While flying above the Atlantic Ocean, one of the members of the joint Atlantis-International Space Station crews took this photo of the Delmarva Peninsula from the orbiting complex on July 16, 2011. NASA

This August ACJV staff and partners secured a $75k grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust (CBT) to increase and accelerate habitat delivery on private lands on the Delmarva Peninsula to benefit American Black Duck, other wetland and upland wildlife, and water quality in a vital portion of Chesapeake Bay.  Grant funds will be used to hire a “private lands biologist” for two years, who will lead outreach efforts targeting private landowners (and other conservation practitioners).  The CBT grant is expected to leverage an additional $50k in funds from the US Fish & Wildlife Service Chesapeake Bay Field Office (USFWS/CBFO) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC).  

Our objective is to increase landowners’ awareness of the full array of conservation options available in their area and encourage them to adopt practices that protect and/or restore wetland habitat in key focus areas.  A major goal of this project is to increase the use of NRCS Farm Bill programs available for wetland protection and restoration. All three states on the Delmarva Peninsula are part of the new NRCS “Working Lands for Wildlife”  Black Duck Initiative, so we anticipate increased NRCS interest and funding for wetland projects that will help meet Black Duck habitat goals.

Our outreach efforts will be focused on areas that conservation partners have selected based on the recently completed Black Duck Decision Support Tool (DST), while incorporating other values (e.g., priority maps based on water quality) and constraints (e.g., a reasonable area to cover efficiently).  

The project is expected to begin in January, 2018, and will be overseen by an advisory group  formed by staff from the ACJV, USFWS/CBFO, DU, TNC, and state agencies. Final products expected from this project will include a set of outreach strategies and the relative strength/success of each strategy. We expect to engage hundreds of landowners in important areas on the Delmarva, give them a positive impression of conservation efforts and options in their area, and see them enroll hundreds of “new” acres in habitat protection or improvement programs.

This new CBT grant builds on a $100K award from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) to Ducks Unlimited in 2016, to catalyze strategic land acquisition targets around Chesapeake Bay. The NFWF grant is expected to cover closing costs on several parcels donated or bought in part with other funding (e.g., NAWCA), and will contribute to thousands of acres of permanent land protection in several Black Duck priority areas (identified by our DST) in Maryland and Virginia.