Nearly $2 million in federal grants have been awarded to protect and restore wetlands on the Eastern Shore, including a portion to enhance wildlife habitat on a 950-acre former bird sanctuary whose owner just donated the development rights to the state.
The two Maryland projects announced Tuesday by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar were part of $20.5 million in grants handed out in 13 states.
Point Pleasant Farm, a former National Audubon Society sanctuary at the mouth of the Choptank River, was selected to receive a $1 million grant. Half of it is to be spent restoring wetlands on about a third of the Talbot County tract, flooding meadows and woods and planting water-tolerant trees, according to Dan Murphy, chief of habitat conservation for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The other half of the grant was originally intended to be matched with $500,000 in state funds to buy a conservation easement permanently protecting the farm from being sold for housing one day, Murphy said.
But the farm's owner, Robert A. Pascal, a businessman and former Anne Arundel County executive, decided to donate the development rights rather than sell them, Murphy said. The state Board of Public Works accepted the donated easement last month and lauded Pascal, who receives undisclosed tax breaks for the gift, the largest of its type to the state.
Murphy said he hopes to redirect the portion of the grant earmarked for helping to buy Pascal's development rights to other habitat restoration projects in the Choptank watershed.
A grant of nearly $1 million was awarded to protect 450 acres of salt marsh, wetlands, forests and farm fields along the Chicamacomico River in Dorchester County. The tracts targeted for wetlands restoration and tree planting are about four miles west of Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge and adjacent to the state's Fishing Bay Wildlife Management Area.