VIENNA, MD — U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) today announced a major expansion of the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) with the purchase of the 825-acre Tideland parcel along the Nanticoke River. The acquisition is the first purchase of land within the Nanticoke Unit of the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge’s boundary and conserves two tracts of land, one along a section of the Nanticoke River near Vienna, MD and another to the north on the Marshyhope Creek near Brookview, MD.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) had identified the land as prime habitat for migratory waterfowl such as black ducks, blue winged-teal, wood ducks and others as well as bald eagles, and possibly habitat for the recovering Delmarva fox squirrel. The southern parcel is located along the Nanticoke section of the Capt. John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail. Its acquisition creates opportunity for the protection of approximately one mile of river frontage along the trail.
The USFWS used $1.4 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to purchase the property from The Conservation Fund, which had negotiated purchase of the land from Tideland Ltd. The Chesapeake Conservancy served as a conservation catalyst by highlighting the benefits of the acquisition and advocating for the funding with the USFWS and Congress.
“The Blackwater Refuge is one of Maryland’s most important natural resources, and one of my top priorities is to preserve and protect its unique ecology and wildlife habitat,” said Senator Cardin, a member of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee. The Senator has long supported Blackwater NWR and recently helped secure funding for a tract of land on the refuge’s southwestern edge.
“The addition of the Tideland parcel conserves habitat for bald eagles, black ducks and other species dependent on healthy wetlands. This acquisition will also play an important role in protecting the historic landscapes associated with the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, and provide an important economic benefit to the economy of Dorchester County by attracting tourists to the heart of Chesapeake country and creating jobs for residents,” added Senator Cardin.
Blackwater NWR, located in Dorchester County, is one of our nation’s premier national wildlife refuges. It consists of more than 27,000 acres that include one-third of Maryland’s tidal wetlands and some of the most ecologically important areas of our State. The USFWS has been working for many years with partners such as the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, The Nature Conservancy and others to conserve important fish and wildlife habitat along the Nanticoke River. As part of this partnership effort to protect migrating and resident wildlife, the USFWS created the Nanticoke Unit, which follows a portion of the river corridor.
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 a variety of wildlife dependent recreational opportunities including hiking and paddling trails, wildlife observation, educational programs and hunting, fishing and crabbing opportunities.
Since 2008, Senators Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski have worked to appropriate $4.8 million for land acquisition at Blackwater NWR. Acting within the boundaries of its Comprehensive Conservation Plan, the USFWS has used this funding to purchase critically important parcels containing vital habitat for waterfowl and other species from willing landowners.
“After years of planning and working with a variety of partners we are excited to announce our first purchase of land within the Nanticoke Unit,” said Suzanne Baird, Refuge Manager of Blackwater NWR. “We look forward to working further with our partners and hope to provide rich opportunities for public use and programming to share the unique ecological, cultural and historical aspects of this special place,” she added.
“We are grateful that Senator Cardin and Senator Mikulski secured the funding needed to protect this historically and ecologically important property. Their leadership will allow future generations to experience the landscape and wildlife that Captain John Smith saw as he explored the Nanticoke and met with the American Indians over 400 years ago,” stated Patrick Noonan, Chairman Emeritus of The Conservation Fund. The Conservation Fund has worked with landowners and federal, state, and non-profit partners to protect nearly 9,000 acres at Blackwater NWR since 1990.
Joel Dunn, Executive Director of the Chesapeake Conservancy, said that conserving this land would enhance the experience of travelers along the Capt. John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail. “Protecting the Nanticoke River corridor will encourage more heritage tourism and attract more visitors to the water trail, which is important for the local economy,” he said.
Since Congress created the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail in 2006, the USFWS and the National Park Service have worked together to implement the Trail. While the National Park Service has the lead role in developing the trail, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service holds land that borders the trail on the Nanticoke, Chester, and Susquehanna Rivers in Maryland.