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Warner & Kaine Announce Over $4 Million in Federal Funding for Conservation Efforts Across Virginia

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $4,024,286 in federal funding to support conservation efforts throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed, which covers 60% of Virginia and includes the Potomac, Rappahannock, York, and James Rivers and hundreds of streams across the Commonwealth. The funding was awarded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Chesapeake Watershed Investments in Landscape Defense (WILD) Program, which supports efforts to conserve and restore fish and wildlife habitats, improve public access and water quality, and partner with underserved communities to coordinate restoration and conservation efforts in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The Chesapeake WILD program was created by the Chesapeake WILD Act, which the senators sponsored before it became law.

“The Chesapeake Bay watershed supports wildlife, local economies, and the health of Virginians,” said the senators. “We’re glad this federal funding will support conservation efforts, protect wildlife, and help Virginians enjoy the region for generations to come.”

The funding will be allocated as follows:

  • $750,000 for the Rappahannock Tribe of Virginia to reacquire over 700 acres of ancestral lands along the Rappahannock River in Richmond County to restore and conserve aquatic and terrestrial habitats. The Tribe will also receive $183,000 to establish a state-wide conservation council led by federally recognized tribes to conserve the Chesapeake Bay watershed. This project will improve access to the Rappahannock River and nearby lands, rebuild fish and wildlife habitats, and protect cultural resources that are being lost to development and sea level rise.
  • $749,544 for the Valley Conservation Council to permanently protect wildlife corridors across 15 properties, totaling over 2,000 acres in the Shenandoah Valley. The project will help conserve the area, require the adoption of best management practices, and prepare the region for future projects that will benefit plant and animal species in high elevation wetlands.
  • $748,519 for the James River Association to restore freshwater mussel communities and 60 acres of riparian buffers, which are strips of vegetation like trees, shrubs, or grass that are planted along bodies of water, in the James River watershed. Restoring the buffers will help us understand their impact on instream habitats and their ability to support freshwater mussels.
  • $650,000 for the Elizabeth River Project to create a model for urban habitat restoration within the Elizabeth River watershed. The project will help create and reconnect habitats, improve water quality, and improve access to recreation and educational opportunities for approximately 16,000 individuals from underserved communities.
  • $582,239 for the Friends of the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Suffolk to collaborate with partners to restore, conserve, and improve public access to the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.
  • $75,000 for the Four Mile Run Conservatory Foundation in Arlington and Alexandria to improve aquatic recreation access and opportunities at Four Mile Run Park by creating a public, ADA-accessible kayak and canoe launch site. The project will open 1.5 miles of Four Mile Run and provide access to the Run and Potomac River Water Trail in the D.C. metro area for the first time.
  • $75,000 for the Northern Virginia Regional Commission in Prince William County to introduce a companion mussel species to the brook floater—a small-stream dwelling mussel—to help determine if it can survive in a similar habitat.
  • $74,997 for the Smithsonian Institution in Fauquier County to develop best management practices for the conservation of eastern box turtles.
  • $74,991 for the Criminal Injustice Reform Network in Hampton and Newport News to engage with underserved communities to protect and restore tidal marshes and blue crab populations.
  • $60,996 for the Friends of the Rappahannock’s Rappahannock River Roundtable to lead a workgroup that will host a series of planning workshops and partner meetings to establish guiding principles to improve conservation and public access to the Rappahannock River.

Warner and Kaine have long supported Chesapeake Bay conservation efforts. In July, the senators introduced bipartisan legislation to establish a Chesapeake National Recreation Area, which would combine voluntarily contributed park areas and Bay properties under the operation of the National Park Service (NPS) to provide more federal resources for environmental conservation and spur economic growth in the region. Earlier this year, President Biden signed the Great Dismal Swamp National Heritage Act into law, legislation the senators introduced to direct the Secretary of the Interior to assess the suitability and feasibility of designating the swamp and its associated sites as a National Heritage Area. In 2018, Warner and Kaine led bipartisan legislation to federally recognize six Virginia tribes, including the Rappahannock, which made it possible for the Tribe to receive this funding.