Legislation introduced in the Senate today would renew several federal programs essential to restoring the Bay and increasing public access to this natural wonder.
The Bay-related provisions are part of a larger bill to reauthorize the America’s Conservation Enhancement (ACE) Act. The historic, bipartisan conservation law was enacted in 2020.
The America’s Conservation Enhancement (ACE) Reauthorization Act would extend and renew funding for:
- the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program, which coordinates the federal-state partnership to clean up the Bay and its tributaries, at $100 million annually through fiscal year 2030. The Program is currently funded at $92 million.
- the Chesapeake Watershed Investments for Landscape Defense (WILD) matching grant program at $15 million annually. The program was created in the 2020 law and is currently funded at $8 million. It is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
- the National Park Service’s Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Water Trails program at its current annual funding level of $3 million for the next five years. The program works with state and local partners to promote access to a network of historic sites, trails, parks, wildlife refuges, and museums across the watershed.
- the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), a competitive grant program that supports local communities’ efforts to clean up and restore waterways and wildlife habitat.
Projects recently funded by these programs include restoring ancestral lands of Virginia's Upper Mattaponi Indian Tribe; converting a contaminated lot in East Baltimore into a community-friendly urban garden; helping the Lebanon County, Pa., Conservation District develop water quality improvement plans for the Little Swatara and Swatara Creek watersheds; and improving eastern brook trout populations in West Virginia’s Spruce Knob Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area.
The bill was introduced by Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.), ranking member Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), and Bay state Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).
CBF Federal Director Keisha Sedlacek issued the following statement:
“The Chesapeake Bay Foundation welcomes the Committee’s timely bill to renew the America’s Conservation Enhancement Act. This historic law supports several federal programs crucial to restoring the Bay, its waterways, its fisheries, and its wildlife.
“EPA, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation are key partners in the federal-state Bay cleanup effort. As we enter the next phase of the partnership, it is essential they have the critical authority the bill would provide to help Bay states meet the challenges of the future.
“CBF enthusiastically endorses this important legislation. We urge the Committee to act on it quickly and call on Bay champions in the House to act as well.”