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Wittman, Sarbanes, Van Hollen, Colleagues Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Establish Chesapeake National Recreation Area

Introduction Follows Public Review, Comment Period on Draft Legislation Released

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Rob Wittman, along with U.S. Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Congressman John Sarbanes (MD-03) introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation to create a unified Chesapeake National Recreation Area (CNRA). The bill proposes to unite a series of voluntarily contributed park areas and iconic Bay properties under the operation of the National Park Service (NPS) in order to provide more federal resources for environmental conservation, celebrate the Chesapeake’s diverse cultural and economic history, foster sustainable and equitable access to the Bay, and spur economic growth in the watershed region. 

The introduction follows a nearly six-month-long comment period on the draft legislation that the lawmakers unveiled last fall, during which Bay watershed residents and stakeholders were invited to share their input on the plan. The effort to establish a CNRA is supported by over 100 stakeholders, including local elected officials, environmental and historical preservation groups, economic development organizations, racial justice advocates, and seafood and outdoor recreation businesses.

“Virginia’s First District relies on a healthy Chesapeake Bay,” said Rep. Wittman. “The designation of a Chesapeake Recreation Area would encourage access to the Bay and attract tourists, outdoor enthusiasts, and businesses – all of which are significant contributors to the region’s economy and overall well-being. As a longstanding advocate of the Bay, I’m proud to join my colleagues on this legislation to elevate the stewardship and sustainability of this national treasure.”  

“The idea of creating a Chesapeake National Recreation Area isn’t new – it’s been discussed for over four decades. But today we’re moving that vision one big step closer to reality. After two years of working together with folks across the Bay – from residents, to environmental advocates, to local officials in Maryland and Virginia, to those who make their living from the bounty of the Bay – the introduction of bipartisan Chesapeake National Recreation Area legislation is a significant milestone toward bringing greater national recognition and opportunities to the Bay we cherish,” said Sen. Van Hollen. “We’re grateful to the thousands of individuals who shared their thoughts with us on how to make the original proposal even stronger. This feedback not only helped us make sure this bill responds to community needs, it also revealed deep, diverse, and widespread support for what we seek to accomplish by creating this CNRA. We’ll be working hard to get this bill passed in order to mobilize sustainable federal support for Bay restoration, generate more prosperity for those whose livelihoods depend on a vibrant Bay, spotlight its unique story and place in American history, and encourage greater public access to and enjoyment of everything it has to offer.”

“The Chesapeake Bay is an unrivaled natural resource and national treasure that is invaluable to our region and beyond,” said Rep. Sarbanes. “By designating a unified National Recreation Area for the Chesapeake Bay, we are elevating the regional stories that shaped our nation’s history, promoting the spirit of stewardship across the watershed, investing in our economy and protecting the Bay for future generations. I am grateful to the thousands of individuals who have engaged with us over the last several years to help shape this legislation to reflect the priorities of Maryland residents and communities across the watershed. I look forward to the continued collaboration of federal, state, local and private partners as we work to pass this legislation.”

Text of the legislation can be viewed here.

Reps. Wittman and Sarbanes and Sen. Van Hollen were joined in introducing the legislation by 14 of their colleagues: Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Mark Warner (D-VA), and Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Rep.s Don Beyer (VA-08), Gerry Connolly (VA-11), Steny Hoyer (MD-05), Glenn Ivey (MD-04), Jennifer McClellan (VA-04), Kweisi Mfume (MD-07), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Jamie Raskin (MD-08), Dutch Ruppersberger (MD-02), Bobby Scott (VA-03), and David Trone (MD-08).