October 30, 2009

CARDIN, MIKULSKI ANNOUNCE FINAL CONGRESSIONAL APPROVAL OF $2 MILLION FOR BLACKWATER REFUGE

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Benjamin L. Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski (both D-MD) announced today that both the Senate and House have approved the FY 2010 Interior and Environment Conference Report containing $2 million for the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in Dorchester County.   The bill - which also includes a Continuing Resolution to fund much of the federal government through December 18 - now goes to President Obama who is expected to sign it.

 

The Refuge is currently separated into several non-contiguous sections of unprotected land that could be the site of future development and deforestation.   The funding will be used by The Conservation Fund to help acquire additional land inside the refuge's master plan boundaries, protecting the parcels from future land conversion. The Conservation Fund, a non-profit organization headquartered in Arlington, VA, has partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the State of Maryland numerous times in recent years to secure important resource lands on Maryland's Eastern Shore.

 

 "The Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is a national treasure that encompasses some of the most important marshlands in North America and it is vital to the health of migratory birds," said Senator Cardin, chairman of the Water and Wildlife Subcommittee of the Committee on Environment and Public Works. "We have a duty to protect this very important wildlife area for the future."

 

"The Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is one of Maryland's treasures. It supports more than 300 species of birds, fish, and wildlife and provides an engaging environment to residents and visitors," said Senator Mikulski, a member of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee that funds this program. "I will continue to fight for funds to preserve and protect the Chesapeake Bay and its fragile habitat."

 

"This is a critical investment in the future of the Eastern Shore," said U.S. Congressman Frank Kratovil (MD-2).  "Our wildlife is a tremendous asset , and I strongly support efforts to protect and expand areas like Blackwater for generations to come."

 "Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is one of Maryland's most precious natural resources and an area of great historical significance because of its connection to Harriet Tubman," said Patrick Noonan, Chairman Emeritus of The Conservation Fund.  "Senator Cardin, Senator Mikulski and Representative Kratovil have shown tremendous conservation leadership by securing funding to protect additional lands within the Refuge."

The Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1933 under the Migratory Bird Conservation Act.   Blackwater is considered a showplace because of its abundance and diversity of wildlife and its critical wetland habitat.   More than 300 species of birds, fish and other wildlife call the refuge home, including the largest nesting population of bald eagles north of Florida on the Atlantic Coast, the largest extant population of Delmarva fox squirrels in the world, and some extremely rare aquatic plants.  

Blackwater NWR also is a major tourist attraction for Dorchester County and the Eastern Shore.  A quarter of a million visitors come to Blackwater each year, bringing an estimated $4 million annually to support the local economy. 

All land purchases for the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge are in accordance with the refuge's long-range master plan, which was developed with public participation over the course of several years.  The addition of parcels to the refuge can only occur on a willing-seller basis.