Partnership Conserves Wildlife Habitat for Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

USFWS, Chesapeake Conservancy, and Mt. Cuba Center Conserve 155 Acres through Two Projects on the Nanticoke River

Annapolis, MD – A partnership between the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and Chesapeake Conservancy has led to the permanent protection of 155 acres of land as part of the Nanticoke Unit of Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge (the Refuge). Funding was made possible through the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund and through private funds from the Chesapeake Conservancy made possible by a land conservation grant from Mt. Cuba Center. Chesapeake Conservancy and partners advocate for LWCF funding to be prioritized for the Nanticoke corridor.

With support from Chesapeake Conservancy, USFWS created perpetual conservation easements adding the 113-acre Wells property and the 42-acre Wheatley property to the Refuge. Under conservation easements, the landowners retain fee ownership of their lands, but sell the development rights. Landowners can continue to use their lands for hunting, fishing, and other recreational activities, and harvest timber in ways that benefit wildlife.

In addition to supporting the conservation mission of the Refuge, the forests, wetlands, and rare plants protected by the easements contribute to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Targeted Ecological Areas, the Audubon Nanticoke Important Bird Area, and the network of protected lands in the Nanticoke and larger Chesapeake watershed.

Newly conserved land at Blackwater Widlife Refuge

The Nanticoke River and associated wetland habitats are recognized for their national significance to the North American Waterfowl Management Plan and National Wetlands Priority Conservation Plan. The easements also preclude the potential for additional development on the land, helping to maintain the rural character and quality of life of the Eastern Shore.

“These are the first easements within Blackwater in its history since the refuge was established in 1933. They harness the power of collaboration with both landowners and organizations such as Chesapeake Conservancy in order to conserve valuable habitat for a variety of wildlife along the Nanticoke, ranging from black and wood ducks to osprey and eagles,” said Marcia Pradines, complex manager for Chesapeake marshlands, which includes Blackwater. “We look forward to encouraging more easements to protect the resources of the Nanticoke.”

“Thanks to the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, an important vehicle for land conservation both nationally and within the Chesapeake Bay watershed, USFWS was able to join forces with Chesapeake Conservancy and Mt. Cuba Center to conserve vitally important wildlife habitat within the Chesapeake’s crown jewel of Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge,” said Chesapeake Conservancy President and CEO Joel Dunn. “These newly protected acres complement our ongoing commitment to conservation in the Nanticoke River corridor, where together we have permanently protected 15 properties totaling 1,970 acres.”

“We are very grateful to these two families who chose conservation when making decisions about the future of their land,” Mt. Cuba Center President Ann Rose said. “It is inspiring to see how we can work together to provide land for our native plant species and habitat for Delmarva’s treasured wildlife.”



Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, located on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, protects over 29,000 acres of rich tidal marsh, mixed hardwood and pine forest, managed freshwater wetlands and cropland for a diversity of wildlife.  To learn more, visit our website at or follow us on Facebook@BlackwaterNWR.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen,

Chesapeake Conservancy’s mission is to conserve and restore the natural and cultural resources of the Chesapeake Bay watershed for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations. We empower the conservation community with access to the latest data and technology. As principal partner for the National Park Service on the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network and the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, we helped create 153 new public access sites and permanently protect some of the Bay’s special places like Werowocomoco, Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park, and Fort Monroe National Monument.

Mt. Cuba Center is a botanical garden located in Hockessin, Delaware. Over the past 80 years the gardens at Mt. Cuba Center have evolved, transforming fallow cornfields into thriving, ecologically-functional landscapes, thanks to the initiative of Mr. and Mrs. Lammot du Pont Copeland. The gardens will re-open for general admission on Wednesday, April 4, 2019. Classes are offered year-round. More information at