Black­wa­ter refuge grows by 400 acres

Baltimore Sun - - AROUND THE REGION - By Scott Dance sdance@balt­ twit­­dance

Black­wa­ter Na­tional Wildlife Refuge on the Eastern Shore is grow­ing by more than 400 acres with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s pur­chase of two pieces of land along the Nan­ti­coke River.

The land, pur­chased from the Na­ture Con­ser­vancy, is con­sid­ered an im­por­tant and di­verse habi­tat for song­birds such as pro­thono­tary war­blers and wa­ter­fowl such as black ducks. It’s also at a high enough el­e­va­tion to pro­tect it from the ef­fects of sea-level rise, said Matt Whit­beck, a wildlife bi­ol­o­gist at the refuge.

“It’s a spec­tac­u­lar area. The nat­u­ral re­sources are in­cred­i­ble,” Whit­beck said. “From a sea-level-rise stand­point, it’s likely to per­sist for a long time.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice paid the con­ser­vancy $275,000 for 229 acres known as the Gior­dano tract, an area of fresh­wa­ter wet­lands, and $899,000 for 179 acres known as the Ruff tract, which con­tains wet­lands but also land at higher el­e­va­tions that will al­low for mi­gra­tion of the marsh as sea lev­els rise. The land parcels are not con­nected to the main refuge area, sit­ting sev­eral miles to its east.

The agency pur­chased the land us­ing a $2.2 mil­lion grant awarded last year by the agency’s Mi­gra­tory Bird Con­ser­va­tion Com­mis­sion, which raised some of the money through the sale of postage stamps bear­ing the im­ages of birds.

The Na­ture Con­ser­vancy ac­quired the two pieces of land in Wi­comico and Dorch­ester coun­ties in 1993 and 2007 in an ef­fort to pro­tect bio­di­ver­sity and pre­vent de­vel­op­ment in the area.

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