$2.9 Million Grant for Natural Resources Improvements
Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., today commended U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman for targeting $2.9 million to Maryland as part of a $5 million effort to help improve natural resources in the Delmarva Peninsula.
“Improving the quality of the Chesapeake Bay is my top environmental priority. This additional funding for Delmarva will provide much needed conservation resources to Maryland’s agricultural community,” said Governor Ehrlich. “The additional resources being provided by USDA support our efforts to improve conservation while also ensuring that farms remain economically viable.”
“The health of the Chesapeake Bay is an important issue for the Bush Administration,” Secretary Veneman said. “This funding will help to protect farmland and wildlife habitat, restore freshwater and tidal wetlands, as well as support the economic viability of agriculture in this region.”
Programs to protect the Chesapeake Bay involve both Federal and State efforts. The 2002 Farm Bill authorizes USDA to direct funds toward the ecologically and economically important agricultural lands. Governor Ehrlich has helped to target conservation funds toward this region.
USDA will use the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP), Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) and Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) to provide additional financial and technical assistance to landowners in the Delmarva. Maryland will receive nearly $2.9 million in additional funding in these three programs for nine Eastern Shore counties; Delaware, $1.7 million for three counties, and Virginia, $435,200 for two counties.
The Delmarva Peninsula drains into the Chesapeake Bay, the nation’s largest and most productive estuary. The Delmarva contains about 1.7 million acres of farmland that includes all of Delaware, Maryland’s Eastern Shore, and two counties in Virginia. The high concentration of livestock, sandy soils, flat topography, intense agriculture, and development pressures significantly impacts the use of natural resources, environmental quality, and the overall economic viability of the region.
Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia are working to eliminate invasive species, which are displacing many native varieties of wetlands plants. These states have documented losses of valuable wildlife habitat as well as declines in species such as the bobwhite quail in the Delmarva, once a haven for wildlife. Landowners can use WHIP to address those needs effectively.
The Delmarva contains both freshwater and tidal wetlands. These wetlands serve vital natural functions such as filtering pollutants, providing protection from flooding, and supplying valuable wildlife habitat. Some of these vital wetlands have been restored through WRP.
Much of Maryland’s and Delaware’s agriculture is found in this region. Delmarva, dominated by productive farmland and marshland, is the largest contiguous rural region on the East Coast. However, agriculture is succumbing to urban pressures, such as development. The number of farms and farmers has declined. Through FRPP, landowners are compensated for their development rights, making this program an effective means of maintaining agricultural land as viable farm operations.