Coastal bay marsh. Photo by Katherine Munson, Worchester county.
On the lower shore of the Delmarva Peninsula numerous estuarine bays are collectively known as Maryland Coastal Bays These shallow bays provide important habitat for a wide variety of fish and wildlife. Like many coastal systems, the Coastal Bays face threats from agriculture and residential development including nutrients, sediments, and other pollutants. But these threats can be reduced by restoring and protecting existing wetland and upland habitats,
The Maryland Board of Public Works recently approved the purchase of a perpetual conservation easement on the 234-acre Sturgis Farm in Worcester County. Chesapeake Bay Field Office Coastal Program biologists played a paramount role in the protection of this property by assisting with proposal preparation, on-site restoration planning, and landowner negotiations.
This easement will protect 100 acres of existing habitat including mature upland forest, estuarine emergent and palustrine forested wetland. Sixty more acres will be restored to palustrine emergent wetlands within wet agricultural fields and along ditches. This will help reduce the amounts of fertilizers, nutrients and pesticides entering North Chincoteague Bay. Besides improving water quality, conserving this land will protect habitat for wildlife such as:
- prothonotary warbler (Protonotaria citrea), Kentucky warbler (Oporornis formosus), black-and-white warbler (Mniotilta varia) and scarlet tanager (Piranga olivacea), identified by the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service as priority species
- forest interior dwelling species (FIDS) like the wood thrush (Hylocichla mustelina), worm-eating and Kentucky warbler
- three migratory waterfowl species including the internationally declining American black duck (Anas rubripes) 17 coastal dependent migratory waterfowl
- coastal-dependent birds like black rail (Laterallus jamaicensis) and Louisiana waterthrush (Seiurus motacilla) and shorebirds like the American oystercatcher (Haematopus palliatus)
- important anadromous and interjurisdictional fish species such as summer flounder (Paralichthys dentatus), striped bass (Morone saxitilis), American eel (Anguilla rostrata), and horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus).
The 234-acre Sturgis farm in Worchester county. USFWS graphic.
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