Residents will help plan future of refuges 20 hearings to solicit ideas for Blackwater, two other wildlife areas

January 13, 1998|By Marcia Myers | Marcia Myers,SUN STAFF

Residents will help plan the future of Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge on Maryland's Eastern Shore as part of a xTC comprehensive conservation plan required under a new federal law.

Blackwater, a 17,000-acre haven for migratory waterfowl, is one of the largest and most diversified wildlife refuges on the East Coast. The refuge will be among the first in the nation to tackle the comprehensive plan.

In the past, most refuge managers wrote separate plans addressing individual issues, such as hunting or protection of endangered species, rather than an integrated plan.

The law also requires extensive opportunity for public input, a feature not required by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Administration in the past. Beginning this spring, officials will hold up to 20 public meetings to solicit suggestions and ideas for Blackwater, said refuge manager Glenn Carowan.

"This will be the first opportunity we've had to present our programs to the public, and it's the first opportunity for the public to have full participation," Carowan said. "It's very exciting. What I see out of this is more public support for programs that are already going on."

Ajax Eastman, co-chairman of the Maryland Wildlands Committee, said she believes it is critical to have public participation in such planning.

"There are a lot of issues that need to be raised in any management plans," she said. "I suspect this will bring a lot of different ideas to the fore."

Included in the process will be comprehensive planning for two other areas -- the 4,500-acre Martin National Wildlife Refuge on Smith Island, and the 1.5-acre Susquehanna National Wildlife Refuge, on an island in the Chesapeake Bay off Havre de Grace, neither accessible to visitors.

Blackwater, which draws 140,000 visitors a year, is expected to attract the most public interest. It features a bicycle route, fishing, boating and a "wildlife drive," along which visitors can see tundra swans, snow geese and more than 20 species of ducks.

The Blackwater staff also works with teachers and students on educational programs.

Comments about the three refuges are being solicited by Carowan and can be sent to him in care of Blackwater, 2145 Key Wallace Drive, Cambridge 21613.

Plans for other federal wildlife refuges can be found on the World Wide Web at www.fws.gov.

Pub Date: 1/13/98

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