Building Capacity for Ecosystem Change in the Lower Potomac Watershed
In 2010, the Chesapeake Bay Field Office developed an office-wide Strategic Plan, identifying 16 areas to focus conservation activities to meet the needs of 19 Service trust species. We then decided to take a closer look one of the areas, the Lower Potomac in Charles County, MD, to determine how we could further refine the geographic scope of our focal areas to maximize effectiveness in addressing trust resource needs.
Zekiah swamp. Photo by Leslie Gerlich, USFWS
We chose the Lower Potomac as a pilot due to the belief that this area has some of the most important fish and wildlife habitat left on the western shore but due to its close proximity to Washington D.C., there is risk of losing this if development occurs in the wrong areas.
Chesapeake Bay Field Office worked with a group, Sustainametrix, to use methods and processes they developed for building capacity for ecosystem change.
This involved taking a much more detailed and comprehensive look at the Mattawoman, Nanjemoy, and Zekiah watersheds, and the Potomac shoreline on the Nanjemoy peninsula. This included looking at environmental, social, and governance (market forces, local government, and civil society) issues and trends through the development of timelines, case studies, interviews, and analysis of trend data.
Our work on this project timed out well not only for our internal strategic planning process but also with the Charles County Comprehensive Planning Process, and a Maryland Department of Natural Resources-led ecosystem based management effort focused in the Mattawoman watershed. As a result of this project, we are in a far better position to contribute to a wide range of policy dialogues and decision-making as we have increased our understanding of the governance dimensions, power dynamics, and implications of and process for decisions that will be made over the next few years.
Chesapeake Bay Field Office now has much greater clarity for what we can and will do to meet our objectives in this focus area. For example, this will include support of county decision making to limit development and promote smart growth, targeted land protection and restoration activities, weighted support for selected scenarios in the Comprehensive Planning Process, and specific actions such as stream restoration, schoolyard habitat support and furthering BayScapes in target locations to strategically build capacity for stewardship.
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Left, a lush hardwood forest, center, Kentucky warblers, and right, dwarf wedge mussels. All can be found in the lower-Patomac study area. USFWS photos.