DU, Maryland make Chesapeake more appealing to waterfowl

Partnership is increasing wetlands at three wildlife management areas on both sides of Chesapeake Bay.

Crews at LeCompte WMA move dirt to make duck-friendly habitat.

© Greg Schenck, MD DNR

Crews at LeCompte WMA move dirt to make duck-friendly habitat.

Chesapeake Bay’s shorelines and wetlands have lured waterfowl along the Atlantic Flyway for centuries. Dabblers, divers and geese use these waterways for migration and breeding in legendary numbers.

But people are getting in the way. The human population in the Chesapeake Bay region has doubled since 1950 to more than 18 million. Human development wiped out wetland habitats and created poor water quality in the bay.

Ducks Unlimited and the state of Maryland are combining expertise and resources to increase wetlands at three wildlife management areas (WMA) on both sides of the bay: LeCompte WMA in Dorchester County, Old Bohemia WMA in Cecil County and Cedar Point WMA in Charles County. At all three sites, Ducks Unlimited and the state are reverting former agricultural land back to a more natural wetland state.

Population density makes conserving new land difficult, and a strong partnership with the state is crucial for waterfowl habitat conservation, said Jake McPherson, Ducks Unlimited regional biologist in Maryland.

“Ducks Unlimited doesn’t own land, so to do conservation, we have to work with somebody,” McPherson said. “There are tens of thousands of acres of state-owned land in Maryland, so partnering with the state makes sense. State lands are open to public access so these conservation projects can be enjoyed by everyone.”

Ducks Unlimited and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Wildlife and Heritage Service are restoring 23 acres of former agriculture land at the three WMAs.

“The restorations will really help increase habitat diversity and wildlife diversity for hunting and bird watching, while improving water quality coming off the land into the tributaries of Chesapeake Bay,” said Bill Harvey, Wildlife and Heritage Service game bird section leader.

“Ducks Unlimited has been incredibly valuable and has provided technical services and funding to make these things happen.”

The LeCompte project is complete. The other two sites will be done in 2020.