Blackwater has a lot of challenges. Beyond the usual spectres of sea level rise, invasive species, and encroachment by humans, Blackwater appears to be eating itself alive. Literally. Two factors, the introduction of the nutria, and the decomposition of the peat and muck itself, are causing wetland conversion to open water at the rate of dozens of acres per year. Open water means no structure, no cover, and little food for birds and mammals in this environment. I'll cover these abominations of the marsh in a future post.
About 30 species of birds winter at Blackwater NWR and the adjacent Fishing Bay WMA, and over 250 species visit the area every year during some part of their migration. I believe I heard that the Blackwater system winters around 500,000 ducks and geese in an average year. Conservation organizations like Ducks Unlimited, the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, Friends of Blackwater, and the Nature Conservancy have all put their money where their mouth is when it comes to stabilizing, protecting, and rehabilitating these amazing habitats. Other organizations (there are many, but I'm singling one out) have made a common habit out of complaining that the Refuge does not offer waterfowl hunting, but have not contributed one red cent to the area's protection, restoration, or even research. Or providing volunteers for hunting access, which a local group, Maryland Waterfowlers, is attempting to do. In my book, it's all about DOING something (even if it's mostly because you will benefit from your work), not just complaining that no one else is doing it. But in a future post (i.e. after duck season) we'll get back to what needs to be done, and what's being done, and what roles still need to be filled to protect this gem of a habitat.