The newly announced Big Elk Creek State Park is shown near Landenberg, Pa., Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. In Chester County, the new park will include 3.5 miles (5.6 kilometers) of Big Elk Creek, which feeds into the Chesapeake Bay at Elk River. Officials say the creek was long used by indigenous people and was an area of considerable activity for the Underground Railroad. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Chesapeake Bay states hit land preservation milestone
States in the Chesapeake Bay watershed are on track to hit a 2025 goal for land preservation.
There are now 9.1 million acres of land in the watershed that are permanently protected from development, according to the Chesapeake Bay Program, which oversees the multi-state cleanup agreement.
Pennsylvania leads among bay states with 3.6 million preserved acres.
“Protecting land is a priority for Pennsylvania to help meet its goals to provide close to home recreation for all residents, help address the impacts of climate change, enhance the Commonwealth’s recreation economy, and expand and restore wildlife habitat,” said Cindy Adams Dunn, Secretary of the Pa. Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
In 2010, bay states set a goal of preserving 2 million acres of forests and wetlands, on top of the existing 7.8 million acres.
Preserved land is important for federal cleanup and climate goals.
Green spaces can absorb more water than paved areas. That cuts down on pollution getting washed into waterways and helps reduce the risk of flooding, which is becoming more frequent with climate change.
To reach the 2025 goal, the Chesapeake Bay Program says about 130,000 acres of protected land must be added to the watershed each year.
The watershed includes parts of Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia and the District of Columbia.
Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna River is the bay’s largest source of freshwater.
The state has been lagging behind others in cleanup goals, causing the Environmental Protection Agency to step up oversight last year.