Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative
The CBWI Mission
Through the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative (CBWI), farmers, ranchers, and forestland owners voluntarily install conservation practices on hundreds of thousands of acres annually to help support rural economies, protect wildlife habitat, and improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
The Chesapeake Bay Watershed, the largest estuary in North America, covers 64,000 square miles and includes over 150 rivers and streams that drain into the Bay. More than 300 species of fish, shellfish and crab species and a wide array of other wildlife call the Bay home.
While the health of the Chesapeake Bay has improved since the 1970s, excess nutrients and sediment continue to adversely affect water quality in the Bay and its tributaries.
With almost 30 percent of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed made up of agricultural land, the region’s over 83,000 farms guaranteed more than $10 billion of agricultural production annually. A thriving and sustainable agricultural sector is critical to restoring the Chesapeake.
For over 75 years, USDA and NRCS have partnered with agricultural producers, forest landowners, urban and suburban residents and other conservation partners to restore wetlands and enhance aquatic and other wildlife habitat on working agricultural land and private non-industrial forest land in the Bay watershed.
How Does CBWI Work?
The Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative is a targeted effort to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment loads coming from private lands. Through CBWI and other Farm Bill programs, NRCS and its partners help private landowners and managers implement conservation practices that protect the watershed’s soil and water resources while maintaining productive working lands. Farmers and forest landowners are planting stream buffers, restoring wetlands, properly managing manure, and implementing other conservation practices as part of CBWI.
The Chesapeake Bay Watershed consists of all tributaries, backwaters, and side channels and their watersheds that drain into the Chesapeake Bay in Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.
How Does CBWI Benefit Producers?
Investments in private lands conservation in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed benefit farmers and ranchers by supporting conservation activities that improve soil and water quality. These improvements support long-term productivity and reduce the need for additional regulation. Under CBWI, eligible landowners receive technical and financial assistance to address soil erosion, sedimentation and excess nutrients in streams and waterways as well as other related natural resource concerns such as air quality, wetlands, wildlife habitat and forestry.
How Does CBWI Benefit the Public?
Investments in conservation work for all Americans—a well-managed farm limits its nutrient and sediment runoff, produces food and fiber, helps sustain rural community economies and contributes to the food security of our Nation. Through the CBWI, NRCS and its partners reduce pollution to streams, creeks, rivers and the Chesapeake Bay to improve water quality and wildlife today, and for generations to follow.
NRCS is building a foundation of partners from non-profit and private organizations, local, state, and federal governments and individuals across the Nation. Whether these partnerships augment funding sources, increase return on investment, or provide boots-on-the-ground support, NRCS and its partners are committed to helping people help the land.
The success of NRCS and Chesapeake Bay producers in reducing nutrient and sediment losses would not be possible without the many partners that leverage the Federal investment in Bay conservation.
USDA Announces Funding for Water Quality Markets, Seeks Proposals for Projects
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a funding opportunity that will bring states, USDA and other stakeholders together to enhance the effectiveness of water quality credit trading. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is providing up to $10 million in Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) for these projects, with up to $5 million focused on water quality credit trading in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Proposals for projects are due March 2, 2012.
Study Helps Improve Conservation Practices to Build Healthy Future for the Bay
Effective use of conservation practices and systems by farmers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed are reducing sediment and nutrient losses from cultivated cropland. The U.S. Department of Agriculture released a study, “Assessment of Conservation Practices on Cultivated Cropland in the Chesapeake Bay Region,” which quantifies these environmental gains and identifies opportunities for further progress.
NRCS Deploys Technical Teams to Accelerate Conservation in Chesapeake
Through partnerships with state agencies, conservation districts and nongovernmental organizations, NRCS deployed four teams of technical experts in priority areas in 2011. These Strategic Watershed Action Teams (SWAT) will help individual agricultural producers plan and implement conservation practices needed to address priority natural resource concerns. The teams have a goal of reaching all eligible individuals in the priority areas.
USDA Unveils Showcase Watersheds Designed To Increase Use of Voluntary Conservation Practices in the Chesapeake Bay Basin
Watersheds in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia have been chosen to demonstrate what can be achieved by combining strong partnerships, sound science and funding to solve natural resource problems in a targeted area in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. The showcase watersheds are designed to demonstrate water quality improvements in a confined geographic area through expanded producer outreach efforts, use of innovative conservation practices and intensive conservation planning, implementation and monitoring.
Obama Signs Executive Order to Restore and Protect the Chesapeake Bay
On May 12, 2009, President Barack Obama signed an Executive Order that recognizes the Chesapeake Bay as a national treasure and calls on the federal government to lead a renewed effort to restore and protect the nation’s largest estuary and its watershed.
The Chesapeake Bay Protection and Restoration Executive Order established a Federal Leadership Committee that will oversee the development and coordination of reporting, data management and other activities by agencies involved in Bay restoration.
The Federal Leadership Committee published an annual Chesapeake Bay Action Plan that describes how federal funding will be allocated toward Bay restoration in the upcoming year. It will be accompanied by an Annual Progress Report that reviews indicators of environmental conditions and assesses implementation of the strategy.
Visit the Chesapeake Bay Executive Order Website to find out more about USDA’s role in this partnership effort.
Chesapeake Bay Protection and Restoration- USDA Briefing , November, 2009 (PDF, 5.26 MB)