The state-federal partnership overseeing the Chesapeake Bay cleanup has released details on how it plans to increase diversity and inclusion within its own ranks and combat racial disparities in its work.

Dr. Janet Underwood, shown here in 2019 at the announcement of her appointment as Virginia’s Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, spoke at the 2020 meeting of the Chesapeake Executive Council on the importance of taking meaningful steps to broaden participation in the Bay restoration effort and to ensure that the benefits are share equitably. VA Office of the Governor/Jack Mayer Credit: Jack Mayer / VA Office of the Governor

The 25-page plan, published on Aug. 23, offers a “roadmap” for meeting the Chesapeake Bay Program’s “diversity, equity, inclusion and justice” goals, officials say.

The plan comes nearly a year to the day after the Chesapeake Executive Council formally agreed to collectively pursue greater diversity and inclusion. The policy was unanimously signed by the council’s membership: the governors of Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, and West Virginia; the mayor of Washington, DC; the head of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, which consists of legislators from Bay states; and the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  

The new document, drafted by the Bay Program’s Diversity Workgroup, lays out what officials say needs to happen next.

The overarching priorities are to weave diverse language into the program’s governance documents, hire more diverse leaders and staff, and incorporate the aspirations of under-represented communities into decisions. The Bay Program is also seeking to bring nonprofits and other partners into the mix by requiring proof of environmental justice considerations from grant recipients.

Among other actions called for in the report:

  • Using entry-level positions, such as the Chesapeake Conservation Corps, as a pool of potential diverse candidates for permanent positions within the partnership
  • Developing a list of organizations led by or serving under-represented communities
  • Tracking grant allocations to organizations with an environmental justice focus
  • Reviewing communication materials to identify areas for improvement

The workgroup’s plan sets a 2025 deadline or sooner for virtually all the proposed actions. But the plan isn’t set in stone yet. The Bay Program is taking feedback on it until Sept. 27.

Comments may be sent to or via phone message at 410-934-7141. A two-page backgrounder provides background and an overview of the plan. You can read the full plan here.

This article was originally published on on Friday, September 3, 2021.

Jeremy Cox

Jeremy Cox is a Bay Journal staff writer based in Maryland.

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