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Easement Protects Critical Coastal Bays Habitats
Northeast Region, April 16, 2009
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On the lower shore of the Delmarva Peninsula there are numerous estuarine bays collectively referred to as the Maryland Coastal Bays. These shallow, productive bays provide important habitat for a wide variety of fish and wildlife. Like many coastal systems, the Coastal Bays face threats from residential development, nutrients, sediments, and other stresses associated with human activities.

 

The Maryland Board of Public Works, composed of the Governor, Comptroller, and Treasurer, approved the purchase of a perpetual conservation easement on the 234 acre Sturgis Farm located in Worcester County. Chesapeake Bay Field Office Coastal Program biologists played a paramount role in the protection of the property by assisting with proposal preparation, on-site restoration planning, and landowner negotiations. The property has 100 acres of habitat including mature upland forest, estuarine emergent and palustrine forested wetland.

 

The following benefits are expected:

 

  • Water quality benefits to North Chincoteague Bay through restoration of palustrine emergent wetlands within wet agricultural fields and along ditches to prevent agricultural fertilizers, nutrients, and pesticides from entering the bay

 

  • Protection of habitat for USFWS priority species, which include prothonotary warbler (Protonotaria citrea), Kentucky warbler (Oporornis formosus), black-and-white warbler (Mniotilta varia) and scarlet tanager (Piranga olivacea).

 

  • Protection of additional forest interior dwellings species (FIDS) habitat which include, wood thrush (Hylocichla mustelina), prothonotary warbler, Kentucky warbler, and worm-eating warbler (Helmitheros vermivorus).

 

  • Protection of breeding habitat for three migratory waterfowl species including the internationally declining American black duck (Anas rubripes) and migration or wintering habitat for 17 coastal dependent migratory waterfowl

 

  • Protection of breeding, migrating, and wintering habitat for numerous coastal-dependent bird species including  salt marsh sharp-tailed sparrow (Ammodramus caudacutus), black rail (Laterallus jamaicensis), seaside sparrow (Ammodramus maritimus),  and Louisiana waterthrush (Seiurus motacilla).

 

  • Protection of breeding, migrating, and wintering habitat for numerous shorebird species including the American oystercatcher (Haematopus palliatus).

 

  • Protection of significant nursery and foraging habitat for a number of economically and ecologically 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).

 

Wetland restoration activities are slated to begin in the fall of 2009 to restore 60 acres of palustrine emergent wetland on the site currently used for agricultural production.  Project partner, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will complete the wetland restoration work.  Other partners in the project include Worcester County Planning Department, who introduced the project to CBFO.

 

This property was awarded a National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant in 2007 for $650,000. Matching funds for the purchase of the easement were provided by Maryland Department of Natural Resource‚Äôs Program Open Space. Protection of this property falls into a strategic habitat conservation approach began by the Coastal Wetlands Initiative (CWI) in 2004, a multi-partner group whose primary objective is to protect key coastal properties on Newport and Chincoteague Bays in the Maryland Coastal Bays. 

 

For more Information contact:

Dan Murphy

410/573-4521

Dan_murphy@fw.gov

 

Leslie Gerlich

410/573-4587

Leslie_gerlich@fws.gov

 

Contact Info: Kathryn Reshetiloff, 410-573-4582, kathryn_reshetiloff@fws.gov



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