An abundance of life found in the Chesapeake Bay makes our nation’s largest estuary not just ecologically important, but also economically important to our region.
The Chesapeake’s seafood industry contributes between $2 and $3 billion dollars in sales annually and supports 34,000 to 41,000 jobs in Maryland and in Virginia. Sportfishing in Maryland contributes nearly $500 million dollars in sales, and nearly $1 billion dollars in sales in Virginia.
The Chesapeake’s aquatic bounty also attracts anglers of the winged variety. Each winter, millions of migratory birds reside in the Chesapeake Bay and its extensive coastal wetlands. On the Delmarva peninsula alone, hunting, fishing, and wildlife watching brings millions of visitors annually and more than $1 billion in sales.
Conserving the Chesapeake Bay’s waters and habitats is essential for economic resilience and growth, and this week Congress passed bipartisan legislation that will enhance conservation here in the Chesapeake Bay.
Once signed into law, the America’s Conservation Enhancement Act, or “ACE” Act, will reauthorize the North Americas Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), a program that has helped to protect over 58,000 wetland and grassland acres in Maryland. These lands are critical for wildlife, for clean water, and flood resilience, and for outdoor recreation.
The ACE Act will also reauthorize the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Establishment Act (NFWF). In the Chesapeake Bay, NFWF has helped restore more than 15,600 acres of wetlands, 3,000 miles of streams, and 2,270 miles of forested riparian buffers.
The ACE Act also includes provisions specific to the Chesapeake Bay.
The bill will reauthorize the Chesapeake Bay Program, a regional partnership of federal agencies, state and local governments, non-profits, and other partners that work together to restore and protect the Chesapeake Bay.
The bill will also reauthorize the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network, a National Park Service program that connects people to the Chesapeake Bay through public access sites, education, and resource interpretation.
Finally, the ACE Act will create a new U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service program providing additional resources to protect and restore Chesapeake Bay habitats.
Given these many provisions, the ACE Act is the most significant legislation for the Chesapeake Bay since the Bay Program was created through the Water Quality Act of 1987.
I thank Senator Cardin and Senator Van Hollen for their leadership on the ACE Act and all our congressional members from the Chesapeake Bay watershed that supported this bill.
President and CEO