Restoring wetlands in western Maryland

On a small farm just outside New Windsor, in Carroll County, a local farmer had a wet, marginal field that his livestock would travel through to get to an adjacent pasture. During rain events, the area, which naturally drained toward Little Pipe Creek, would become saturated and muddy, making it difficult for livestock to travel to adjacent pasture. When the field is wet, cattle traveling through the marginal area increases the amount of sediment entering the creek, which drains into the middle Potomac and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay.

In collaboration with the Carroll County Soil and Water Conservation District, Ducks Unlimited restored two acres of wetland habitat and associated buffer, and fenced out livestock from the sensitive area. The project not only restored a wetland, it captured water in a beneficial way and created a drier traveling route for the farmer's livestock. One acre of warm season grasses was also planted between the newly restored wetland and a cornfield uphill from the project. The combination of wetlands and buffers serves as a sponge and captures excess nutrients and sediment before entering the wetland and stream and making its way to the Bay. Cleaning up the water in the upper reaches of the Potomac watershed will ultimately increase water quality in the Chesapeake, thus benefiting the many diving ducks that winter in and migrate through the coastal parts of the state.

In addition to providing high quality foraging areas for migrating birds in the fall, winter and early spring, the project also offers ideal territorial ponds for locally breeding ducks to defend and nest on in the summer. The farmer was interested in helping local Maryland ducks, so he installed wood duck nest boxes along the perimeter of the project. While DU projects in western Maryland do not consist of large acreage due to topography, restored wetlands in that region offer numerous benefits with a broader impact.

This project was made possible through the Potomac Watershed Partnership (PWP) whose mission is to create a collaborative effort among federal, state and local partners to restore the health of the lands and waters of the Potomac River Basin, thereby enhancing the quality of life and overall health of the Chesapeake Bay and its surrounding communities. Since 2001, this unique partnership between DU, USDA Forest Service, MD DNR Forestry, VA Department of Forestry, George Washington and Jefferson National Forest, PA Department of Environmental Protection and the Potomac Conservancy, has restored more than 700 miles of riparian and grassland buffers and more than 600 acres of wetland habitat.