Thursday, December 27, 2012

Best of 2012 5) Conserving the Chesapeake Bay

We're bringing in the new year with a look back at our milestones for 2012. Check back each day for featured events and activities from across the Northeast!

Why is it so important that we safeguard the nation’s largest estuary and its tributaries? The Chesapeake Bay Watershed supports more than 2,700 plant and animal species. In addition to all the plants and animals that rely on the Chesapeake Bay, more than 15 million people reside or work within the watershed. In 2012, the Service continued to conserve this important resource and its environment. 

The Chesapeake Bay watershed protects land for many species, including this important
 bald eagle habitat near Aberdeen Proving Ground. Credit: Leo Miranda/USFWS

Clifford Branch dam before (top) and
during removal (bottom).
Credit: Conor Bell/USFWS
A few projects that have contributed to conservation within the Chesapeake Bay watershed: 

 In September, work began to remove the Clifford Branch dam, which once provided drinking water for the city of Frederick, Maryland. The city no longer needs it and the dam removal will open approximately three miles of habitat for brook trout, the only native trout in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Valued as a recreational fish, brook trout are also significant biologically. They require pristine, stable waterways and are indicators of good stream quality. The restoration project will remove the dam, remove/replace the inlet structure and return the adjacent stream to a stable, self-maintaining state. 

The Service continued to support a strategy developed in 2011 to address sea-level rise, called the Southern Dorchester County Climate Adaptation Project that is working to facilitate marsh migration at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. Since 1938, the Maryland refuge has lost 5,000 acres of brackish marsh and 3,000 upland acres have converted to brackish marsh. The goal of the project, which is a partnership among the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Conservation Fund and Audubon Maryland/DC, is to maintain the ecological functions of the salt marsh somewhere on the landscape. 

Partners will work with Masonville to enhance
existing environmental education programs and pursue
new ways to bring wildlife education to students and
citizens of the Baltimore area. Credit: Laurie Hewitt/USFWS
What was once a polluted industrial site is now an important space for wildlife with a nature center for people. Through the Dredged Material Management Program, Maryland Port Authority works with partners, including the Service’s Chesapeake Bay Field Office to store material dredged from shipping channels to restore wildlife, create recreation areas, and provide environmental education opportunities.
 Masonville is the newest dredged material placement site, and after an environmental education center opened in 2009, a nature area has now opened for recreational use. People can hike, canoe or kayak, fish and birdwatch. Just a few years ago, the land was full of dangerous trash and debris and was home to invasive plants. Now it hosts cleaner soil, native trees and shrubs, and wetland plants. 

The Service continued to participate in Memorandum of Understandings with the National Park Service and the Chesapeake Conservancy to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. 

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