Chesapeake Bay Region Receives $1M for Conservation through 2016 REPI Challenge

Chesapeake Conservancy Worked with Partners on Proposal

Annapolis, MD – The Chesapeake Conservancy today applauded the Department of Defense (DoD), which awarded $1 million to help conserve lands located within the newly designated Naval Air Station Patuxent River and Atlantic Test Ranges Sentinel Landscape in Southern Maryland and along the Nanticoke River. The funding is part of the 2016 Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) Program, and the award was based on a collaborative proposal of partner organizations coordinated by the Chesapeake Conservancy.

Naval Air Station Patuxent River and the land, air, and water ranges of the Atlantic Test Ranges is the Navy’s premier aircraft research, development, test, and evaluation location. The Atlantic Test Ranges cover 2,360 square miles of restricted airspace, spanning parts of the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia – a landscape that is home to a variety of special status plants and animals, is rich in cultural and historical resources, and is the recreational playground for millions.

The proposal, which seeks to protect these important places, was submitted in partnership with The Chesapeake Conservancy, The Conservation Fund, The Nature Conservancy, State of Maryland, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Southern Maryland Resource Conservation and Development, Inc., Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, Calvert County, and the Lower Shore Land Trust. The coalition has prioritized protection of parcels that fill in gaps between already conserved lands, creating connected corridors that support wildlife movement, habitat migration in the face of sea level rise, and the economic benefits of the area’s agricultural landscape.

This award builds on a 2014 REPI Challenge award to the Nanticoke River Conservation Corridor and the recent designation of the Sentinel landscape. This designation seeks to align the missions and resources of the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Interior, and Defense to strengthen the economies of working lands, conserve habitat and natural resources, and protect the vital test and training mission of Patuxent Naval Air Station.

“This is terrific news for the Chesapeake as we celebrate Earth Day, and another example of how defending the country and defending the environment go hand-in-hand,” Chesapeake Conservancy President and CEO Joel Dunn said. “The Chesapeake Conservancy applauds the Administration for their leadership in developing collaborative programs to address the needs of large landscape conservation. The importance of conserving these lands in a timely manner cannot be understated, as these lands face challenges from development, fragmentation, and climate change.”

The REPI Program, established in 2003, seeks to leverage public and private funding, reduce the cost of land protection, and bolster the major economic engines that are military installations. Preserving the working farms and forests that underpin a sustainable local economy not only conserve the rural character of communities but also help avoid and alleviate restrictions that inhibit the military’s ability to use its existing facilities, equipment, and other assets.

According to DoD, this proposal showed a promising opportunity to protect large parcels of land and leverage greater partner cost-share to better benefit the military, taxpayers, and the environment.

“The Department of Defense’s Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration Program is pleased to work with the Chesapeake Conservancy and its partners to support communities, preserve agricultural and natural lands, and most importantly, create the environment our Service Members need to prepare for combat,” REPI Program Director, Kristin Thomasgard-Spence, said. “The Chesapeake Conservancy’s proposal for the REPI Challenge is helping to change the scale and practices of land conservation supported by the REPI Program.  As innovative projects continue being developed across the REPI community, these projects will help us to accelerate the rate of land protection and increase benefits for the national defense, conservation and communities.”