McGovern files bill to expand Connecticut River conservation

U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Worcester, speaks with conservation advocates and allies Saturday by the Connecticut River in Hadley.

U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Worcester, speaks with conservation advocates and allies Saturday by the Connecticut River in Hadley. COURTESY PHOTO/OFFICE OF REP. McGOVERN

Staff Report

Published: 11-08-2023 3:17 PM

HADLEY — U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern is calling on the federal government to establish a new, expansive conservation strategy for the Connecticut River.

The Worcester Democrat joined with conservation advocates, lawmakers and others last weekend to promote the Connecticut River Watershed Partnership Act, legislation he has introduced along with U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-New Hampshire, that would direct the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to establish a conservation strategy that considers the whole of the watershed.

The bill would authorize grant money for conservation, trails, transit, sustainable agriculture and more. It would create a dedicated funding stream to leverage state, local and private investments to support nonregulatory conservation, restoration, education and recreation efforts in the 7.2 million-acre watershed.

The legislation is modeled on successful partnerships enabled by bipartisan federal legislation such as the Chesapeake WILD Act (2020) and the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act (2015).

“The decisions we make now will literally determine whether future generations will have the same opportunities that we are so lucky to have today,” McGovern said in a statement. “We are at an inflection point in the climate crisis, and protecting nature is one of the best tools we have.”

Speaking Saturday at the Alexandra Dawson Conservation Area in Hadley, McGovern said the river is worthy of recognition and protection.

“We are here because this river — and this entire river valley — is a special place,” McGovern said.

The watershed offers environmental and economic benefits to a wide array of activities and industries, including forestry, fisheries, farming, hunting, recreation, boating and tourism. In New England, outdoor recreation is a significant economic driver, supporting 195,500 jobs and contributing more than $17 billion to the economies of the five watershed states, according to McGovern.

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He said the legislation has the support of environmental advocacy groups that collectively represent millions of grassroots supporters in New England and across the United States.