WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (both D-Md.), members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, today praised the enactment into law of a bipartisan package of wildlife conservation legislation, the America’s Conservation Enhancement (ACE) Act, that includes several measures to benefit the Chesapeake Bay watershed and Maryland’s fish and wildlife habitats. Foremost among the legislation was a provision authored by Senator Cardin and Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.), and cosponsored by Senator Van Hollen, to increase the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program authorization from $40 million to $92 million.
Other key parts of this legislative package, which was signed into law by President Trump today, included two additional Chesapeake Bay proposals, the Chesapeake WILD Act, introduced by Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), and another authored by Senator Cardin. The senators are each cosponsors of the other’s legislation.
- The bipartisan Chesapeake WILD Act will provide more resources to Chesapeake Bay conservation efforts by creating a new grant program within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to support habitat restoration in the Bay region. The Committee authorized the program at $15 million.
- Reauthorization of the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network and the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Grants Assistance Program, run by the National Park Service, which provides $6 million per year throughout the watershed in technical and financial assistance to state, community, and nongovernmental partners to increase public access to the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.
“A healthier Chesapeake Bay means stronger commerce throughout Maryland, so the final passage of the ACE Act means significant progress for both our iconic estuary and our local economies,” said Senator Cardin. “The more we can do to protect our natural resources and improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay, the better it is for our communities and public health. The programs in the ACE Act, individually and together, will have a significant impact on the Chesapeake Bay and all who depend on it for years to come.”
“The health of the Chesapeake Bay is vital to protecting our environment and a vibrant economy. Investing in its preservation has benefits that extend far and wide for our state – creating good paying jobs, supporting our fishing and tourism industries, and ensuring that generations to come can enjoy this national treasure. I’m proud that we were able to authorize significant new funding for the Bay in this package. We will continue fighting to protect and preserve the Bay at every turn,” said Senator Van Hollen.
The bill also reauthorizes the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, known as NFWF, until 2025 through language authored by Senator Cardin and Senator Cassidy (R-La.). As the nation’s largest conservation grant-maker, NFWF has been instrumental in completing conservation projects in Maryland and around the Chesapeake Bay. On September 4, 2020, Senators Van Hollen and Cardin, announced $3.94 million in federal funds from NFWF to support projects throughout Maryland to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay and enhance environmental infrastructure.
The bill also codifies the National Fish Habitat Partnership, a collaboration between public agencies, private citizens, and nonprofits for promoting fish conservation through language authored by Senator Cardin and Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho). Maryland is home to three fish habitat partnerships: Atlantic Coast Fish Habitat Partnership, which stretches from Maine to the Florida Keys including Maryland’s coastal bays; 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 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.