A partnership between the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and Chesapeake Conservancy has led to the permanent protection of 155 acres of land as part of the Nanticoke Unit of Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.
Funding was made possible through the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund and through private funds from the Chesapeake Conservancy made possible by a land conservation grant from Mt. Cuba Center. Chesapeake Conservancy and partners advocate for LWCF funding to be prioritized for the Nanticoke corridor.
With support from Chesapeake Conservancy, USFWS created perpetual conservation easements adding the 113-acre Wells property and the 42-acre Wheatley property to the Refuge.
Under conservation easements, the landowners retain fee ownership of their lands, but sell the development rights. Landowners can continue to use their lands for hunting, fishing, and other recreational activities, and harvest timber in ways that benefit wildlife.
In addition to supporting the conservation mission of the Refuge, the forests, wetlands, and rare plants protected by the easements contribute to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Targeted Ecological Areas, the Audubon Nanticoke Important Bird Area, and the network of protected lands in the Nanticoke and larger Chesapeake watershed.
The Nanticoke River and associated wetland habitats are recognized for their national significance to the North American Waterfowl Management Plan and National Wetlands Priority Conservation Plan.
The easements also preclude the potential for additional development on the land, helping to maintain the rural character and quality of life of the Eastern Shore.
“These are the first easements within Blackwater in its history since the refuge was established in 1933. They harness the power of collaboration with both landowners and organizations such as Chesapeake Conservancy in order to conserve valuable habitat for a variety of wildlife along the Nanticoke, ranging from black and wood ducks to osprey and eagles,” said Marcia Pradines, complex manager for Chesapeake marshlands, which includes Blackwater. “We look forward to encouraging more easements to protect the resources of the Nanticoke.”
Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, located on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, protects over 29,000 acres of rich tidal marsh, mixed hardwood and pine forest, managed freshwater wetlands, and cropland for a diversity of wildlife.
To learn more, visit www.fws.gov/refuge/blackwater.
source: Chesapeake Conservancy