At a time when budgets everywhere are under threat, an environmental education program that debuted in the Chesapeake Bay area has won additional support from Congress to open in three new regions.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration received a $5.5 million increase for its Bay Watershed and Education Training program in 2008, for a total budget of nearly $9.7 million dollars.

The increase will allow B-WET to expand into New England, the Pacific North West and Gulf of Mexico, and continue operating in California, Hawaii and the Chesapeake Bay. B-WET funding for the Chesapeake Bay remained stable at $3.5 million.

B-WET provides educators and students with hands-on watershed education. Grants support quality professional development for teachers and field experiences for youth that support the Chesapeake Bay Program goal to provide every student with a meaningful watershed experience before graduation.

"B-WET is having demonstrable results that gave us broad support in both the Senate and the House," said B-WET coordinator Shannon Sprague. "The program evaluation from last year showed that we are not only reaching people with watershed learning, but reaching them effectively for stewardship goals, too."

B-WET delivers outdoor education to approximately 35,000 students and trains approximately 4,000 teachers in the Chesapeake region each year. By the close of 2008, the Chesapeake B-WET program will have reached more than 150,000 people.