Trump’s 2020 budget could halt decades of environmental progress
Since 1983, the collaborative Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP) has been in place to restore over two centuries of unregulated pollution, development and degradation to the Chesapeake Bay. Consisting of combined efforts from the Bay’s six watershed states and federal agencies, the program oversees and carries out regional efforts across the watershed region to restore the Bay’s environmental quality, biodiversity, fisheries and overall capacity to survive destructive human practices.
Last year around this same time, funding for the CBP was placed on the chopping block by President Trump; his initial proposed federal budget for 2019 aimed to eliminate this program’s funding almost entirely, but backlash from both sides of the aisle in Congress saved the CBP from losing almost all of that funding. Even after this, one year later, his administration is aiming once again to significantly divert money away from this crucial program. The CBP, currently funded $73 million, would receive only $7.3 million of that current budget next year; that means the CBP would lose 90 percent of its capacity.
Now, more than ever, we need to stand up to this egregious proposal.
Bay advocates have wasted no time responding to Trump’s proposal. Will Baker, the President of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) called the proposed cuts “a slap in the face to a national treasure” that has only recently received adequate environmental protections.
Since the Chesapeake Bay Program was enacted in 1983, the estuary’s environmental quality and productivity has been on the rise, with CBF scientists reporting that the Chesapeake’s water quality in the past year was the best it’s been since 1985, thanks to efforts of the CBP. The previous record for water quality factors like clarity, reductions in algae blooms and oxygen levels, was set the year before, 2017, attesting to the benefits of the CBP over time.
However, as successful as this program is, it isn’t done. Only around 40 percent of Bay regions have achieved such refreshing standards of quality, and around 60 percent of the Bay is still considered “impaired,” and in need of further restorative efforts from scientists and conservationists.
Other Bay advocates, including the Republican Governor of Maryland, Larry Hogan, have urged Congressional leaders to resist this proposal; Hogan even advocated increasing the funding to $90 million per year, as the Bay needs more extensive protections now more than ever. He addressed Congress in a letter following the announcement of budget cuts, arguing that:
“Increased federal support is key to sustaining the steady gains of recovery we are now seeing, and ensuring progress and success well into the future.”
The funding and protections to the Chesapeake’s prosperity not only benefit biodiversity and ecological systems, but also human-Bay activities like fisheries, tourism, boating and recreation and (arguably most important) the health of all life that depends on the Bay. With a rising population of almost 20 million people, the Chesapeake Bay watershed region not only deserves, but needs these protections, and losing them will affect the livelihoods of communities of all sizes.
It is crucial to understand what role you can play in the fight for legislation to protect the Chesapeake and its treasures, and there are actually many ways you can join efforts as a citizen advocate. Find five easy ways to on your right.
5 ways to help the Bay
1. Understand your role
If you live in Virginia, Maryland or D.C., it is likely you live in the watershed. Recognize how your lifestyle can impact it. You can take a short quiz and calculate your “Bay Footprint” at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s website, cbf.org
2. Contact legislators
Federal funding must be approved by Congress, and writing to, emailing or calling your Congresspeople can remind them that these issues matter to their constituents. You can find points of contact for your Senators and Representatives at usa.gov/elected-officials.
Cleaning up the Bay can happen on smaller-scale. Picking up stray trash at a beach with friends or participating in group-sanctioned volunteer events (our student organizations host some really great local ones!) can be an amazing way to directly help the Chesapeake alongside friends.
4. Say no to pesticides
This summer, advocate to your own family and friends about the harmful impacts of fertilizer, outdoor pesticides and weed killers; these toxins and nutrients wash into the Chesapeake and disrupt natural processes, contributing to ecosystem failures.
5. Sharing is caring
It is likely that you know, are related to, or even work with someone that is affected by and passionate about these topics, but doesn’t know how to act or advocate effectively. Sharing what you know can help these issues gain a larger platform and increase vocalized support for Chesapeake Bay conservation.
~James Duffy, Staff Writer~