Two Bay region nonprofit organizations recently merged under the name Chesapeake Conservancy to further their common goals of promoting public access, land conservation, education and stewardship of the Bay and its rivers.

The new organization will build on the work of the two organizations, the Friends of the John Smith Chesapeake Trail and the Friends of the Chesapeake Gateways, to advance and implement the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail and the Chesapeake Gateways and Watertrails Network, and to create and implement a Chesapeake Treasured Landscape Initiative which seeks to preserve large landscapes of regional significance.

Working with government agencies and conservation groups, the conservancy will help coordinate conservation and public access priorities in the Chesapeake and advance those priorities through focused advocacy, policy development and a marshaling of public and private funding.

"Our focus is on advancing public access to connect people and communities to the outdoors, and conserving sweeping landscapes that protect our existing and future investments in the Bay's restoration," said David O'Neill, president and CEO of the conservancy.

The Friends of the John Smith Chesapeake Trail championed the creation of the nation's first all-water National Historic Trail and has raised millions of dollars for conservation, public access and education efforts that support the trail. It recently formed a consortium called the Partners for Chesapeake Treasured Landscapes with nearly 45 federal, state and local governments and nonprofit partners across the watershed.

The Friends of the Chesapeake Gateways has helped the Chesapeake Gateways and Watertrails Network expand to more than 170 sites across the watershed, which provide interpretation, education and public access to the Bay.