targeted environmental education programs now provides a vital foundation for these future watershed stewards.
The long-term success of the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort will depend on local leadership; local action will depend on strong citizen stewardship. Building a larger, broader and more diverse community of stewards for watershed restoration is needed to achieve the goals and outcomes outlined in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, as it is stewards who bring the action element that will move our work forward. There are more than 600 conservation and watershed organizations in our region that are educating and empowering citizens to restore and protect local rivers and streams. There are tens of thousands of local volunteers who donate their time and talent to our shared goals.