The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay’s 12th Annual Chesapeake Watershed Forum takes place Nov. 3–5, at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, WV. In keeping with this year’s theme, Healthy Lands, Healthy Waters, Healthy People, the event will explore how the health of the Chesapeake Bay watershed affects the communities that live in it. In conjunction with this theme, the Alliance is focusing on engaging the health community, as well as the communities who are most directly affected by environmental health disparities.

This year, we welcome Sacoby Wilson Ph.D., M.S. as our keynote speaker. Wilson is an associate professor with the Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health and Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Public Health, University of Maryland-College Park. He has more than 15 years of experience as an environmental health scientist in the areas of exposure science, environmental justice, environmental health disparities, community-based participatory research, water quality analysis, air pollution studies, built environment, industrial animal production, climate change, community resiliency, and sustainability. He works primarily in partnership with community-based organizations to study and address environmental justice and health issues as well as transforming research into action.

New to the forum this year are half-day workshops on Sunday designed to delve deeper into specific issues surrounding Chesapeake restoration. Attendees will be able to choose from a variety of options, including: visiting a stormwater site assessment of the NCTC facility to see what they are doing well and could do better; joining a privilege walk to help understand how power and privilege affect our lives; learning about Project WET (Water Education for Teachers) environmental education activities to help illustrate one’s water quality message; diving into habitat issues with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ Scales and Tales program; touring a local dairy farm to see how they are lessening their environmental footprint; and exploring the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services museum archives where they store relics and artifacts from their years of service.

Also new this year: Friday night will have plenty of fun options, from storytelling around the campfire, to stargazing on the lawn, to a networking happy hour and more.

For the fourth year in a row we will be highlighting the Chesapeake Collective, an intentional effort to create a space for a range of diverse voices and narratives to be expressed, shared and incorporated into the broader conversation about our common vision for a healthy, flourishing and resilient watershed. Chesapeake Collective recognizes and celebrates our watershedwide diversity as a source of strength and the foundation for the type of social movement it will take to meet all of our restoration goals.

This year, Chesapeake Collective will have an even larger focus than earlier forums, with displays, artwork and activities spread throughout the weekend. One display, the Climate Ribbon Project, recently premiered at the Alliance’s annual Taste of the Chesapeake. The Climate Ribbon Project uses art as a visual aid for us to grieve what we each stand to lose to climate chaos around the world, as well as affirming our solidarity as we unite to fight against it.

Additionally, Chesapeake Collective will provide an opportunity to try “forest bathing.” Forest bathing is the practice of taking a short, leisurely visit to a forest for health benefits. The practice originated in Japan, and has recently been popularized in the health community for its relaxation and stress-reduction benefits

The Alliance is also working to make the Chesapeake Watershed Forum more accessible for people all around the watershed. Need-based scholarships are available, and transportation options from several of the Chesapeake’s major cities are being offered.

The forum is also a social event. Professionals from around the watershed gather with a common goal of a clean and healthy Chesapeake. It is a perfect networking opportunity, as members of different organizations, groups and schools meet and discuss their work and how they can team up in the future. It’s also a great opportunity to hear the work of one’s peers, and be inspired by the tireless activies taking place all around the watershed.

The forum focuses on inspiring and sharing techniques, strategies, tools and best practices to help watershed organizations and local governments engage in effective watershed management within and across jurisdictional boundaries. It is a great event to keep your watershed organization (staff, board, volunteers) or your local government up-to-date on the latest science and information surrounding watershed restoration – while also having a lot of fun! The core tenet of the forum is to celebrate the great work the Chesapeake community is doing to protect and restore the Bay watershed.