Many new federal commitments to address climate change target vulnerable communities. In Baltimore, USFWS will continue partnerships that connect residents with green corridors and Chesapeake Bay waters. (Image by Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program)

At the annual Chesapeake Executive Council meeting in October 2021, the governors from Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia, along with the chair of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, mayor of the District of Columbia and the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took significant steps toward addressing climate change by signing a ground-breaking directive, committing the Chesapeake Bay Program to consider its threats in all aspects of the partnership’s work.

In a region already bearing the brunt of climate change, Directive 21-1: Collective Action for Climate Change was sorely needed. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change noted earlier this year with high confidence that North America would experience increased health risks, intensified droughts and earlier runoff from diminished snowpacks, more severe storms leading to sea level rise, increased flooding that impacts communities of all sizes, and redistribution and declines in food production.

While the EPA is often the voice of the federal government when it comes to the Bay Program partnership, several federal agencies work together and play an important role in the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed. Over the past six months, these agencies came together to see how they could meet the commitments outlined in the climate directive.

The result is the Federal Commitment to Implement the Chesapeake Executive Council Directive No. 21-1 Collective Action for Climate Change. This document contains actions that the EPA, Department of Defense, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Department of Agriculture National Resources Conservation Service (USDA NRCS), National Park Service (NPS), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) are committing to in order to help mitigate and adapt to climate change.

“Climate change is the challenge of our time and our federal family is committed to taking collective action to minimize its adverse effects in the Chesapeake Bay watershed,” explained Adam Ortiz, chair of the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Principals’ Staff Committee and regional administrator of the EPA’s Mid-Atlantic office.

This federal commitment accounts for the importance of supporting those communities most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, along with protecting wildlife and habitats throughout the watershed, while balancing near and long-term priorities of each agency.

For the USGS, this means an increased focus on monitoring sea level rise. They plan to do this from measuring land subsidence, rising waters in coastal areas and how extreme storm events increase coastal and inland flooding. Michael Tupper, northeast region director, notes that these commitments in the Bay watershed, “can be applied to other important areas in the Northeast for adapting to a changing climate.”

Wendi Weber, northeast regional director for the USFWS, says that among their many commitments, they plan to lean on existing projects and partnerships. She noted that, “through our Targeted Outreach for Green Infrastructure project, we are working with underserved communities that face an elevated threat from climate change to develop shovel-ready projects that both meet their needs and support priority habitat for fish and wildlife in the Chesapeake Bay region.” Additionally, USFWS plans to continue their work with the Baltimore Rivers to Harbor Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership and the Greater Baltimore Wilderness Coalition to build resiliency of vulnerable ecosystems and populations, while seeing if these initiatives can be replicated in other areas of the region.

All the federal agency commitments can be found in the Federal Commitment to Implement the Chesapeake Executive Council Directive No. 21-1 Collective Action for Climate Change. To do your part in helping combat climate change, please visit our How-To’s and Tip’s.

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