Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative Updated:05/2019

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.

Partnership Opportunities

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.

Contact Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative

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Contact Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative

Barry Frantz
Chesapeake Bay Coordinator
1400 Independence Ave., SW
Washington, DC  20250
Phone: (202) 720-6558

Service Area

Statewide Program in:
  • Delaware
  • Maryland
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia