Annapolis, MD – On Friday, December 23, Congress passed the Fiscal Year 2023 (FY 23) omnibus appropriations package to fund government agencies and programs for the next fiscal year. The annual funding package supported many programs related to conservation and environmental restoration in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and increased funding for several key programs.
Chesapeake Conservancy’s Manager of External Affairs Reed Perry applauded the federal FY 23 omnibus bill, stating,
“The federal omnibus appropriations package for FY 23 contains many big wins for the Chesapeake Bay and for conservation. The federal funding bill directly supports many vital agency partners and programs that advance environmental conservation in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
“The FY 23 omnibus will increase funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program by $4 million to a historic funding level of $92 million in FY 23. We are at a pivotal moment in the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort where all partners must work tirelessly and collaboratively to get as close as possible to the agreed-upon goals of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement. As the central partnership of the region’s watershed restoration effort, the Chesapeake Bay Program plays an essential role, and this funding will empower the Bay Program partnership to maximize the impact of its work.
“The FY 23 omnibus also increases funding by $2 million for USGS activities in the Chesapeake Bay, for a total of more than $17 million in FY 23. The USGS is a critical partner in science and monitoring efforts in our watershed, and when data drives so much of our decision-making about watershed restoration, this additional funding will help partners make more informed decisions to target conservation efforts and accelerate progress.
“This bill also provides $8 million to the Chesapeake WILD program, a new U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service program established by Congress in 2020. This represents a $4 million increase over FY 22 funding levels which will greatly boost the impact of this vital conservation program. Chesapeake WILD is a dedicated program for conservation in the Chesapeake Bay and supports on-the-ground efforts across the watershed such as species conservation and wetland restoration.
“The FY 23 omnibus increases funding for the Department of Defense’s Readiness and Environmental Protection Initiative (REPI) program by $25 million, for a total of $175 million. This national conservation program advances national security through conservation and has led to the conservation of around 32,000 or more acres in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Increased REPI funding will allow the Bay watershed to continue to benefit from this program.
“Thank you to the senators and members of Congress who worked to advance and pass this important legislation, and we especially thank our congressional members from the Chesapeake Bay watershed for their strong support for conservation and the Chesapeake Bay.”
Highlights for Chesapeake Bay conservation and restoration in the FY 23 Omnibus Appropriations Bill include:
· $92 million for the Chesapeake Bay Program, an increase of $4 million over FY 22 appropriations. The Chesapeake Bay Program is a regional partnership of federal agencies, states, local governments, universities and non-governmental organizations that work together to restore and to protect the Chesapeake Bay.
· $8 million for Chesapeake WILD, a $4 million increase over FY 22 appropriations. Chesapeake WILD is a new U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service program focused specifically on habitat conservation and restoration in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
· $3 million for the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails program. The Gateways Program is run by the National Park Service Chesapeake Bay Office and provides financial and technical support to communities and organizations throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed for public access, educational programming and interpretation of the Bay’s natural, cultural and historical resources.
· $17.49 million for the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) Chesapeake Bay activities, a $2 million increase over FY 22 appropriations. The USGS is a core federal partner of the Chesapeake Bay Program that contributes scientific research and monitoring to several aspects of watershed restoration, including land use and wildlife habitat.
· $175 million for Department of Defense’s Readiness and Environmental Protection Initiative (REPI) program. The REPI program supports partnerships between branches of the U.S. military, local conservation groups and local and state governments to conserve land near military installations in order to protect the continued and future operation of military installations. REPI has supported the conservation of more than 32,000 acres in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.