“Mr. President, a few weeks ago, I joined Senators Barrasso, Capito, Klobuchar, Boozman, and Baldwin in introducing S. 1514, the Hunting Heritage and Environmental Legacy Preservation— HELP— for Wildlife Act.
“This bill represents a more than $100 million annual Federal investment in the protecting the bay. The bill has several provisions, one of which reauthorizes the programs at the heart of restoring and maintaining the health of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. S. 1514 reauthorizes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s, EPA, Chesapeake Bay Program through 2022 at $90 million per year, which is more than the program has ever been funded in its history. This unique regional partnership, managed by EPA through the Chesapeake Bay Program office in Annapolis, helps program partners collaborate to achieve the goals of the voluntary, bipartisan Chesapeake Bay agreement. Because this program expired in 2005, reauthorizing the program is critical to secure necessary appropriations and reject the Trump administration’s proposal to eliminate the program.
“S. 1514 also reauthorizes the Chesapeake Bay gateways and watertrails network and the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Grants Assistance Program, which provides $6 million per year throughout the watershed in technical and financial assistance to State, community, and nongovernmental partners to increase access to the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. The bill also reauthorizes the National Fish and
Wildlife Foundation, NFWF, until 2023. As the Nation’s largest conservation grant-maker, NFWF has been instrumental in completing conservation projects in Maryland and around the Chesapeake Bay. In
2016, the State received nearly $5 million in funding for projects protecting and restoring habitat for fish and wildlife.
“S. 1514 also reauthorizes the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, NAWCA, which provides grants to increase and protect wetlands which not only provide habitat for wildlife, but also reduce the severity of flooding and coastal erosion, and improve water quality. In the 2014 to 2015 grant period alone, Maryland received $1 million from the NAWCA program, which was leveraged with nearly $3 million in additional contributions by outside partners to protect 1,600 acres of wetlands in the State.
“The bill reauthorizes the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act for another 5 years and authorizes $6.5 million to be spent each year on conservation projects that protect more than 350 different species of birds which summer in the United States and winter in the tropical regions. Twenty-one different State birds are neotropical migrants, including Maryland’s famous and beloved Baltimore Oriole.
“S. 1514 codifies the National Fish Habitat Partnership, a collaboration between public agencies, private citizens, and nonprofits for promoting fish conservation. America is home to more than 3,000 species of fish, and 22 percent of the stream miles in this country are at high or very high risk of current habitat degradation. Over the past few years, $175,000 in funds from this program were used in Maryland to rehabilitate three different streams, funding which was 27 matched by $843,000 from private investors. The partnership estimates that the improved habitat in the three streams for brook trout provided a total socio/economic impact of $9.2 million.
“I am proud that S. 1514 contains so many provisions to help the Chesapeake Bay and the State of Maryland.
“I would like to speak for a minute about the importance of reauthorizing these programs and the ‘power of the purse.’ As my colleagues in the Senate well know, the ‘power of the purse’ is the two-step process of authorizing and appropriating. Authorizing legislation can establish, continue, or change programs and activities, and it signals to the appropriators that they should fund these programs. The budget process is not complete until the appropriations process provides the actual funding for the activities and programs established through the authorization process.
“Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney has said that President Donald Trump is sending a deliberate message to Congress about spending money on unauthorized programs. With the President putting an emphasis on boosting defense spending without adding to the deficit, administration officials are looking closely at expired authorizations. By reauthorizing these programs, we are sending our own clear message back: these programs matter to our constituents and to us.
“Mr. Mulvaney said lawmakers too often ignore the ‘regular order’ process of approving a budget, authorizing specific programs, and then appropriating the money for those programs. ‘We actually spend a lot of money in the federal government on programs that aren’t authorized at all,’ he said. ‘Either they used to be authorized and they lapsed, or they were never authorized in the first place. They simply were appropriated without any authorization. It’s the wrong way to do it.’
“Because of President Trump and Director Mulvaney’s position, it is more important than ever that the essential programs contained in S. 1514 be reauthorized.
“None of these reauthorizations are more important to Maryland than EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program. In 1987, Congress ratified the Chesapeake Bay Program, a voluntary partnership among the watershed States and the EPA, under the Clean Water Act. The 1987 legislation supported cleanup efforts with a program of grants and scientific research. In 2000, Congress directed the EPA to ‘ensure that management plans are developed and implementation is begun’ to meet the goals of the Chesapeake Bay Agreement. In June 2014, the Governors of the six States in the watershed signed a new voluntary Chesapeake Bay watershed agreement to work in partnership with the Federal Government through the Chesapeake Bay Program. The watershed agreement has ten goals to improve water quality in local rivers and streams and the Chesapeake Bay by 2025.
“The program office is housed within the EPA, which provides staff and funding. Primary funding for the program comes from State governments. Federal funding was first authorized at $40 million annually from fiscal year 2001 to fiscal year 2005 to fund environmental studies and grants that support restoration activities in the Chesapeake Bay.
“Congress has appropriated funds for the Program since the authorization for appropriations expired in fiscal year 2005. In fiscal year 2017, for instance, Congress appropriated $73 million for the program. The President’s fiscal year 2018 budget eliminates funding for the program and cuts other programs that also benefit the bay across several Federal agency partners’ budgets.
“A healthy bay means a healthy economy, and this recovery cannot be accomplished without a strong Federal commitment. At a time when we have seen nutrient levels dropping and water quality improving, I am deeply disappointed President Trump is intent on turning the clock back to a time when a swath of the Chesapeake Bay in mid-summer was a hypoxic low-oxygen zone or ‘dead zone.’
“The most recent State of the Bay report, issued biannually by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, evaluates the progressing and overall health of the Bay for 2014 to 2016. The Chesapeake Bay’s health was given a grade of C-minus, a slight improvement from the previous State of the Bay report in 2014. This progress is due largely to the continued implementation of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. This improvement, though modest, was hard-won. It is the result of countless hours of grueling work by State and Federal public servants and nonprofit workers, as well as citizens’ actions across the watershed. A grade of C-minus is hardly an acceptable endpoint. To reach an A, which would represent a saved and comprehensively healthy Bay, we will need redouble and accelerate our efforts. I am determined to pass on a vibrant and healthy Chesapeake Bay to the next generation, for the sake of public health and the local economies that depend on a clean and bountiful bay. This is all the more reason that we need to reauthorize the Chesapeake Bay Program and make sure that it is fully funded in this year’s appropriations bill.
“Many Marylanders and national wildlife organizations are happy about the HELP for Wildlife Act. The Choose Clean Water Coalition and Blue Water Baltimore have issued statements of support. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation will testify in support of this bill next week in a legislative hearing the Environment and Public Works Committee is holding. The National Wildlife Federation’s Collin O’Mara said the bill ‘represents a great bipartisan effort to conserve America’s outdoor heritage for hunters, anglers, campers, hikers, and wildlife enthusiasts, while helping to restore America’s wildlife populations.’
“The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership said the bill is ‘the strongest legislative package of sportsmen’s priorities in years.’
“As S. 1514 moves out of the Environment and Public Works Committee and to the Senate floor in the coming weeks, I urge my colleagues to support this bill that is critical not only to the Chesapeake Bay and the State of Maryland, but to conservation efforts in every State across the Nation.”