WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (both D-Md.) have announced $415,900 in federal funding to add an additional 126 acres of land to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. The grant is funded through the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund and was approved for disbursement this week by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Migratory Bird Conservation Commission. The funds were raised largely through the sale of Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamps, commonly known as “Duck Stamps.
“Conservation of key habitats is critical not only for our endangered species populations, but for the Chesapeake Bay – and the millions of Marylanders who rely on it for their livelihoods,” said Senator Cardin, a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “Blackwater’s habitats are especially vital in this effort, and the continued federal investment in our local ecosystem and local economy is recognition that Blackwater is one of Maryland’s most important natural resources.”
“The Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is a Maryland treasure and an example of the extraordinary wildlife and plant diversity in the Chesapeake Bay watershed,” said Senator Van Hollen. “The expansion of the refuge is great news for Dorchester County and the entire state – it supports jobs, economic development, and will allow even more Marylanders to connect with the great outdoors.”
Funding for Blackwater Wildlife Refuge, one of Dorchester County’s most popular tourist attractions, is part of $7.8 million being dispersed to refuges nationwide, all geared toward wildlife conservation under the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund. Funds are being delivered to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), which will work in concert with Blackwater to implement the grant. Blackwater 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 and other tourist designations in Dorchester County also support more than 600 jobs.
Refuges like Blackwater offer world-class public recreation, including fishing, hunting and wildlife observation for photography and environmental education. Every state and U.S. territory has at least one national wildlife refuge. According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, “For every dollar spent on Federal Duck Stamps, 98 cents goes toward the acquisition or lease of habitat for the National Wildlife Refuge System. Duck Stamps – while required by waterfowl hunters as an annual license – are also voluntarily purchased by birders, outdoor enthusiasts and fans of national wildlife refuges who understand the value of preserving some of the most diverse and important wildlife habitats in our nation.”