Champion for Chesapeake Bay watershed retires after 30-plus years

Sally Claggett receives 2022 Fran Flanigan Award

Sally Claggett (middle) receives the Fran Flanigan Environmental Award in September 2022 from Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay’s Executive Director Kate Fritz (left) and Forests Program Director Craig Highfield (right). Courtesy photo by Brendan Felch.

When Sally Claggett retired in September 2022, her USDA Forest Service colleagues reflected with gratitude on her decades of achievements in improving water quality through forest health. 

Claggett’s career with the Forest Service spanned over 32 years, beginning with her work as a botanist on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Washington state. After almost 12 years there, she felt a need to return to her home state of Maryland.

“I wanted to get back to the Chesapeake,” she said.

During her 20-year tenure as the Forest Service Eastern Region State and Private Forestry liaison to the Chesapeake Bay Program, Claggett’s many accomplishments included the Chesapeake Forest Restoration Strategy.

The goal of the strategy was to guide “all of the players in the Chesapeake Bay watershed across multiple states, multiple agencies, organizations and nonprofits and provide them with a good roadmap on the most important things that we need to focus on,” said Joseph Koloski, Claggett’s supervisor and the field representative for the Eastern Region’s Morgantown Field Office.

Ultimately, the strategy yielded the first multistate shared stewardship agreement that the Forest Service entered into. In October 2020, all the state foresters in the Chesapeake Bay watershed —representing Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, as well as the District of Columbia — joined the Chief of the Forest Service in signing the agreement.

“So that was kind of a big deal,” said Koloski.

Another remarkable accomplishment for Claggett was helping develop the Forest to Faucets program, which was featured nationally on the Weather Channel in March 2022.

All of Claggett’s work was recognized when she received the 2022 Fran Flanigan Environmental Award, named after the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay’s longest-tenured executive director of 20 years.

“Sally’s work had an impact over the time she was there,” said Koloski. “Certainly, I think others would agree that the overall health and status of forests in the Chesapeake Bay watershed are better now than they were back then.”

In the eyes of Koloski and many others, Claggett was a tremendous mentor to the people she worked with. At a virtual send-off in September, her colleagues shared stories about Claggett, her career and some of the impact she had.

The Forest Service thanks Claggett for all her contributions to educating Americans about the link between forestry and water quality.

“I’m super proud of her retirement,” Koloski said. “She deserves it.”