WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., a senior member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, praised unanimous passage by the full Senate late Thursday, Jan. 9, of five proposals he authored or cosponsored that will benefit the Chesapeake Bay watershed and Maryland’s wildlife and fish habitats.
“The Chesapeake Bay and our fish and wildlife are at the heart of what makes Maryland Maryland,” Cardin said. “A healthy Bay means a healthy economy for our state and our region.”
Foremost among the legislation was a Cardin-authored provision with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.V., increasing the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program Reauthorization to a historic $92 million. The bills were part of a bipartisan package of wildlife conservation legislation, the America’s Conservation Enhancement (ACE) Act.
“The more we can do to protect our precious natural resources and improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay, the better it is for our communities and public health,” Cardin said. “These programs, individually and together, will have a significant impact on the Chesapeake Bay and all who depend on it for years to come.”
As a part of this legislative package, the Senate also passed two other Chesapeake Bay proposals, one authored by Cardin, and the Chesapeake WILD Act, introduced by Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md. The senators are each cosponsors of the other’s legislation.
- The Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails network and the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Grants Assistance Program, run by the National Park Service, 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 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.
The bill reauthorizes the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) until 2025 through language authored by Cardin and Sen. Bill 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.
The bill codifies the National Fish Habitat Partnership, a collaboration between public agencies, private citizens, and nonprofits for promoting fish conservation through language authored by Cardin and Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho.
Maryland is home to three fish habitat partnerships: Atlantic Coast FHP, 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.
The ACE Act served as a substitute amendment for the North America Wetlands Conservation Extension Act (NAWCA), which provides grants to increase and protect wetlands that provide habitat for wildlife and also reduces the severity of flooding and coastal erosion, and improve water quality.