Using science and mapping

While Maryland is not one of the largest states in the United States, it offers a diversity of habitats from the mountainous, forested regions in western Maryland to the flat coastal salt marsh of the lower eastern shore. Within each region, there are multiple opposing challenges and issues that must be addressed in order to improve habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife species. Knowing which watersheds are the most degraded and what exactly is degrading them is just the first step. Gaining an understanding of where restored wetlands and associated buffers will have the greatest conservation impact within that watershed is the next key component.

Recognizing that certain projects in particular regions would benefit the resource the greatest, Ducks Unlimited initiated a "Watershed Targeting System" to help guide habitat delivery so that individual projects provide the biggest bang for the "duck." Available conservation dollars are limited; therefore, it is important that habitat delivery is improving local habitat on a landscape scale.

With matching funds provided by the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service, DU developed a science-based GIS program that helps "on-the-ground" biologists deliver appropriate projects in the highest priority sub-watersheds of the Potomac River. Using the Potomac Watershed Targeting Tool, project locations in the watershed can be assessed based on restoration potential (soils and slope), water quality impairments and waterfowl use.

The targeting tool has allowed DU biologists to deliver the most beneficial and effective projects in the Potomac watershed, maximizing limited funding for ducks. Ducks Unlimited is currently pursuing funding to extend the targeting tool to the entire state of Maryland to increase restoration activity benefits and efficiency for waterfowl that migrate to and winter on the Chesapeake Bay every year.

To learn about and utilize the Potomac Watershed Targeting Tool, please visit http://glaro.ducks.org and click on the Potomac Map Viewer.