The Nature Conservancy announced that it has been awarded a grant of nearly $1 million through the Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund (CBSF) to accelerate wetland restoration efforts across the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The grant was one of 47 announced this fall by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), which partners on the fund with two other EPA grant programs. An additional $2.5 million in funding will be leveraged from the grant from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, Ducks Unlimited and other partners.
Wetlands play a critical role in Chesapeake Bay water quality by slowing freshwater entering the bay and trapping nutrients and sediment. They also provide habitat to a range of important species, including black ducks, many migratory birds, and fish. The Chesapeake Bay Partnership has pledged to restore 85,000 acres across the bay watershed by 2025, but only 11% of that goal has been reached since the agreement was last signed in 2014.
The funding will allow the Conservancy and partners to restore 445 acres of wetlands and increase capacity for outreach and the enrollment of additional landowners in public and private wetland restoration programs, as well as bring increased resources to areas that have been identified as restoration priorities.
“Making a real impact on Chesapeake Bay water quality is going to require bringing back some of the 1.5 million acres of wetlands that have been lost in the watershed, and we can’t get there without taking new approaches, said Amy Jacobs, acting Conservation Director for The Nature Conservancy in Maryland and DC. “The success we’ve seen with the restoration of the Pocomoke floodplains has taught us a lot of lessons that will help us expand this type of work to other areas in the watershed. We need to aim for ambitious public-private coalitions, engage more private landowners and use the best available science to tell us where restoration will provide the greatest benefits.”
In Maryland, the funding will help the Conservancy and partners expand the ongoing program to reconnect the Pocomoke river with its historic floodplains, which is already one of the largest restoration projects in the state’s history. Thanks to a coalition of public and private partners, as well as extensive private landowner engagement, the Conservancy is working to create breaches along more than 14 miles of the Pocomoke where it had been channelized in the 1940s. During heavy rain events, the breaches allow excess water to flow into the surrounding floodplain wetlands rather than rushing downstream to the bay.
In Delaware, the funds will help the Conservancy to restore over 60 acres of wetlands in the Great Cypress Swamp in partnership with Delaware Wildlands and Ducks Unlimited adding to 750 acres of previously restored cypress and Atlantic white cedar wetlands. Ducks Unlimited and Delaware Wild Lands Inc. will excavate shallow pools, plug ditches, and plant trees to restore both native forested and emergent freshwater wetlands. The Great Cypress Swamp serves as the headwaters of the Pocomoke river, as well as draining into the Delaware Inland Bays.
In Virginia, the Conservancy will work collaboratively with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFW), Virginia Outdoors Foundation and other partners with the Rappahannock River Land Protection Partnership (RRLP). The Conservancy will leverage this 20-year Virginia partnership to engage private landowners along the Rappahannock River in conservation programming.
“By aligning and focusing our collective efforts to promote and execute wetland conservation, both USFWS and The Nature Conservancy will be able to amplify the collective impact of our work,” says Christina Ryder, biologist with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “This type of collaborative effort is allowing us to affect conservation at a bay-wide scale, and complete projects beyond our individual capacities. USFWS is excited to continue to innovate with the Conservancy to sustain our fish and wildlife resources for the public.”
In Pennsylvania, the Conservancy will focus efforts in the south-central part of the state to build outreach capacity and the kind of new conservation partnerships that have resulted in success in Maryland. As the majority of wetlands in the state are associated with streams, this project will integrate both wetland and stream restoration approaches with the goal of improving water quality in Pennsylvania and the Chesapeake Bay.
“With 40% of the state’s streams listed as impaired and having lost more than half of our state’s wetlands, restoration is essential for people and nature,” said Su Fanok, Director of Freshwater Conservation for The Nature Conservancy in Pennsylvania. “Restoring streams and wetlands restores vital wildlife habitat while at the same time helping to improve water quality. We look forward to working in partnership to leverage existing expertise, to advance innovative and cost-effective restoration approaches, and to identify additional resources that will accelerate the pace and scale of wetland and stream restoration in south-central Pennsylvania.”
“While we’re making important strides in restoring wetland and marsh habitats in the Chesapeake Bay region, better, more effective partnerships are critical in bringing our collective goals to scale,” said Jake Reilly, director of Chesapeake Bay programs for the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. “NFWF and its public and private funding partners are excited to support TNC and its partners’ efforts to build the collaborative partnerships necessary to meet our ambitious goals for a more resilient Chesapeake Bay ecosystem.”
The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. Learn more about The Nature Conservancy’s work in Washington DC and Maryland at nature.org/maryland and follow us @Nature_DCMDVA on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.