WASHINGTON (WBOY/WAVY) — President Donald J. Trump signed into law America’s Conservation Enhancement Act (ACE Act) on Friday.
The conservation bill passed both chambers of Congress unanimously, and contains programs that will significantly help protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams, according to a Chesapeake Bay Foundation news release.
U.S. Congressman Rob Wittman (VA-01) applauded the signing of the act in a statement.
“The ACE Act is a once-in-a-generation advancement to clean up the Chesapeake Bay and protect and conserve our natural environment across America,” Congressman Wittman said. “As a passionate waterfowl hunter, I am grateful for the hard work put into passing this legislation to conserve critical migratory bird habitat across America. The Bay is a national treasure, and the ACE Act provides additional resources and extends critical conservation programs that preserve wetlands, reduce pollution, and increase recreational opportunities in Virginia.”
The bill includes language from the Chesapeake Bay Program Reauthorization Act and the Chesapeake WILD Act, two bipartisan bills that support habitat restoration and conservation efforts in the Chesapeake Bay region.
The Chesapeake Bay Program Reauthorization Act would provide $90 million in FY2020 with a $500,000 increase each year for the five years authorized. The vast majority of funding for the program would go directly toward states within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed – West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New York, as well as the District of Columbia – to help control pollution and manage runoff into the tributaries that feed into the bay.
The Chesapeake WILD Act would 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.
According to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the act will also will reauthorize the National Park Service’s Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Program for five more years, which works with state and local partners to promote and increase public access to iconic natural, historic, and cultural areas around the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed.
The act reauthorizes the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, which awards grants to support community groups.
“This is a truly exciting day for the Chesapeake Bay and the 18 million people who live here. The Bay is an important economic engine as well as a national treasure. The bipartisan America’s Conservation Enhancement Act makes possible historic, urgently needed funding increases for the federal Chesapeake Bay Program and the restoration effort it leads.
“In past decades, as pollution reduction deadlines neared, state and regional officials violated their promises and pushed to extend the deadline. We hope and trust that will not be the case this time. The ACE Act demonstrates the Congressional commitment to saving the Bay. It is time for all parties to recommit to the 2025 deadline.”
Chesapeake Bay Foundation President William C. Baker