The EEN Afternoon Show – Managing the Chesapeake Bay and its Complexity: A Study in Evaluation, Adaptive Management and Accountability


Katherine Dawes, EPA (Host)
Carin Bisland, EPA
Nikki Tinsley, Mosley and Associates
Paul Ferraro, Georgia State University – CEEP
Carl Hershner, College of William and Mary


The concepts of adaptive management, accountability and evaluation are prominently featured in President Obama’s Executive Order 13508 (EO) to restore and protect the Chesapeake Bay. The Chesapeake Bay watershed is a vast system, encompassing a multitude of political boundaries, cultures, ecological habitats, regulatory and management regimes, and social goals.  Like other large aquatic ecosystem management efforts  around the world (Puget Sound, Long Island Sound, Gulf of Mexico, Great Lakes),  the Chesapeake Bay consist of  lots of information and multiple management initiatives at a number of levels.

One of the most formidable challenges in these efforts is how to effectively organize all the relevant information from across the ecosystem and provide it in a timely and coherent manner to decision makers. EPA and its Chesapeake Bay federal, state, and local partners are currently grappling with how best to design an adaptive management system that uses the most appropriate evaluation methods to assist in making management and resource decisions and holding all partners accountable.

This challenge is complicated by recent developments to the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay partnership which is undergoing numerous organizational and management challenges as it transitions from a historically collaborative, partnership-based ecosystem protection program to a more regulatory-driven water quality focused effort.  Like redesigning an airplane while in flight, the Bay partnership is struggling with how to construct an adaptive management system amidst evolving goals, legal mandates, and partner roles and responsibilities.

The session will focus on the nature of the Chesapeake Bay effort, the key challenges it is facing in developing a program evaluation and adaptive management system and how the concept of accountability is applied among the partnership.  Guests at the session  will describe the overall status and of Chesapeake management today (involved actors, driving policies and programs, goals for the Bay, broad challenges/obstacles, etc); discuss the complexity inherent in its management; explore and outline the roles of measurement and evaluation, accountability, evidence-based policy and practice, and adaptive management in a future for the Chesapeake Bay; and discuss the role of the Chesapeake Bay in providing an example for future ecosystem-based management initiatives worldwide.

Presentation Materials

1 Comment

  1. Matt
    08 June 11, 12:18pm

    The Chesapeake Bay Protection and Restoration Executive Order

    Strategy for Protecting and Restoring the Chesapeake Bay Watershed:
    Goals and Outcomes –

    Chesapeake Adaptive Management Model

    Achieving Nutrient and Sediment Reduction Goals in the Chesapeake Bay:
    An Evaluation of Program Strategies and Implementation (including a chapter on adaptive management)
    – NAS new release announcing the report:
    – NAS report site:
    – NAS “Report in Brief” 4 page summary document:

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