Press Release

May 10, 2024
Cardin, Van Hollen Celebrate Senate Passage of Historic $100 Million Reauthorization of the Chesapeake Bay Program and Other Key Watershed Conservation Measures

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (both D-Md.)celebrated passage this week of America’s Conservation Enhancement (ACE) Reauthorization Act in the U.S. Senate. The legislation reauthorizes important habitat and wildlife conservation efforts in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and throughout the country. The bipartisan legislation builds on previous efforts to protect and preserve ecosystems from evolving threats such as invasive species and wildlife diseases.

“A healthy Bay means a healthy community, which is why Marylanders understand the importance of protecting and restoring natural habitats and wildlife regions,” said Senator Cardin. “The programs in the ACE Act will have a significant impact on the Chesapeake Bay and the 18 million people who rely on its waters for their livelihood and recreation.”

“One of our top priorities is to protect our treasured Chesapeake Bay and support the Marylanders whose lives livelihoods depend on it. From the Chesapeake WILD program to protect habitat, to the Chesapeake Bay Program at the EPA and Gateways Program at NPS – these initiatives are central to our efforts to improve water quality, restore wildlife habitat in and around the Chesapeake Bay, and enhance public access to Maryland’s natural treasures,” said Senator Van Hollen. “With this legislation, we are ensuring generations to come can experience the natural beauty our state has to offer in communities surrounding the Bay.”

The ACE Act helps conserve wildlife and wildlife habitat, including by reauthorizing the following programs through 2030:

  1. The EPA Chesapeake Bay Program, a regional partnership that coordinates action among the states of Maryland, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia; the District of Columbia; the Chesapeake Bay Commission, a tri-state legislative body; and the federal government. The ACE Act of 2024 increases program funds from $92 million to $100 million for each fiscal year until 2030.
  1. The Chesapeake Watershed Investment for Landscape Defense (WILD) Act which will allow the program authored by Senator Van Hollen and supported by Senator Cardin to continue to serve the region. It provides resources to conserve, steward, and enhance fish and wildlife habitats in addition to advancing related conservation values like public access and community engagement. The legislation authorizes the program at $15 million each year until 2030. 
  1. The Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network and the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Grants Assistance Program. Gateways Network is system of 200 natural, cultural, historical, and recreational sites, trails, museums, parks, refuges that provide a broad range of entry points or “gateways” to experience Chesapeake Bay.  The program is administered by the National Park Service, which provides $3 million each year for five years.
  1. The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, known as NFWF. The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation is a core partner of the Chesapeake Bay Program, helping to target federal conservation dollars and match investments with private funds.
  1. The National Fish Habitat Partnership, a collaboration between public agencies, private citizens, and nonprofits for promoting fish conservation. Maryland is home to three fish habitat partnerships: (1) Atlantic Coast Fish Habitat Partnership, which stretches from Maine to the Florida Keys including Maryland’s coastal bays; (2) Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture, which has spearheaded an assessment of brook trout populations and threats to their habitat in the Eastern United States including Central Maryland; and (3) Ohio River Basin FHP, which was formed to protect, restore, and enhance priority habitat for fish and mussels in the watersheds of the Ohio River Basin that includes Garrett County.

In addition to Cardin and Van Hollen, the ACE Act is co-sponsored by Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.)., Cassidy (R-LA), Wyden (D-OR), Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Graham (R-SC), Peters (D-MI), King (I-ME), Barrasso (R-WY).

The legislation is endorsed by Ducks Unlimited, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, the National Wildlife Federation, the American Sportfishing Association, the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, and the National Audubon Society.