Natural Lands Project
Balancing natural lands on working farms to increase wildlife habitat and improve water quality.
Maryland’s Eastern Shore is a mosaic of farms, small towns, woodlots and rivers that flow into the Chesapeake Bay. Those who live here have a special appreciation of the region’s rural heritage of sport, beauty, and outdoor recreation. Some people have noticed that while the Rockfish still bite each spring, there are other aspects of the landscape that have changed, some species that are disappearing. The emphatic “BOB-white” call of quail used to be widespread, but now is hard to find. There don’t seem to be as many fireflies or butterflies as when we were kids and there certainly aren’t the same number of ducks as there were in our grandfather’s youth.
Increasing human populations and the rise of intensive farming have shifted the balance away from wildlife and toward humankind, but you can take some easy steps to rectify the situation, and we are here to help.
In 2015, Washington College’s Center for Environment & Society teamed up with the Chester River Association, a legacy organization of ShoreRivers, to help make the rural landscape of the Eastern Shore more wildlife friendly while trying to improve water quality within local watersheds. We received generous funding from Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund to help forward our goals of a creating a healthy balance throughout the agricultural landscape of production farming and wildlife habitat. In 2017 we received additional funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, an organization working with both public and private sectors to protect and restore our nations fish, wildlife, plants and habitats. With this additional funding NLP will continue to add habitat on private lands to help declining grasslands birds and pollinators while helping improve the Bay’s water quality.
Our team is making farm visits, meeting with landowners and making recommendations for habitat improvements. Native warm season grass plantings replace marginal crop land, improving wildlife habitat and the water quality downstream at the same time. Wet and poorly drained sections of fields can be converted to wetlands which attract wintering waterfowl, like the American Black Duck. A wildflower “pollinator patch” installed close to the farm house can create a beautiful vista that also hosts native bees and supplies the Monarch Butterfly with the milkweed it needs to reproduce.
To make strides on a landscape level, we need your help. Although one farm can make a difference, multiple farms working toward the same goals will increase our impact dramatically. Please contact us to learn more about restoring the balance on your property between the business of farming, the needs of wildlife and water quality of our Chesapeake Bay.
Partner and Funding Organizations