Bay Program partners established and/or reestablished nearly 1,000 acres of wetlands between 2005 and 2006, contributing to a cumulative total of more than 11,000 acres since 1998, according to recently compiled numbers.
“Established” wetlands refer to forming a wetland where there previously wasn't one, such as re-shaping an upland site to make it suitable for wetland plants. “Reestablished” wetlands are areas that were historically marshes or swamps, but have been converted to another land use, such as farming. By reestablishing the land's hydrology, a wetland can form once again.
In 2000, Bay Program signatories agreed to pursue a net gain of 25,000 acres of tidal and non-tidal wetlands in the Bay watershed by 2010. These wetland acres would be gained through voluntary projects. In 2005, Bay Program partners clarified this goal to track only wetland establishment and re-establishment projects, which represent true gains in wetland acreage.
One such wetland restoration project was undertaken this year by Bay Program partners Ducks Unlimited, Maryland DNR, the Maryland-DC Audubon Society, the Waterfowl Festival and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Partners for Fish & Wildlife Program. Learn more about this project, which is restoring 63 acres of wetland habitat in Bozman, Maryland.
While creating and restoring over 11,000 acres of wetlands in the Bay watershed is significant, there is still much work to be done to achieve the 25,000 acre goal by 2010.
Note: Not all of the wetlands counted are functional; they are present but not necessarily serving as a benefit to the bay.
When it comes to cleaning up the Bay, partnerships among state agencies and non-profit organizations give restoration efforts the most “bang for the buck” by coupling funding opportunities with unmatched expertise. This is evident at the 950-acre Jean Ellen DuPont Shehan Audubon Sanctuary, where Maryland DNR, the Maryland-DC Audubon Society, Ducks Unlimited and the Waterfowl Festival have teamed up to restore and enhance vital wildlife habitat.
The property, located in Bozman, Md., on a peninsula surrounded by three creeks, includes over 200 acres of grass meadows, 300 acres of woodlands, 8 miles of shoreline and 10 miles of walking trails. The Sanctuary is used for scientific research, outdoor science-based education and wildlife and habitat conservation. Nearly 200 bird species frequent the Sanctuary's diverse habitats throughout the year.
Ducks Unlimited, the nation's largest wetlands and waterfowl conservation group, is leading the effort to restore 63 acres of wildlife habitat at the Sanctuary: 25 acres of shallow water and emergent wetlands, 19 acres of forested buffers, 12 acres of wildlife food plots and 7 acres of warm season grass buffers. In addition to the water quality benefits that the project will provide, the site will also be used to demonstrate and showcase the effectiveness of partnerships in Bay restoration.
The importance of the wetlands restoration at the Sanctuary cannot be overstated. Wetlands account for only about 4 percent of the 64,000-square mile Bay watershed, but they are vital to the health and productivity of the Bay and its tributaries. Wetlands improve and protect water quality by:
Wetlands also help prevent flooding by temporarily storing floodwaters, and help prevent erosion by acting as a buffer between larger bodies of water and the land.
The wetland restoration project at the Jean Ellen DuPont Shehan Audubon Sanctuary is part of the Bay Program's current strategy committing partners to the restoration of 25,000 acres of wetlands by 2010. Between 1998 and 2005, 10,463 acres of tidal and non-tidal wetlands were established or reestablished in Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia. (Establishment is creating a wetland that did not previously exist; reestablishment is restoring the historic functions of a former wetland.) * Note: Current status is based on cumulative voluntary efforts through 2005 in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia, and through 2004 in Pennsylvania.
Those wishing to view the restored wetlands can participate in one of the guided tours planned for each day of the 2007 Waterfowl Festival in Easton, Maryland.
When someone mentions the Department of Defense (DoD), one of the last things that might come to mind is Chesapeake Bay restoration. But the DoD is actually the second largest landholder in the watershed (657 square miles), after the USDA Forest Service (3,757 square miles). The DoD has been working to improve the Bay since 1984, when it was the first federal agency to become formally involved in Bay restoration.
The DoD recently published Defending Our National Treasures: A Department of Defense Chesapeake Bay Restoration Partnership 1998-2004, a report that describes the agency's restoration initiatives over the past 10 years.
Defending Our National Treasures also presents four case studies, one of which details DoD's restoration effort along the Elizabeth River in Hampton Roads, Virginia. The Elizabeth River watershed includes nearly 200 square miles of the cities of Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake and Virginia Beach. Ninety percent of this area is developed and highly industrialized. Since 1944, half of the river's wetland habitat has been lost. The Elizabeth River is home to the world's largest naval base and one of the busiest ports in the world. With all this development, the health of the river has gone by the wayside. The Bay Program has designated the river as an “area of concern” due to high levels of contaminants in the water and bottom sediments.
The DoD has set up restoration efforts at two locations along the Elizabeth River: Paradise Creek and the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. The Navy received the 2004 Coastal America Spirit Award for its Elizabeth River restoration projects.
Paradise Creek is the site of the New Gosport landfill, which contains over 55,000 tons of contaminated soil. The Navy formed a partnership with government and nonprofit organizations to formulate a cleanup plan. The restoration plan saved the state millions of dollars while restoring 1.9 acres of tidal wetlands and 1.1 acres of upland habitat.
Similarly at the Norfolk Navy Shipyard, DoD restored a site with 44,000 tons of contaminated soil by establishing an agreement and restoration partnership with local organizations. They restored 1.3 acres of tidal wetlands and 1.6 acres of riparian forest buffers.
Because of the DoD's large land stake in the Bay watershed, the agency will continue to be a vital partner for future restoration efforts throughout the region. Only by establishing and maintaining partnerships can we hope to make the waters of the Chesapeake a little clearer for all.
View the full report at the Integration and Application Network website.