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Wittman leads House Passage of once-in-a-generation environmental, Chesapeake Bay legislation

WASHINGTON – Today, Congressman Rob Wittman (VA-01) had the incredible honor to manage suspension debate for the landmark America's Conservation Enhancement (ACE) Act, arguably the most important piece of environmental legislation for the Chesapeake Bay, national wetlands, and fish habitats in the past twenty years.

“The ACE Act is a once in a generation advancement to clean up the Chesapeake Bay and protect and conserve our natural environment across America,” Congressman Wittman said. “The Bay is a national treasure, and the ACE Act provides additional resources and extends critical conservation programs that preserve wetlands, reduce pollution and increase recreational opportunities in Virginia.”

The ACE Act would make record investments in the Chesapeake Bay and establish several programs to boost the health of the watershed.

Click here to watch Congressman Wittman’s floor remarks

“The recreational fishing industry is grateful to Rep. Wittman for his dedication in helping to secure the ACE Act’s passage,” said Mike Leonard, the American Sportfishing Association’s Vice President of Government Affairs. “The ACE Act includes several provisions that will directly benefit the important fisheries of Virginia’s 1st Congressional District, including the health of the Chesapeake Bay. In addition, Rep. Wittman championed language in the ACE Act to authorize the National Fish Habitat Partnership, a successful program that supports public-private partnerships to restore fish habitat. Rep. Wittman is a tireless advocate for natural resource conservation, and his leadership on the ACE Act is further evidence of that.”

"Outdoor recreation, including hunting, fishing, and wildlife watching, is a powerful and resilient sector of the Chesapeake Bay region’s economy that has continued to grow even during these challenging times,” said Joel Dunn, President and CEO, Chesapeake Conservancy. “In Virginia, outdoor recreation results in nearly $22 billion in direct consumer spending each year and supports direct 197,000 jobs. The ACE Act will provide direct and strong support for the health of the Chesapeake Bay and local economies, allowing wildlife and outdoor recreation to continue to thrive."

“The passage of the ACE Act today is fantastic news for the conservation community,” said Ducks Unlimited CEO Adam Putnam. “In a package filled with vitally important conservation provisions, perhaps none are more crucial to waterfowl habitat than the reauthorization of NAWCA. Thank you to all the members of Congress who have identified the importance of conservation and worked with DU and others to achieve one of our highest legislative priorities. We’re elated to see such game-changing legislation pass both chambers of Congress, and we stand ready to help implement this important piece of America’s conservation legacy once the President signs it into law.”

“After years of working to get this legislation enacted, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) is pleased to see the America’s Conservation Enhancement Act pass Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support,” said CSF President Jeff Crane. “The ACE Act includes a number of long-standing priorities for the sporting-conservation community, and we are grateful for the leadership of Congressman Wittman to help secure passage of this legislation out of the House.”

Most notably, the ACE Act contains two pieces of legislation sponsored by Congressman Wittman:

  • National Fish Habitat Conservation Through Partnerships Act, which establishes the National Fish Habitat Board to (1) encourage partnerships among public agencies and other interested parties to promote fish conservation, (2) establish national goals and priorities for fish habitat conservation, (3) recommend to Congress entities for designation as a Fish Habitat Partnership, and (4) review and make recommendations regarding fish habitat conservation projects.
  • America's Conservation Enhancement Act, which Congressman Wittman jointly introduced with Rep. Mike Thompson (D, CA-05), which reauthorizes the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, which protects waterfowl, fish, wildlife resources, and wetland habitat while supporting local economies and American traditions such as hunting, fishing, bird watching, family farming, and cattle ranching. 

The ACE Act also contians several bipartisan bills introduced and advanced by the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Task Force, of which Congressman Wittman is a Co-Chair, and on all of which Congressman Wittman was an original cosponsor, including:

This year, Congressman Wittman has continued his work in Congress to conserve the Bay and the environment which date back to the beginning of his time in Congress. Earlier this summer, Congressman Wittman voted in favor of the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) to pay down the National Park Service’s maintenance backlog and provides permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

In July, Congressman Wittman joined Members from the Bay region in sending a letter  to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) highlighting the severe impacts COVID-19 is having on the seafood industry, requesting that USDA consider establishing a short-term purchasing program for shellfish products, including farmed and wild-caught oyster and clam products, to help sustain markets for local seafood and preserve Virginia’s robust seafood industry. 

Before being elected to Congress, Congressman Wittman served over 25 years as a public health scientist for the Virginia Department of Health, conducting field research in the Chesapeake Bay. From his experience, he is aware of the ecological challenges facing Virginia public lands, waters, and the environment. In 2018, Congressman Wittman’s historic and bipartisan Keep America’s Refuges Operational Act was signed into law to reauthorize the National Wildlife Refuge System’s volunteer, community partnership, and education programs to help ensure Americans can visit, explore, fish, hunt and study wildlife for generations to come. Congressman Wittman also serves as a Co-Chair of the Wildlife Refuge Caucus.

Congressman Rob Wittman represents the 1st District of Virginia. He serves on the House Natural Resources Committee and the House Armed Services Committee, where he serves as the ranking member of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee.