Sally Claggett experienced the lure of the Chesapeake Bay from a young age. Growing up on what used to be a pristine tributary, the Tred Avon River, she spent her summer days outside and on the water. The Chesapeake Bay looked much different then. Claggett recalls, “the seaweed was so thick, the crabs couldn’t swim. So they would be sitting on top of the seaweed, and you could just grab them from the canoe!” One year, she returned her canoe to the water, and the seaweed was just gone. “It was almost overnight,” she reminisces.

Claggett’s infatuation with nature was encouraged by both of her parents. Her mom gifted her a small plant press when she was 10 and went on to take her first job at the Forest Service as a Botanist in the northwest. After finding time away from the Chesapeake Bay watershed, Claggett felt she needed to return to this area. “I wanted to get back to Chesapeake,” she noted, remembering the unique Chesapeake Bay region. Claggett accepted a position as the US Forest Service Liaison to the Chesapeake Bay Program.


Sally Claggett: Us Forest Service Liaison to the Chesapeake Bay Program

When Claggett began working in forestry in the Chesapeake Bay watershed 20 years ago, the forests looked much different. The US Forest service saw a need to reach forest landowners directly, but they lacked the capacity to connect with the 800,000 forest landowners. However, the Alliance’s Forests for the Bay program had the amplitude to work across state lines throughout NY, PA, MD, DC, VA, and DC to educate about the direct correlation between forestry and water quality.

In a close partnership, the Alliance worked with the Forest Service to begin conducting educational outreach. The Forests for the Bay program enabled the Forest Service to connect landowners to the right resources and emphasize the importance of forest management to improve water quality work.


2017 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Forum

“Forests are going to have to become more front and center, or the Bay will never be restored,” Claggett says. It’s been a gradual transition to get others to see the water quality benefits that forests have to offer. Together, both groups are working to undo the years of negligence. “It takes a long time and perseverance,” Claggett states.

The Forests for the Bay program places emphasis on reforestation and plants trees where they do the most good for water quality in the watershed. The program also supports woodland stewardship on private land to forest vitality and productivity, enhances wildlife habitat, and water quality. Lastly, education, resource building, and engagement remain a priority. Through consistent work, in the last 3 years alone, the Forest for the Bay program has planted 201,265 trees, 3,705 acres of woodlands are under management, and has engaged 4,832 people in forest education.


Craig Highfield, left, of the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, and Alysha Trexler of Western Pennsylvania Conservancy plant a tree as Riparian Forest Buffer Vocational Training concludes in Huntingdon, Pa., on Oct. 16, 2019. Inmates from Huntingdon State Correctional Institution, who completed the training, planted 400 trees with help from officials and environmental professionals during the event. The 14-week training was part of the Correctional Conservation Collaborative, which aims to increase the workforce available for green careers and is a partnership including the nonprofit Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. Following the planting, instructors with DCNR and the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay held a graduation ceremony for twenty men, who represent the first training class of the program. (Photo by Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program)

Claggett recognizes the fragility of forests and looks towards a future where people realize that with negligence forests will disappear to development. She is hopeful programs like Forests for the Bay continue to receive support otherwise, there is no way the Chesapeake will be restored.