October 01, 2020

Van Hollen, Capito Legislation Creating New Grant Program for Bay Restoration Heads to President’s Desk for Signature

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the America’s Conservation Enhancement (ACE) Act, a bipartisan package that includes the Chesapeake WILD Act, legislation introduced by Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.) to boost 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. This program is authorized at $15 million. The ACE Act also increases the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program authorization from $40 million to $92 million. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Van Hollen has pushed for the highest level of funding for the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program at $85 million in the FY2020 Appropriations Bill. The ACE Act will now head to the President’s desk for signature. 

“The health of the Chesapeake Bay is vital to our local economy and Maryland’s environmental well-being. This new grant program will allow us to partner with more organizations on the ground to ensure we’ve got all hands on deck in our restoration and habitat conservation efforts. Working together, and with these new funds, we can better protect the ecosystem of the Bay, preserve this national treasure, and support all the economic activity that relies on a healthy Bay. I was proud to work alongside Senator Capito in this bipartisan effort, and I urge the President to sign this crucial legislation into law without delay,” said Senator Van Hollen. 

“The Chesapeake Bay remains an important natural resource and its headwaters in West Virginia play a meaningful role in our state’s economy. By establishing the first federal species and habitat conservation grants tailored specifically to this region, we’re able to better support vital ecosystems and West Virginia’s large outdoor industry. I’m thrilled that the Chesapeake WILD Act was included in the ACE Act, and I look forward to President Trump signing this legislation into law,” Senator Capito said. 

Background on the Chesapeake WILD Act: 

The Chesapeake WILD Act will give the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service a direct role in the restoration and protection of living resources and their habitat in the 64,000 square mile Chesapeake Bay region. This non-regulatory bill directs the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to establish a grants program to enhance fish and wildlife and their habitats. There are key areas in the tidal Chesapeake Bay system that would benefit from this program, including areas for wetland restoration. However, there is a tremendous need in upland areas; and some commitments under the Chesapeake Bay Agreement are behind schedule. This legislation would enable the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to more fully engage in habitat restoration activities in the Chesapeake Bay region. 

The Chesapeake WILD Act is intended to assist local partners with on-the-ground work to enhance progress toward Chesapeake Bay Watershed-wide goals on some of the following activities: 

  • Riparian forest buffer restoration
  • Improving stream health
  • Tidal and Non-tidal wetland restoration
  • Improving fish habitat
  • Expanding populations of black ducks
  • Restoring and protecting eastern brook trout and their habitat
  • Removing barriers to fish migration in freshwater systems