EASTON, Maryland – May 19, 2022 – When analyzing Chesapeake Bay’s wetland habitats, what’s good for ducks is good for people. The bay’s wetlands are crucial for the needs of millions of migratory birds each year, and those same wetlands improve water quality for the health and economic impact of 18 million people annually.
Birds and people need more marshes in Chesapeake Bay, and Ducks Unlimited is mobilizing new resources to bring back and protect these landscapes.
Increased human population is contributing to pollution, decreased water quality and invasive species proliferation in the bay. Restoring wetlands and protecting these habitats continues to be commonly prescribed best management practices aimed at reversing these trends.
Because much of the land use today is agriculture, Ducks Unlimited and its partners have widespread opportunities to work with farmers to implement conservation practices on farm fields as well as restore wetlands on old parcels.
The program: a Delmarva oasis
One such Ducks Unlimited-led program will protect more than 1,000 acres on the Atlantic Flyway’s Delmarva Peninsula, a welcoming stopover location for waterfowl but a challenging landscape for conservation efforts.
The peninsula, 180 miles long and 70 miles wide, gets its name because it is shared by the states of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. Situated between Chesapeake Bay to the west and Delaware Bay and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, the peninsula boasts over 2,500 miles of shoreline and includes hundreds of thousands of acres of estuarine and freshwater wetlands.
The Delmarva Peninsula is recognized as one of the most important areas for waterfowl and other migratory birds in North America, including neotropical migrants and other land, shore and wading birds.
This critical landscape, however, is threatened by human development and disproportionate effects of global climate change. Areas of Delmarva have experienced 40% human population growth since 2000, and portions of the peninsula are forecast to lose more than 60% of brackish marshes by 2100 because of sea level rise.
To protect this landscape, Ducks Unlimited and several partners will permanently protect 1,060 acres of wetlands and uplands on six sites and restore 10 acres of wetlands over three years. Funding comes from a $1 million North American Wetlands Conservation Act grant and $2 million in matching funds from DU, Delaware Wild Lands, New Castle County, Lower Shore Land Trust, Eastern Shore Land Conservancy and private landowners.
All protected tracts will eventually be held by conservation land trusts or agencies, and more than 30% of the protected areas are expected to be open to public access.
“The areas we’re helping protect have an immense array of wetland habitats ranging from freshwater emergent and forested wetlands to tidal riverine and estuarine habitats which support a broad collection of wildlife species,” said Jake McPherson, the DU manager of conservation programs who led the grant proposal. McPherson has since transitioned to development duties within the mid-Atlantic region for DU.
See the 2022 conservation report which highlights recent DU work around the Chesapeake.
The staff: New Chesapeake conservation manager
Guiding future conservation efforts is Ed Farley, a wetlands veteran from farther up the Atlantic Flyway. Since 2020, Farley has been a biologist in New York, leading DU’s wetland protection and restoration projects across the Empire State.
“The importance of a healthy Chesapeake Bay cannot be overstated,” Farley said. “I’m honored to continue the tremendous work the conservation community has achieved in producing strong wetlands for people and wildlife.”
While the new role is Farley’s latest at Ducks Unlimited, he began his career in 2015 as a conservation intern at the Great Lakes/Atlantic Regional Office in Michigan. His move to New York occurred in 2016 where he worked in DU’s wetland mitigation program in New York and Vermont.
Farley earned his undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. While working at Ducks Unlimited he earned his master’s degree in fish and wildlife biology and management from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry.