On Monday, a bipartisan group of senators including Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) introduced a bill titled the Hunting Heritage and Environmental Legacy Preservation (HELP) for Wildlife Act (S. 1514) which would reauthorize several federal programs vital to outdoor recreation and conservation stewardship in the Chesapeake Bay.
Among other provisions, the HELP Wildlife Act would increase the authorized funding level for the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program to $90 million, the highest amount in the program’s history. The bill would also extend authorization for the Chesapeake Bay Program until 2023. The Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP) is a regional partnership that has coordinated the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay since 1983. In addition to coordinating restoration science, modeling, and monitoring, the Chesapeake Bay Program provides critical funding to state and local governments to reduce pollution and funding to universities and nonprofits to support projects improving water quality.
Additionally, The HELP Wildlife Act would extend authorization for the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails program until 2023. Established by Congress in 1998, the Gateways program enhances conservation stewardship by connecting people with the Chesapeake Bay through outdoor recreation opportunities, exhibits and interpretive trail signage, and youth programs. Since 2000, the Gateways program has allowed the National Park Service Chesapeake Bay Office to provide more than $13 million in financial and technical assistance for more than 300 projects in communities in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.
The HELP Wildlife Act extends six year authorizations for several other programs important to conservation and wildlife in the Chesapeake Bay, including for the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act.
Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) sponsored the bill with Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Senator John Boozman (R-AR), Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) joining as original cosponsors.
Chesapeake Conservancy President and CEO Joel Dunn issued a statement in support of the bill:
“The HELP Wildlife Act exemplifies bipartisan support for conservation and outdoor recreation throughout the United States and especially in the Chesapeake Bay. I am very grateful for Senator Cardin and Senator Capito’s leadership on this bill, and I urge the Senate to move this bill forward so that the Chesapeake Bay Program, the Gateways program, and many other programs important to the Chesapeake Bay can continue to be funded.”