Part of Blackwater NWR overlaps with the newly-designated Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument, which the Fund helped establish. The famous conductor on the Underground Railroad spent her life as a slave here and after her escape, she returned many times to bring other African Americans to freedom. Its proximity to the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area brings hundreds of thousands of visitors seeking to experience the history and nature-based recreational opportunities of this special place.


We’ve worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at Blackwater NWR for more than a decade. Our efforts started with land acquisition, and to date we’ve added nearly 8,000 acres at the refuge, including lands that complement the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument.

But conservation at Blackwater NWR is more than just protecting land. In 2011 we helped restore 40 acres of high-priority land for the USFWS by planting 10,000 trees across 7.5 acres within the refuge’s Longfield area. As the trees mature, they will protect the marshes and other wetlands that migratory birds and forest-dwelling wildlife depend on for clean, safe water.

Among the many threats to fish and wildlife habitat within the refuge, rising sea levels resulting from climate change is the most profound. According to the USFWS, Blackwater has lost approximately 8,000 acres of wetlands to erosion and sea level rise and loses more than 300 acres of marsh each year. In 2013, The Conservation Fund and Audubon Maryland-DC published the Blackwater 2100 report, an assessment of Dorchester County’s tidal marsh loss due to sea level rise, projected through the end of the century. This collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Maryland Department of Natural Resources and many other agencies and individual experts outlines key strategies for slowing the rate of loss and improving the health of Dorchester’s tidal marshes for the benefit of people and the wildlife that need this habitat for survival.


The landscape at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is changing, and our actions today determine the fate of these treasured marsh lands. Our work at the refuge is ongoing and illustrates our long-term commitment to preserving the natural legacy of the Eastern Shore. There is much to be done to save this landscape, but with smart conservation, we’ll ensure it remains a viable wildlife refuge into the future.