Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge Incorporates Key Property For Sea Level Rise Adaption Plan

July 28, 2011

Sea and sky at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Chris Koontz/Flickr

Cambridge, MD — One of the Chesapeake Bay’s most important and vibrant coastal habitats has gained additional protection thanks to the efforts of the Chesapeake Conservancy, the Maryland Congressional delegation and The Conservation Fund. Through the leadership of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) has added a vital property of more than 400 acres that will support present and future wildlife habitat management needs and maintain the region’s ecological diversity.

Spanning more than 27,000 acres on Maryland’s scenic Eastern Shore, Blackwater NWR protects some of the most important habitat for birds along the critical migration highway called the Atlantic Flyway. Located on a high ridge near the southern end of the refuge boundary, the acquired tract features both wetlands and dry forested habitats perfect for various migratory bird species including bald eagles, osprey, wood and black ducks as well as forest-dwelling, marsh and water birds. As sea levels rise, this upland property will eventually transition into emergent marsh habitat, enabling the migration and adaption of crucial wetland habitats essential for the seasonal wildfowl.

“This is a wonderful addition to the Blackwater Refuge and terrific conservation milestone. We were pleased to partner with The Conservation Fund to protect this property, which is one of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s highest land acquisition priorities within the refuge boundary,” said Joel Dunn, executive director of the Chesapeake Conservancy. “We greatly appreciate the leadership of the Maryland Congressional delegation and the Department of the Interior to protect this special place.”

“We are pleased with this important addition to the Refuge which will help support multiple goals outlined in our Comprehensive Conservation Plan and will play a key role in supporting the developing sea level adaptation planning effort that is currently underway,” said Suzanne Baird, refuge manager for the Chesapeake Marshlands NWR Complex. “This new addition would not be possible without the significant support of partners.”

Thanks to the effort of the Maryland Congressional delegation, Congress appropriated $2 million in 2009 from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) for the Blackwater NWR’s land acquisition program. Part of that funding enabled the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to acquire the property from The Conservation Fund in June. The LWCF program receives significant revenue from the development of federally-owned offshore oil and gas rights.

“The Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is one of Maryland’s unique treasures, which helps to support the Eastern Shore’s economy,” U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski said. “I am proud to have fought for the funding to conserve and protect this new addition for future generations.”

“The Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is often referred to as the ‘Everglades of the North,’ serving as a vital cornerstone of Maryland’s ecological diversity and our economy,” said Senator Ben Cardin, Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Water and Wildlife Subcommittee. “Vital to the health of migratory birds, Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge also has become a tourist destination bringing visitors and jobs to our local economy. Blackwater is the crown jewel of Chesapeake marshlands, and I am proud to once again support efforts to expand this very important wildlife area for the future.”

“The Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is a critical marshland and one of the country’s greatest national treasures,” said Rep. Andy Harris. “Preserving these additional acres of land in the Chesapeake Bay watershed will protect one of the Eastern Shore’s most important economic engines and help to maintain the Refuge which attracts nearly 180,000 tourists and millions of dollars to Maryland’s Eastern Shore every year.”

As one of Dorchester County’s outdoor tourist destinations—which together support over 600 jobs and approximately $6 million in state and local tax revenues—Blackwater NWR offers land and paddling trails, educational programs and hunting, fishing and crabbing opportunities.

About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we combine a passion for conservation with an entrepreneurial spirit to protect your favorite places before they become just a memory. A hallmark of our work is our deep, unwavering understanding that for conservation solutions to last, they need to make economic sense. Top-ranked, we have protected more than 7 million acres across America.

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