U.S. Senators Benjamin L. Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski (both D-MD) and U.S. Congressman Frank Kratovil (MD-1) today announced that the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge will acquire 823 acres as part of a grants program under the North American Wetlands Conservation Act of 1989 (NAWCA). The new acreage will help preserve marsh, shoreline, wooded swamp and forested upland habitat for migratory waterfowl. The refuge serves as an important resting and feeding area for migrating and wintering waterfowl along the Atlantic Flyway.
The Migratory Bird Conservation Commission voted to approve $33.4 million in matching grants to conserve 190,000 acres of wetlands, including the new Blackwater acreage. Under the Act, the funds will be matched or exceeded by private contributions. The Commission also approved the expenditure of nearly $8 million in Federal Duck Stamp funds to add more than 4,000 wetland acres to seven units of the National Wildlife Refuge System.
“The Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge encompasses some of the most important marshlands in North America and 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. “In the next three months tens of thousands of Canada Geese, snow geese, and tundra swans will come to Blackwater to escape the brutal Arctic winters. Today’s acquisition helps assure that this crown jewel continues to provide its life-giving role in the heart of Chesapeake country.”
“The Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is one of Maryland’s unique treasures which helps to support the Eastern Shore’s economy as well as to provide an engaging environment for both residents and visitors,” said Senator Mikulski. “I will continue to fight for funds to preserve and protect the Chesapeake Bay and its fragile habitat.”
“These much needed federal funds will go to support Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge and its important work to preserve the natural habitat of the Chesapeake Bay,” said Congressman Kratovil. “Specifically, these dollars will be used to conserve land for the migratory birds that call our region home for a few months every year. It is vital that we do everything possible to protect the Bay and its ensuing wildlife and I applaud this critical investment.”
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 its 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
The Refuge 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. The refuge also contributes approximately $500,000 annually in local, state, and federal tax revenue.