U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) announced today that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated the chesapeake bay Watershed as one of eight national Critical Conservation Areas, a new designation that ensures Bay region producers are eligible to receive a portion of more than $100 million in annual funding to help implement a variety of conservation projects and increase the sustainability of regional water, soil, wildlife and natural resources. Sens. Warner and Kaine, with other Bay State Senators, fought to preserve funding for the watershed by consolidating multiple conservation programs into a new Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) as part of the 2014 Farm Bill.
“I am proud that we able to push the usda to recognize the importance of the chesapeake bay by designating it as a Critical Conservation Area,” Senator Warner, who as Governor of Virginia toughened standards and made a historic investment in water quality improvements, said. “This will allow us to continue protecting the Commonwealth’s 3,300 miles of coast, which provide vital economic contributions to tourism, recreation, commercial and sport fisheries, as well as important environmental resources.”
“I applaud usda for designating the chesapeake bay as a Critical Conservation Area, which will bolster the Bay’s share of federally-funded conservation projects that benefit both farmers and the environment,” said Senator Kaine, who made Chesapeake Bay cleanup and conservation a priority as Governor of Virginia. “I was proud to support the bipartisan farm bill containing these important priorities.”
The chesapeake bay is the world’s largest and most productive estuary. With a 64,000 square mile watershed and 11,684 miles of tidal shoreline, more than the entire U.S. West Coast, the Bay has been deemed a national treasure by President Obama and his predecessors. It has an economic value over $1 trillion, but that value is dependent on the health of the Bay’s waters and fisheries. Twenty-five percent of lands within the watershed are used for agricultural purposes.