Lo­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions dis­cuss habi­tat restora­tion in the county

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By TIF­FANY WAT­SON twat­son@somd­news.com

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.

STAFF PHOTO BY TIF­FANY WAT­SON

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.

STAFF PHOTO BY TIF­FANY WAT­SON

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.

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