WASHINGTON, D.C. - A measure that will provide federal funds for the purchase and protection of sensitive coastal ecosystems with the goal of better ensuring their protection from development or conversation, sponsored by Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), was approved today by the Senate Commerce Committee. The Coastal and Estuarine Land Protection (CELP) Program, to be created under the U.S. Department of Commerce, is modeled after the successful federal Forest Legacy Program.
The CELP program will award grants to states with approved coastal management programs or National Estuarine Research Reserves through a competitive grant process for the purpose of acquiring property or interest in the property. Senator Mikulski is the senior Democrat of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee that oversees funding for the Department of Commerce. Senator Gregg is the former Chairman, and still a member of the committee.
"The Chesapeake Bay is a national treasure - it's part of who we are as Marylanders. It reminds us that protecting our coastal areas is essential for our future generations," said Senator Mikulski. "This bill is a federal investment to help localities protect water quality and coastal land so they can ensure livable communities for years to come."
Senator Gregg stated, "Recognizing the important and irreplaceable attributes of New Hampshire's diverse environment and ecosystems, we started the CELP program back in 2001 and believe that Congress must pass this legislation to further build upon the program's success. This national conservation program leverages state, local and private funding to protect coastal and estuarine areas that are environmentally significant and are being threatened by development. To date, this program has invested over $177 million towards 119 conservation projects in 25 of the nation's 35 coastal states. Protection of our natural resources and habitats is absolutely critical to maintaining our rich heritage and quality of life."
The measure now awaits consideration by the full Senate. It is supported by the Trust for Public Land, Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, Coastal States Organization, International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Association of National Estuary Programs, The Land Trust Alliance, The Conservation Fund, NH Audubon, Restore America's Estuaries and the National Estuarine Research Reserve.