November 13, 2023

Van Hollen, USFWS, and NFWF announce $7.4 Million in New Grants to Restore and Protect Habitats in Chesapeake Bay Watershed

Twenty-five grants reflect growing scale and impact of the Chesapeake Watershed Investments in Landscape Defense (WILD) Program

U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) was joined by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), and Congressman John Sarbanes (D-Md.) to announce 25 grants totaling $7.4 million to support wildlife habitat, climate resilience, community conservation partnerships, and equitable access to nature in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. This includes $1,392,200 for nine projects in Maryland.

These grants, provided through the Chesapeake Watershed Investments in Landscape Defense (Chesapeake WILD) Program, will help protect and preserve the Chesapeake Bay and leverage more than $12 million in grantee matching funds, for a total conservation impact of $19.4 million. The Chesapeake WILD program was established through legislation authored by Senators Van Hollen and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.), and enacted into law within the America’s Conservation Enhancement Act in 2020. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Congressman Sarbanes were among the cosponsors of the legislation.

“The Chesapeake WILD program is a critical new tool for protecting?native?habitats, preserving wildlife, and boosting the health of our outdoor economy,” said Senator Chris Van Hollen. “Delivering these resources to our partners in Maryland – who are working on the front lines of this effort – is exactly what I had in mind when authoring this legislation. These federal dollars will help local stewards of the Chesapeake Bay improve its water quality, restore our wetlands, and protect wildlife that has been threatened by development and pollution.” 

“The goal of the Chesapeake WILD Act is to equip our on-the-ground partners with resources to improve the long-term health of the Bay watershed and its inhabitants," said Congressman John Sarbanes. "That's why I am so proud to be at the National Aquarium today to announce the second round of Chesapeake WILD grant recipients. So far, these grants have aided our local, state, and regional partners' abilities to conserve land, increase resiliency, and restore critical habitat. I look forward to seeing how the 2023 recipients utilize this funding to promote a healthy Bay for future generations." 

“The Chesapeake Bay watershed and its wildlife are at the heart of our region’s cultural identity and economy,” said Senator Cardin. “Federal investment is critical to its health and sustainability. With the support of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and through community stewardship, we can secure the Bay’s resiliency and vitality for generations to come.”

“The Chesapeake WILD program adds critical new resources, agency support, and technical assistance investments for habitat restoration and protection, public access, and community engagement activities across the Chesapeake Bay watershed,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and chief executive officer of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. “We look forward to working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and our many partners in the Chesapeake Bay watershed to continue building on the Foundation’s long legacy of conservation and restoration efforts in the region.”  

The awards announced today will ultimately protect more than 4,700 acres of fish and wildlife habitat, including 2,000 acres of key wildlife corridors in anticipated high elevation migration paths, restore more than 32 miles of riparian forest habitat, reconnect nearly 120 miles for migratory fish species, and improve recreational access for more than 31 miles of river and trails. Many of these projects address conservation needs in vulnerable communities.

A full list of 2023 Chesapeake WILD grant projects is available here. The WILD-funded projects in Maryland are as follows:

  • Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay ($579,600) will restore degraded habitat for imperiled species and develop a natural resources master plan for Bowie State University-owned woodlands and wetlands and Maryland Park Service-owned natural resource management areas adjacent to the university’s main campus. The project will engage students through internships and entry level jobs, guided field experiences, and course integration.
  • Baltimore Green Space ($75,000) will expand habitat for imperiled pollinators and gather data on bumble bees as an indicator species across 12 properties in Baltimore City. The project will engage underserved communities in this work by providing site leaders, community partners, and other stakeholders with education and technical assistance to support pollinator habitats.
  • Ducks Unlimited ($125,000) will lead three wetland restoration projects totaling at least 20 acres in coordination with multiple landowners. The project will lay the foundation for a strong, targeted conservation initiative in a high priority area that is primed for protection and restoration.
  • Earth Conservation Corps ($74,900) will restore 2,500 feet of an unnamed tributary, commonly known as Noonan’s Run, of the Little Patuxent River. This work will enhance habitat for several species of endangered birds, dragonflies, and freshwater mussels and support AmeriCorps members in providing underserved youth with hands-on experiences and pathways to pursue green careers.
  • Harford County ($80,000) will help increase American Eel populations beyond the Eden Mill Dam in Deer Creek and serve as a hands-on community outreach tool to educate the public about the importance of fish passages. The County will design and install an eel ladder that will result in opening over 110 miles of American eel habitat.
  • Maryland Department of Natural Resources ($75,000) to develop a technical design document that will highlight the infrastructure needed for researching risk-based conservation strategies. This work will produce a plan that will support the upstream passage of anadromous fish species and prevent the upstream spread of invasive fish species.
  • National Aquarium ($232,700) will partner to implement a community engagement plan focused on habitat restoration, stewardship, community science and meaningful education programming, establish an 8,000-square-foot floating wetland habitat featuring a live oyster reef, and pilot a network for native seed collection in support of Maryland’s 5 million trees initiative.
  • Nepali American Cultural Center of Baltimore ($75,000) will develop a comprehensive plan that will restore and enhance the Nepali American Cultural Center’s green infrastructure and resilience. They will create designs for stormwater management facilities, underground cisterns for rainwater harvesting, reforestation, meadows, a native tree nursery and removal of impervious surfaces.
  • Susquehannock Wildlife Society ($75,000) will use radio telemetry monitoring surveys of current wood turtle populations to better understand their habitat use and range. The Society will host events to educate the public and develop a conservation management plan using the collected data to highlight important habitat features and how they may be improved.

The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the U.S. and home to thousands of species of plants and animals. Nearly one million waterfowl winter on and near the bay each year – approximately one-third of the Atlantic Coast’s migratory population. More than 18 million people live and work in the Chesapeake Bay region, many depending on industries tied to the health of the watershed, like outdoor recreation, farming, and fishing.   

It supports collaborative conservation in the watershed and provides grant funding for community driven projects that align with five interrelated focal areas for sustaining the health of the watershed and its inhabitants into the future:  

  • Conserving and restoring imperiled fish and wildlife habitats 
  • Enhancing climate resilience and readiness 
  • Building community partnerships and conservation capacity, including in vulnerable communities 
  • Increasing equitable public access for recreation and human connections with nature 
  • Improving water quality  

The Service partners with NFWF to deliver the Chesapeake WILD grant program as part of the Foundation’s broader Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund — a portfolio of competitive grant programs helping to restore and protect the Chesapeake Bay watershed.