Chesapeake Conservancy thanks Congress for federal funding for Chesapeake Bay restoration

chesapeake conservancyThe Chesapeake Conservancy is thanking Congress for supporting continued success in restoring and conserving the Chesapeake Bay.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 includes $73 million to fund the Chesapeake Bay Program, $6 million for land conservation in the Chesapeake region, and $2 million for public access and conservation efforts along the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail through the National Park Service’s Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Trails Program.

Chesapeake Bay Program, EPA

“The regional partnership that oversees the cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay has shown measurable progress and tangible results. We are grateful to Congress for standing behind the hard work of hundreds of people coordinating across 6 states and the District of Columbia by fully funding the Chesapeake Bay Program,” Chesapeake Conservancy President & CEO Joel Dunn said. “Chesapeake Conservancy recently partnered with the Bay Program to complete the Chesapeake Bay High-Resolution Land Cover Project which revolutionizes the quality of the information about the natural and human-made features that exist on the landscape of the Bay watershed, such as buildings, tree canopy and water. The Bay Program is using this dataset to evaluate stakeholder progress toward meeting reduction targets for Bay pollution loads. Thanks to continued federal support, we look forward to continuing our work with the Bay Program to restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay.”

Land Conservation

More than 5,000 acres of land will be conserved through the Rivers of the Chesapeake Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) Collaborative Landscape proposal, for which the Chesapeake Conservancy was a lead non-profit partner. The 2018 proposal received broad support from 21 members of Congress; governors of Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, and Pennsylvania; state legislators, American Indian tribal leaders; and non-profit organizations. Projects were identified in partnership with the states and local partners.

The collaborative is focused on protecting the great rivers of the Chesapeake Bay; the Potomac, Rappahannock, James, York, Nanticoke, and Susquehanna Rivers and their watersheds. By leveraging existing efforts and partnerships throughout the Chesapeake, the Rivers of the Chesapeake collaborative is working to achieve conservation and public access objectives along the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail and across the entire watershed. This has been a consistent priority of the Chesapeake Conservation Partnership, a coalition of land conservation organizations throughout the region.

“Recently, for the first time, the federal government studied the effects of outdoor recreation on the U.S. economy, and the results were staggering – showing it comprises 2 percent ($373.7 billion) of the 2016 U.S. Gross Domestic Product,” Dunn said. “Protecting these places supports our communities, culture and economy and is also important to maintaining the ecological health of the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed.”

A signature project included in the funding bill and the Rivers of the Chesapeake proposal is Grace Furnace, a 4,672 acre property located in George Washington and Jefferson National Forests in southwestern Virginia. This long-term conservation priority for the U.S. Forest Service will protect a steam coldblast charcoal furnace built in 1849 and more than 10 miles of trout streams with endangered aquatic species. Made possible through a partnership with the Open Space Institute, this project will consolidate a large block of public land and provide recreational access adjacent to the Hoop Hole National Recreation Trail.

The funding bill also includes $1M for land conservation at the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) complex on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Chesapeake Conservancy has been working with the Refuge, the United States Navy, and many other partners, to protect land in the Middle Chesapeake Sentinel Landscape, which includes Blackwater NWR and the Nanticoke River.

“We’re very grateful to the Chesapeake Bay area congressional delegation, the Chesapeake Executive Council including the Chair, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, for recognizing that we must continue forward with our efforts to restore the health of the Chesapeake so that we can build upon recent successes. In particular, we would like to thank Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine of Virginia whose support helped make the conservation of Grace Furnace possible, and Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen who were critical in our push for more public access and the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail,” Dunn said.

Public Access

The omnibus spending bill also allocates $2 million to the National Park Service’s Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Trails program, authorized in 1998, which supports collaboration with federal, state and local agencies and organizations to provide better access to the Chesapeake and its rivers, to conserve important landscapes and resources, to engage youth in meaningful work and placed-based education, to improve recreational opportunities, and to interpret the natural and cultural resources of the Chesapeake region.

“Public access is a critical component to the long term strategy to restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay. To make sure people are empowered to protect the Bay, we must ensure that they have access to it,” Dunn said. “As the principal partner of the National Park Service on the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, we know first-hand that when people feel connected to the Bay, they’ll be more likely to help take care of it – vote for elected officials who care about the environment or even dedicate their careers to it.”

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