Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge Expansion

wetlands_blackwater_national_wildlife_refugeIn September 2015, the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission approved more than $2.2 million in funding for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its partners to acquire 758 acres at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. The funding is part of more than $27 million in funding approved by the Commission on Sept. 9 to conserve nearly 200,000 acres of wetland and associated upland habitats for waterfowl, shorebirds, and other birds across the United States. There continues to be strong support for these acquisitions from the Maryland congressional delegation, particularly Sen. Barbara Mikulski and Sen. Ben Cardin.

The Blackwater properties are currently being used for recreation and timber harvest. As part of the refuge, they will be managed for waterfowl, other migratory birds, and public uses, including public hunting.

blue_heron-blackwater_refuge_11859540696“The acquisitions will make critical additions to the network of protected lands along the river corridor, allowing wildlife to migrate and adapt to climate change. “We are grateful that the Commission has provided this funding to protect key properties at Blackwater and along the Nanticoke River. We remain hopeful that Land and Water Conservation Fund monies will also be appropriated by Congress for additional tracts of land that are critical to protecting wildlife habitats and maintaining recreational opportunities along the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail,” Joel Dunn, Chesapeake Conservancy president and CEO, said.

For more information on the recent expansion, view the US Fish & Wildlife Service’s press release here.

These acquisitions build on the 2011 addition of 1,225 acres to the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. The Chesapeake Conservancy helped identify the properties and advocated for their inclusion in the refuge as well as for funds to support their purchase. The acquisitions were funded by the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The LWCF receives most of its revenue from the development of federally owned offshore oil and gas rights and is a critical mechanism for national investment in conservation, recreation, and historic preservation.

Additionally, these acquisitions are part of the network of protected lands the Conservancy is working to create throughout the Chesapeake watershed.

Blackwater refuge is one of Maryland’s premier outdoor tourist destinations and offers a variety of wildlife dependent recreational opportunities including hiking, paddling, wildlife viewing, hunting, fishing and crabbing. These acquisitions have significant waterfowl habitat, as well as wetlands and dry forests, and are situated along the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail.