A National Treasure: Saving tidal wetlands on Maryland's Eastern Shore

Posted at 1:57 PM, Dec 27, 2016

Maryland is rapidly losing thousands of acres of wetlands on the Eastern Shore, but grant money set aside after Hurricane Sandy is helping to save this national treasure.

In the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge more than 5,000 acres of marsh has already been lost. After battling nutria, an invasive rodent species only recently eradicated, the marsh is still declining at an alarming rate.

"If no action is taken, then the computer models that we have looked at tell us that virtually all the marshes in Blackwater and the surrounding areas of Dorchester County will be lost to erosion and sea level rise by the end of the century," Curson said.

David Curson, director of bird conservation for the Audobon Maryland, D.C. helped organize the effort to save the wetlands.

"Right now we're trying to build up... build up the elevation just enough that the marsh plants themselves can help build the mass that we need before this is all underwater," Marcia Pradines, Chesapeake marshlands project leader, said.

The project involves adding sediment in the wetlands. It's a delicate balance: Too much and they create land out of the marches and not enough is wasted effort.

"It's just like Goldilocks, it's gotta be just right," Pradines said.

The project is about biodiversity, but also about the economy.

"The Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge brings about $27 million to the Dorchester County Economy each year. And that's based on recreation like angling and bird watching and other outdoor pursuits," Curson said.

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