The rivers, streams and creeks of the Chesapeake Bay watershed are the lifeblood of our region. Their condition determines the health of the Bay, affects the quality of human life and strengthens the economy of the region. We believe that we must learn to view rivers and watersheds as the central features in our landscape rather than as political boundaries and we must organize our efforts to manage human activities along watershed lines. In the past decade, promises have been made to protect, restore and enhance water quality and the abundance and diversity of living things and to improve the decision-making processes that allowed our rivers and creeks, and the communities they support, to degrade.

It is our intention, through this "Declaration for Our Rivers," to articulate our commitments and the actions we believe our leaders must take to assure those promises are realized. We invite our leaders to join with us in these commitments.

We commit to:

  1. Act as the stewards and keepers of rivers, creeks and headwaters of the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem, providing watchful oversight of actions that could be harmful.

  2. Educate our communities about the enduring economic, aesthetic, cultural, environmental and historic values of river resources.

  3. Communicate with government officials and participate in planning and decision processes that will affect our rivers.

  4. Continue to learn and to understand the complex scientific interactions that make river watersheds function as ecosystems.

  5. Speak out when river resources are threatened.

  6. Articulate and implement sound land use decisions and site planning to protect against inappropriate development; and to preserve farmland, forests, wetlands and open spaces.

  7. Secure the future of our communities through increased citizen education and involvement in local decision making.

We ask our leaders to:

  1. Reaffirm that the nutrient reduction goals set by the Chesapeake Bay Program partners will be met via timely implementation of the tributary strategies; and to assure that goals for toxics reduction, habitat restoration and fisheries management are also achieved.

  2. Make adequate resources available for river protection-funds for staff, research and monitoring capability, restoration work, and legislative and regulatory protections.

  3. Provide sound, timely information on the state of our rivers, in language and formats that are easily accessible and useful to citizens.

  4. Assure meaningful public participation in river and watershed decision making by expanding opportunities for public involvement, and responding to public comment.

  5. Support the designation of river coordinators for major rivers who can serve as points of contact, sources of information and facilitators of discussion.

  6. Commit to addressing the complex issues of growth and development in our watersheds by providing leadership and resources to enable, promote and encourage communities to participate in better land use decisions.

  7. Show by example, including full enforcement of environmental protections, that preserving our rivers and creeks for the future is a fundamental responsibility of elected officials.

Written on the 19th day of July,1997 in Solomons, Maryland.