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Chesapeake Bay

Farmers to Bombers

“Federal and state matching funds enable us to double the amount of land we can protect.” —Steve Bunker, Maryland/DC Conservation Director

Under the midday sun’s diligent eye, corn stalks appear to wave through a hazy screen. Here at the headwaters of Nassawango Creek, home to the Conservancy’s largest Maryland preserve, the 700-acre Taylor Farm has been a conservation priority for years.

But instead of pursuing a traditional purchase, The Nature Conservancy fostered a partnership exemplifying our increased emphasis on restoring natural habitat and enhancing water quality.

Returning forested wetlands to this heavily ditched farmland will provide important new habitat for diverse plants and animals. That habitat will, in turn, improve water quality in Nassawango Creek and ultimately the
Chesapeake Bay.

“Productive wetlands at the headwaters, or beginning, of the Chesapeake Bay eventually translate to cleaner water in the bay itself,” explains Amy Jacobs, the Conservancy’s watershed restoration director. “That means healthier and
more abundant fish, oysters and seafood in addition to a healthier economy.”

The ditching made the property eligible for funding from the federal Wetlands Reserve Program, which enables the Conservancy to partner with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on plugging ditches and planting trees.

In the meantime, a proposed monitoring program will help us calculate water-quality benefits from the restored wetlands as they filter runoff from Taylor and other farms upstream. The Taylor Farm project exemplifies the evolution
of our conservation strategy
on Eastern Shore lands that drain to the bay.

State and federal programs open doors to the agricultural community and help stretch our conservation dollars. Along the Nanticoke River, for instance, project director Liz Zucker secures conservation easements with contributions from state Rural Legacy and U.S. Navy funding.

For the Navy, investing in conservation helps maintain its ability to conduct simulated bombing exercises without disturbing populated areas. This partnership is poised to expand up the Potomac River to another Conservancy
priority, Nanjemoy Creek.

And along Dividing Creek, which feeds into the Pocomoke River, federal Farm Bill and Rural Legacy funds are helping conserve farmland and forests.

As conservation director Steve Bunker puts it, “Federal and state matching funds enable us to double the amount of land we can protect.”

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