Chesapeake Conservancy Applauds Federal Funding for Conservation and Public Access

Following House & Senate Votes, Federal Budget Includes more than $5 Million for Land Conservation and $2 Million for Public Access

Annapolis, MD – Today, the Chesapeake Conservancy applauds Congress for including over $7 million dollars for Chesapeake Bay conservation and recreational water access in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017.

Photo by Peter Turcik

In the Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 spending agreement, Congress included $5.1 million dollars for the Rivers of the Chesapeake Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) Collaborative Landscape proposal. LWCF funds use revenues from offshore oil and gas to support the conservation of land and water, and recreation areas to benefit all Americans.

Rivers of the Chesapeake focuses on protecting the great rivers of the Chesapeake Bay. As the lead non-profit partner, the Chesapeake Conservancy garnered the support of 5 governors, 27 Members of Congress, 4 American Indian tribes, and more than 30 non-profits to establish this collaborative proposal.

The $5.1 million dollars included in FY17 will allow the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Park Service to protect key lands that provide recreational opportunities, create connected corridors, conserve wildlife habitat, and preserve historic sites and scenic views.

“These are the places we love that are important to both our heritage and our economy. Future generations, our children and grandchildren should have the same opportunities to boat, hunt, fish, and hike,” President and CEO Joel Dunn Chesapeake Conservancy said. “Protecting these places supports our communities and is also important to maintaining the ecological health of the Chesapeake Bay.”

Conservation projects for FY17 are located in the Nanjemoy Natural Resource Management Area (MD), in the Meadowood Special Recreation Management Area (VA), in the James River National Wildlife Refuge (VA), and in the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge (MD). Importantly, projects were identified in partnership with state and local partners and will be matched at least one-to-one by state, local, and private funds.

“To be able to explore the Chesapeake, residents and visitors first need places where they can access it. With 98% of the Chesapeake’s shorelines in private ownership and our natural areas facing ever-increasing threats, we are especially grateful for LWCF champions in Congress who have fought hard to secure strong funding in Fiscal Year 2017,” Dunn continued. “The LWCF represents a bipartisan commitment to protect natural areas and to provide all Americans the chance to enjoy the outdoors, and this bill honors that commitment.”

The FY17 law also includes $2 million dollars for the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails program, which enables the National Park Service to help communities connect with the Captain John Smith National Historic Trail through water access sites and educational programs.  Chesapeake Gateways is the most important federal program supporting access to the Chesapeake Bay. Since 2000, the National Park Service has provided technical and financial assistance to local communities improve recreational opportunities on the water, educate young people, and connect people to parks.

According to the Outdoor Industry Association, the outdoor recreation industry is a powerful force in the overall U.S. economy, with consumers spending $887 billion annually on outdoor recreation and creating 7.6 million American jobs. In April, Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke  announced $34.9 Billion was added to U.S. economy in 2016 due to national park visitation, supporting 318,000 jobs mostly in hotels, restaurants, transportation, and recreation.