Of the 37.2 million acres within the Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia portions of the Bay watershed, about 4.3 million acres had been developed through 1997, according to the Natural Resources Inventory. That is about 12 percent of all land in their portion of the watershed.

By comparison, in 1982, according to the NRI, about 3 million acres, or about 8 percent of the watershed was developed.

Put another way, nearly a third of all the land development that has taken place in the Bay watershed since Capt. John Smith’s arrival in 1607 happened in the 15 years from 1982 through 1997.

State figures are:

  • In Maryland, of 7.4 million acres in the watershed, 16.1 percent, or about 1.2 million acres, were developed through 1997. That was an increase from 0.9 million acres, or 12 percent, in 1982.
  • In Virginia, of about 15.3 million acres in the watershed, about 1.8 million acres, or 11.5 percent were developed. That was an increase from 1.2 million acres, or 7.8 percent, in 1982.
  • In Pennsylvania, of 14.5 million acres in the watershed, about 1.4 million acres, or 9.6 percent, were developed. That was an increase from 933,600 acres, or 6.5 percent of the watershed, in 1982.

Although the Bay Program goal only applies to the those states, NRI figures show that Delaware and West Virginia portions of the watershed were also growing rapidly.

  • In Delaware, of 445,000 acres in the watershed, about 33,300 acres were developed in 1997, or about 7.5 percent. That was an increase from 24,000 acres, or 5.4 percent, in 1982.
  • In West Virginia, of about 2.3 million acres in the watershed, 163,800 were developed, or about 7.1 percent of the watershed. That was nearly double the 84,800 acres, or 3.7 percent that was developed in 1982.
  • In New York, of about 4 million acres in the watershed, about 259,600 were developed in 1997, or 6.5 percent of the watershed. That was an increase from 208,700 acres, or 5.2 percent in 1982.

1.1 Million Acres in Perspective

The shortfall in meeting the 20 percent land preservation goal is about 1.1 million acres. That is:

  • Almost the size of Delaware, which is about 1.25 million acres.
  • About twice the size of Rhode Island, which is about 668,000 acres.
  • About half the size of Yellowstone National Park, which is 2.2 million acres.
  • Less than the 1.28 million acres that will be developed in the next decade within the watershed if current rates of development continue.

But the 1.1 million acres would not all be publicly owned. Much of the additional land would be protected through easements, in which people retain ownership of the land but agree not to develop the property or make other conservation commitments.