Initiative for the Delaware Bay Estuary Ramsar site
(posted to the Ramsar Forum, 3 January 2002)
For immediate release:
Ducks Unlimited Announces Major Initiative To Restore Delaware Bay Wetlands
A critical link for tiny travelers from the arctic
Memphis, TN, January 3---On January 8th, Ducks Unlimited will sign a major agreement with the states of New Jersey and Delaware to restore wetland habitats in the Delaware Bay estuary. The identification of numerous threatened and endangered shorebirds has added momentum to the plan to restore 15,000 acres of wetlands and associated uplands.
Bay is Internationally Recognized
The three entities will sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to deliver the Delaware Bay Initiative when they meet in January at the Fort Mott State Park, located on the New Jersey side of the bay. The goal of this agreement is to identify and address water quality and habitat issues in selected watersheds, which together support close to 3,000 species of plants and animals. "The NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife is pleased to join with the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife and Ducks Unlimited in helping to protect and enhance valuable wetlands habitat on both sides of the Delaware Bay," said Dr. Robert McDowell, the NJDFW director. Delaware Bay has been recognized internationally as a wetland of importance by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (www.ramsar.org), a treaty signed in 1971 for the purpose of wetlands conservation.
More than half of the continent's migratory shorebirds visit the Delaware Bay to rest and feed every year. "Shorebirds are tiny birds that travel distances of up to 10,000 miles with very few stops along the way. It is critical that we protect those key resting places,"said Richard Pierce, who directs Ducks Unlimited's Great Lakes/Atlantic regional office. The bay also provides critical wintering habitat for many species of waterfowl which depend on the Atlantic flyway, one of four north-south flight paths in North America.
Threatened and Endangered Species Linked to Wetland Losses
The Bayshores region supports several federal and state endangered and threatened species, including: Bald Eagle, Piping Plover, Pied-billed Grebe, Short-eared Owl, Peregrine Falcon, Shortnose Sturgeon and Delmarva Fox Squirrel. The bay also supports five species of marine turtles. The identification of threatened and endangered species has added momentum to wetland conservation plans for the bay, according to Dr. Robert Hoffman, director of conservation programs for Ducks Unlimited's Great Lakes/Atlantic regional office. "Many species of birds are at risk because vast areas of forest and wetland habitats have been converted to accommodate agricultural, industrial, residential and commercial development. These land use conversions and activities have resulted in wide spread loss, fragmentation and degradation of wildlife habitats and deterioration in the quality of the water entering the Bay," explained Hoffman.
Invasive Weed Creates Monoculture, Compromises Biodiversity
The loss of wetlands has resulted in lowered salinity levels in some portions of the Bay. Consequently, salt marsh cord grass---an important food source---has died off, and the invasive common reed has moved in. "The common reed pushes out other plants and gradually creates a monoculture which in turn limits available sources of food for birds and fish," said Dr. Robert Jordan, a regional biologist with Ducks Unlimited. "We'll install new water control structures and build dikes and berms, which will help keep water levels where they should be for optimal vegetation. By restoring natural tidal exchange and water levels, we will create conditions that will favor desirable plant communities with the aim of long term control of the common reed." This work will be accomplished through partnerships with state agencies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and other private non-governmental organizations. Priority will be given to several focal watersheds identified by the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, including the Maurice and Salem Rivers in New Jersey and the Milford Neck in Delaware. "This initiative takes us one step closer to our long term goal of returning wide open spaces to wildlife. And it's great news for the bay we all love and respect," said Lloyd Alexander, acting director of the Delaware Division of Fish and Game.
The signing ceremony will take place at 2:00 pm on Tuesday, January 8th, at Fort Mott State Park. For directions and more information, contact Tildy La Farge at 901-758-3859 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
With more than one million supporters, Ducks Unlimited (www.ducks.org) is the world's leading wetland and waterfowl conservation group. Wetlands are nature's most productive ecosystems, but the United Stat
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