Federal, state partnership conserving habitat for Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge
CAMBRIDGE — A partnership between the United States Fish and Wildlife Service 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, a news release states.
Funding was made available through the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund and through private contributions from the Chesapeake Conservancy and from a Mt. Cuba Center grant. Chesapeake Conservancy and partners advocate for funding to be prioritized for the Nanticoke corridor.
With support from Chesapeake Conservancy, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service created perpetual conservation easements adding the 113-acre Wells property and the 42acre Wheatley property to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.
“These are the first easements within Blackwater in its history since the refuge was established in 1933,” Chesapeake Marshlands Director Marcia Pradines said. “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. We look forward to encouraging more easements to protect the resources of the Nanticoke.”
Under conservation easements, landowners retain their lands for a fee, 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.
“Thanks to the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, an important vehicle for land conservation both nationally and within the Chesapeake Bay watershed, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service was able to join forces with Chesapeake Conservancy and Mt. Cuba Center to conserve vitally important wildlife habitat within the Chesapeake’s crown jewel of Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge,” Chesapeake Conservancy President and CEO Joel Dunn said. “These newly protected acres complement our ongoing commitment to conservation in the Nanticoke River corridor, where together we have permanently protected 15 properties totaling 1,970 acres.”
In addition to supporting the conservation mission of Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, the forests, wetlands and rare plants protected by the easements contribute to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Targeted Ecological Areas. The areas also contribute to the Audubon Nanticoke Important Bird Area and the network of protected lands in the Nanticoke and larger Chesapeake watershed.
The easements also deter additional development on The Nanticoke River, and associated wetland habitats. These areas are recognized for their national significance to the North American Waterfowl Management Plan and National Wetlands Priority Conservation Plan, the release states.
“We are very grateful to these two families who chose conservation when making decisions about the future of their land,” Mt. Cuba Center President Ann Rose said. “It is inspiring to see how we can work together to provide land for our native plant species and habitat for Delmarva’s treasured wildlife.”
The Wildlife Drive attraction at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.