Partnership Results In Major Conservation Easement

Partnership Results In Major Conservation Easement
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BERLIN – A conservation easement in Somerset County will protect more than 1,000 acres of habitat for the American black duck.

The Lower Shore Land Trust (LSLT) last week announced a 1,066-acre conservation easement funded through a grant secured by Duck’s Unlimited from the North American Wetland Conservation Act to protect habitat for the American black duck.

“Projects like this protect habitat for the entire region,” said Kate Patton, LSLT executive director. “Our region is a critical flyover for migrating waterfowl, such as black duck and other species such as the salt marsh sparrow and black rail. Marshes have been deteriorating and efforts to conserve adjacent land to allow for marsh migration is one tool for protecting the ecosystem. Outdoor recreation, such as sportfishing and hunting depend on healthy ecosystems like this, but so do our blue crab populations. It’s really a win-win for our local economy and the environment.”

Patton began working on the large conservation project nearly a decade ago with Somerset County landowner Larry Leese, whose goal was to protect habitat for the black duck.

“This portion of Somerset County and the natural resources it supports have always been important to me, so I spent years piecing this property together to protect what I could,” Leese said. “Though it was a long process, I greatly appreciate the hard work of Ducks Unlimited, Lower Shore Land Trust, Maryland Environmental Trust, and all the other partners who helped me realize my vision.”

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Patton also praised the partnerships that made the easement possible.

“We’re grateful for our strong partnership with Ducks Unlimited, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and Maryland Environmental Trust,” Patton said. “This partnership was able to leverage funding from the North American Wetlands Conservation Act to conserve the property.”

Conservation projects typically take between two and four years, but with limited funding in the region, Patton said this project dragged on longer than expected.

“We’re just so pleased that Mr. Leese hung in there and worked with LSLT to see the project through,” she said.

According to LSLT, the black duck has been in “precipitous decline” during the last few decades. The bird’s habitat will be preserved with this easement, which protects 36 acres of agricultural land, 330 acres of forest, 700 acres of emergent tidal wetlands, and thousands of linear feet of shoreline on Marumsco Creek and Pocomoke Sound.

“Even in Maryland, a state known for its land protection programs, a thousand-plus acre easement is a rarity,” said Jared Parks, LSLT’s land programs manager. “LSLT is grateful for the opportunity to work with conservation-minded landowners like Mr. Leese and our federal, state, and local partners to preserve important habitats and our iconic landscapes.”

Though LSLT, Ducks Unlimited and Maryland Environmental Trust took the lead on the project, officials said it wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Rural Legacy Program, the U.S. Department of the Navy, Wicomico County, and the Chesapeake Conservancy who all contributed funding for other projects to match the NAWCA grant funds. In total this partnership has supported the preservation of nearly 1,510 acres in Somerset and Wicomico counties.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.