Local organizations discuss habitat restoration in the county
Every living, breathing organism needs a habitat to thrive. On Nov. 2, inter- ested participants had an opportunity to learn how habitat restoration benefits birds and water qual- ity in Charles County.
The Port Tobacco Riv- er Conservancy, in part- nership with the Southern Maryland Audubon Society, hosted “Native Grassland Restoration, Management and Avian Studies at the Chester River Research Station” at the Historic Port Tobac- co Courthouse. During the presentation by Dan Small, field ecologist at the Center for Envi- ronment and Society at Washington College, participants learned of his latest efforts in work- ing with landowners to add habitat to their land that will be beneficial for grassland birds as well as helping to improve water quality.
“We are trying to increase awareness, get the county government involved, get our National Park Service more involved, get our state parks involved and go fullout attack on this cause,” said Lynne Wheeler, president of the Southern Maryland Audubon Society. “Our mission is to increase the awareness because we have a problem with a bird species that is in dire need of help and we are trying to learn
for ourselves about how to address this issue. We need to start helping each other, and having Dan Small here will help us learn how to properly restore land, grasslands and habitat.”
“My job is promoting habitats and trying to get people to understand that ideally there should be a balance between farm production and grassland habitat for birds and insects,” Small said. “There are water quality issues in most habitats due to lack of natural buffers which filter nutrient and sedi- ments from running off into the water or along the land. Some of the issues in Charles County are things like septic tanks, wastewater treatment plants, or urban stormwa- ter runoffs that affect the water and can make it unhealthy.”
Wheeler agreed that there are big water qual- ity issues at the Port Tobacco River due to the condition of older proper- ties nearby.
“Right across the river are a lot of homes that were built back in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s, and they all have old septic tanks,” Wheeler said. “We’ve got to get these old failing septic tanks taken care of. That is probably the num- ber one thing affecting the water quality.”
Tree planting has been another useful tactic that both organizations have used in restoring habitats. According to the South- ern Maryland Audubon Society, the county bought 5 acres of farmland over a year ago and the organiza- tion did a reforestation in sections by planting 2,700 native trees.
“When you plant additional trees, it helps the health of the river,” Wheeler said. “We also left parts of the field open because we are con- cerned with a small hawk known as an American kestrel since the species has nose dived. Kestrels need fields and meadows in order to thrive.”
The organization is also enlisting help from the state level to complete habitat evaluations that will lead to putting up boxes in which the kestrels can nest.
Small discussed his recent research and restoration methods performed on farms in Chestertown, along with a new project where he and his staff have used their findings to help include backyard habitats on various residential properties there. He explained that more areas in Maryland need to create habitats with natural buffers by using native plants to benefit the ecosystem.
In addition to Small’s presentation, special guest Ted Hoxie present- ed his Eagle Scout project: a public planting of bald cypress seedlings in Port Tobacco River Park. The bald cypress seedlings will create a natural buffer area to help protect important wetlands sur- rounding the river.
“My plan to plant cy- press trees in the swamp area will help stop erosion and will create a much better habitat for wood ducks, turkeys and other birds,” Hoxie said. “Wa- ter is going to rise, but cypress trees can live in over six feet of water and can live for over 2,000 years. No other tree can do that. Cypress trees will help keep the ecosystem forested even after it’s flooded out.”
Hoxie said he plans to plant 225 trees in the area on Nov. 12 from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
On Nov. 2, Dan Small, field ecologist at the Center for Environment and Society at Washington College, presented his research about habitat restoration at the Historic Port Tobacco Courthouse.
On Nov. 2, Dan Small, field ecologist at the Center for Environment and Society at Washington College, displayed his recent research and habitat restoration methods performed on farms in Chestertown during his presentation at the Historic Port Tobacco Courthouse.