Dear Fellow Marylanders:
Hello and Happy Day-After Earth Day! April presents the opportunity to celebrate several nature-focused holidays, including Earth Day on April 22, Maryland Arbor Day on April 9 and National Arbor Day on April 29. These celebrations provide a chance for us to reflect on our environmental progress and to re-evaluate new objectives, strategies and commitments to address conservation and climate action.
We are nearing six months since President Joe Biden signed into law the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that Congress delivered. This $1.2 trillion legislation serves as a historic down payment on our future as we accelerate resilience measures against flooding and sea level rise and conserve landscapes for public use and enjoyment. New federal investments from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will work in concert with President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative, which aims to deliver 40 percent of the overall benefits of federal climate, clean energy, affordable housing, and clean water programs to marginalized communities overburdened by pollution. Taken together, these initiatives will help us to act boldly and equitably in order to protect our planet. There is no time to waste.
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) this month released the final section of its Sixth Assessment, a comprehensive review of climate science that draws from the work of thousands of scientists and requires years to compile. The report found that it is “now or never” if we are to limit global warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F) and avoid the worst effects of climate change. This means achieving net-zero carbon emissions globally in the early 2050s by immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors.
This week I sat down with students of the Center for Politics at Goucher College and the Maryland League of Conservation Voters to discuss federal climate legislation. The discussion came on the heels of recent victories by Maryland environmental advocates at the state level.
My conversation with such energetic and environmentally committed students reminded me of my trip to Glasgow, Scotland last fall for COP26, the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference. Each day of the conference explored a new theme. Our record-sized Senate delegation had the opportunity to participate in talks during “Nature Day.” We outlined how sea level rise and warming temperatures are already damaging Maryland’s greatest natural resource—the Chesapeake Bay.
With numerous and successful restoration efforts underway, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act injects an additional $238 million for the Chesapeake Bay Program to further reduce nutrient pollution and improve water quality in the watershed.
In partnership with local jurisdictions, stakeholders and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, I was pleased to announce that the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act also will deliver $37.5 million in federal funds for the Mid-Chesapeake Bay Island Ecosystem Restoration Project. The Corps recently has built on this commitment and now more than $80 million in federal funds is now planned for the project, which will rebuild James and Barren islands in Dorchester County. It will increase habitat substantially for a variety of fish and wildlife species by repurposing dredged material from the shipping channels for the Port of Baltimore. Restoring the ecosystem function of these islands provides natural flood control solutions as climate change brings increasingly frequent and severe weather events.
This year marks the 150th anniversary of Arbor Day. The goal of Arbor Day is to celebrate nature within communities, whether that be through organized tree-planting or trash and litter clean ups. In March, I led a group of Chesapeake Bay-state colleagues in a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack urging new action to address regional threats from climate change as the Bay states work toward 2025 pollution reduction goals. Trees feature prominently here—riparian forest buffers cost-effectively reduce nutrients and sediment flowing into local waters and the Chesapeake Bay. Voluntary conservation measures also are highly effective at mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and helping farms adapt to climate change.
Earlier this month, the Department of the Interior launched the America the Beautiful Challenge, which builds on President Biden’s executive order to conserve 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters by 2030, in line with our climate goals. The $1 billion America the Beautiful Fund will provide a one-stop shop for federal grant funding opportunities for new conservation and restoration projects around the U.S., consolidating funding from multiple federal agencies and the private sector to enable applicants to conceive and develop large-scale projects that address shared priorities across public and private lands.
Securing our future while correcting our past missteps is a collective and ongoing effort. As we mark Earth Day, I applaud the progress we have made so far and ask your support for the important work ahead.
Please stay safe,