sunset over the chesapeake bay bridge
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Habitats in the Chesapeake Bay watershed are about to receive a significant boost in support and protection, thanks to $7.4 million in new grants from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the National Fish And Wildlife Foundation (NFWF).

The money comprises 25 grants supporting habitat, climate resilience, community conservation partnerships and equitable access to nature in the watershed.

The grants will advance the goals of the Chesapeake Watershed Investments in Landscape Defense (Chesapeake WILD) Program, leveraging more than $12 million in grantee matching funds. This brings the total conservation impact for the watershed to $19.4 million.

“The Chesapeake WILD program is a critical new tool for protecting native habitats, preserving wildlife, and boosting the health of our outdoor economy,” said U.S. Sen. 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 Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the U.S., home to more than 3,600 species of plants and animals and 18 million people. “Nearly one million waterfowl winter on and near the bay each year – approximately one-third of the Atlantic Coast’s migratory population,” reads the press release announcing the influx of grant money.

“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 U.S. 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 WILD program supports collaborative conservation in the watershed with the goal of sustaining the health of the watershed and its inhabitants into the future. It provides grant funding for community driven projects focused on the following five interrelated areas:

  • 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 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.” 

These grant funds will protect more than 4,700 acres of fish and wildlife habitat, restore more than 32 miles of riparian forest habitat, and reconnect nearly 120 miles for migratory fish species. Recreational access for more than 31 miles of river and trails will also see improvements, and many of the projects undertaken address conservation needs in vulnerable communities.

A few examples of the grant awards include:

  • Earth Conservation Corps ($74,900) will work with partners to restore Noonan’s Run of the Little Patuxent River, enhance habitat for several species of endangered birds, dragonflies, and freshwater mussels and, working with AmeriCorps, provide young people from vulnerable communities with hands-on experiences and pathways to pursue green careers. 
  • Ruffed Grouse Society ($546,500) will work with partners to create and enhance early- and late-successional forest habitat to support declining bird species across more than 1,600 acres along Pennsylvania’s Kittatinny Ridge through invasive species control, regeneration harvests, and improved roads to better enable forest management and habitat restoration. 
  • 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. 
  • Friends of the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge ($582,200) will collaborate with partners to restore, conserve, and improve access to the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, executing an action plan that will conserve the refuge’s ecosystems and make it more accessible and enjoyable for the public, particularly those from vulnerable communities. 

A full list of the 2023 Chesapeake WILD program grant projects is available by clicking this link.

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