WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski (both D-Md.) today hailed the announcement by the U.S. Department of the Interior that the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission has approved $2.235 million for the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge to acquire 758 acres, including an extensive portion of emergent marsh on the Nanticoke River.
With this funding, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will seek approval for a total of five tracts of land from two different owners. Four of the tracts include 452 acres in the Nanticoke Division. The properties currently are being used for recreation and timber harvest and, as part of Blackwater refuge, will be managed for waterfowl, other migratory birds and public uses. Bordered on the east by refuge lands and on three sides by undeveloped private lands, these habitat components include tidal marsh, fresh water creek and its bordering fresh water marsh, along with shrub wetlands and forested wetlands.
“The wildlife habitats protected by the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge are invaluable to ensuring clean water and flourishing waterfowl populations, so today’s announcement that the refuge will be able to expand the reach of its stewardship by more than 750 acres is tremendously significant,” said Senator Cardin. “These new acquisitions will allow even more of the Eastern Shore’s highly productive ecosystems to be managed for the public’s benefit and accessible to the American people.”
“The Blackwater Refuge is one of the Eastern Shore’s unique treasures,” Senator Mikulski said. “Investment in our environment is an investment in the future of our state. It helps with jobs in the tourism industry by providing an engaging environment for residents and visitors, and it helps with the environment by providing a complex habitat for many species. I have always been a strong supporter of federal funding for this important migratory bird habitat, and I will continue to work to protect it so that it will be preserved for future generations of Marylanders.”
As part of the Blackwater land acquisition approval, the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission approved in total more than $27 million in funding for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its partners to purchase, lease or otherwise conserve nearly 200,000 acres of wetland and associated upland habitats for waterfowl, shorebirds and other birds across the United States.
Of the total funds approved by the Commission, $21.4 million will be provided through North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) grants to conserve more than 133,000 acres of wetlands and adjoining areas in 13 states. NAWCA is the only federal grant program dedicated to the conservation of wetland habitats for migratory birds. The Commission also approved expenditure of nearly $6.5 million from the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund to conserve 3,274 acres for five national wildlife refuges through fee title land acquisitions and easement acquisitions.
The $6.5 million from the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund were raised partially through the sale of Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamps (Duck Stamps), which help provide habitat for wildlife and increased opportunities for refuge visitors who hunt, bird-watch, photograph and view wildlife.
Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is home to an incredible amount of plant and animal diversity in its three major habitats – forest, marsh and shallow water. The refuge contains one-third of Maryland’s tidal wetlands, which makes it an ecologically important area within the state. Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is recognized as a “Wetland of International Importance” by the Ramsar Convention and was named a priority wetland in the North American Waterfowl Management Plan.