Chesapeake Conservancy Applauds Federal Funding for Conservation and Public Access

Following House & Senate Votes, Federal Budget Includes Nearly $11 Million for Land Conservation and $2 Million for Public Access

Funds Will Protect 2,100 Acres of Land in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed

Annapolis, MD – Today, the Chesapeake Conservancy applauds Congress for including nearly $11 million for land conservation in the Chesapeake region and $2 million for supporting a range of public access and conservation efforts along the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail through the National Park Service’s Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Trails Program in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016.

Most of the funds support projects proposed through the Rivers of the Chesapeake Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) Collaborative Landscape proposal, for which the Chesapeake Conservancy was the lead non-profit partner. The proposal had the bipartisan support of 5 governors, 9 US Senators, 17 Members of the US House of Representatives, 4 American Indian tribes, 34 nonprofits and numerous local elected officials.

The collaborative is focused on protecting the great rivers of the Chesapeake Bay; the Potomac, Rappahannock, James, York, Nanticoke, and Susquehanna Rivers and their watersheds. By leveraging existing efforts and partnerships throughout the Chesapeake, the Rivers of the Chesapeake collaborative is working to achieve conservation and public access objectives along the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail and across the entire watershed. This has been a consistent priority of the Chesapeake Conservation Partnership, a coalition of land conservation organizations throughout the region.

As a part of the omnibus bill, Congress has provided $10.7 million to the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and U.S. Forest Service to conserve key lands that celebrate our region’s history, provide recreational opportunities, create connected corridors, conserve wildlife habitat for iconic Chesapeake Bay species, protect scenic views and safeguard irreplaceable landscapes.

“These are the places we love. The places we boat, hunt, fish, and hike, the places we take our children to explore the outdoors, and the places people come to visit,” President & CEO Joel Dunn, Chesapeake Conservancy, said. “Protecting these places supports our communities, culture and economy and is also important to maintaining the ecological health of the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed.”

Projects included in the funding bill and the Rivers of the Chesapeake proposal for conservation in the Chesapeake include: 42 acres at the Nanjemoy Natural Resource Management Area (MD); 407 acres at the Meadowood Special Recreation Management Area (VA); 392 acres at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge (MD); 160 acres at Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge (VA); 958 acres at George Washington-Jefferson National Forest (VA/WV); 174 acres for trailheads along the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail (DC/DE/MD/PA/VA); 1 acre at Piscataway Park (MD); and 18 acres at Gettysburg National Military Park (PA). Projects were identified in partnership with the states and local partners.

“We’re very grateful to President Obama and to Congress for recognizing that now is the time to act for the Chesapeake Bay watershed.  In particular, we would like to thank Senator Barbara A. Mikulski, whose tireless efforts have created this lasting legacy for the Chesapeake as she nears retirement,” Dunn said. “This is the culmination of many years of effort by the Chesapeake Conservancy and our many partners, especially the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service.”

Land conservation and public access are critical components of the Bay restoration and protection strategy.  In 2009, President Obama committed to preserving the Chesapeake Bay when he signed Executive Order 13508.  The implementation strategy designed to accomplish the Order’s goals includes protecting an additional two million acres and creating 300 new public access sites. These goals were adopted into the new Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, signed in 2014 by the Governors of six states, Washington DC Mayor, Chesapeake Bay Commission and the Federal Government.

The omnibus spending bill allocates this funding through the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which was reauthorized through 2018 as part of the appropriations package. Created by Congress in 1965, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) provides money to federal, state, and local governments to purchase land, water, and wetlands for the benefit of all Americans.

The omnibus spending bill also allocates $2 million to the National Park Service’s Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Trails program, authorized in 1998, which supports collaboration with federal, state and local agencies and organizations to provide better access to the Chesapeake and rivers, to conserve important landscapes and resources, to engage youth in meaningful work and placed-based education, to improve recreational opportunities, and to interpret the natural and cultural resources of the Chesapeake region.