Eastern Shore Land Conservancy


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Conserve, steward, and advocate for the unique rural landscape of the Eastern Shore.

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Whale Wallows for Salamanders

Protected by ESLC since 2015, the Moberly's Farm conservation easement in Caroline County's Tuckahoe Rural Legacy Area includes over 35 acres of tidal wetland.


American Wetlands Month, celebrated in May, raises awareness of the importance of wetlands across the United States. And while Florida’s Big Cypress and Virginia’s Great Dismal each have their charms, the marshes of the Eastern Shore are just as varied and picturesque, and unfortunately just as in peril. There is perhaps no ecosystem more intrinsic to our unique rural landscape, our culture, and our economy than the wetland. Without these soft marshy spaces bordering our waterways and fringing our farm fields, the Eastern Shore simply would not be the Eastern Shore. From salty to freshwater, tidal to non-tidal, and all else in between, ESLC has helped protect nearly 3,160 acres of wetlands across the peninsula. These wetlands not only provide habitat for amphibians and migratory birds but also play a vital role in providing clean water, coastal resilience, and carbon sequestration. In our agricultural landscapes, wetlands filter nutrients and sediments carried by runoff, while simultaneously preventing erosion and improving drainage for farmers who strategically implement them within their fields. Despite all of these benefits, wetlands remain under threat from development, pollution, and climate change. This fact is especially detrimental to rare, threatened, and endangered species like the Eastern tiger salamanders, barking tree frogs, and saltmarsh sparrows who live and breed in wetlands and act as indicators of ecosystem health.


An Eastern tiger salamander. (Image: Peter Paplanus)


One wetland type that has undergone rapid loss on the Eastern Shore is our Delmarva Bays. These seasonal freshwater bays are a type of mysterious and misunderstood wetland found throughout the coastal plain province from New Jersey to Florida. Called Citronelle ponds in Georgia and Carolina bays in the Carolinas, they are more basins or potholes than true “bays” and they are all identically egg or kidney-bean shaped, oriented northwest to southeast, and outlined in sand. The Eastern Shore contains roughly 17,000 of them.


A Delmarva bay in Kent County. (Image: Chesapeake Bay Program & Will Parson)


Believed at first to be wallows from whales beached by Biblical floods, then meteor shower depressions, then sinkholes, the bays are now thought to have been caused by strong blowing winds over the flat, open plains of the Pleistocene era. Many rare and threatened endangered species (such as the Eastern tiger salamander) relied on these wetland types before two thirds of them were filled in to make way for farms and developments. These wetlands are almost indistinguishable on the ground compared to easily visible wetlands such as tidal marshes – but Delmarva Bays are only seasonally flooded and resemble wet, grassy meadows. A sanctuary for pollinators and migratory birds, they have “the highest biodiversity conservation value of any wetland type on the peninsula.” Their conservation and restoration are key to promoting healthy, flourishing, and diverse habitats.


ESLC's McBee Farm Wetland Restoration conservation easement in Talbot County has been protected since 2020.


One way ESLC has helped to protect these rare wetlands is through the land acquisition and transfer of the 4,000-acre Millington Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Kent County. Open to the public for bird watching, bass and bluegill fishing, mountain biking, nature photography, and permitted hunting, Millington WMA is a great place to safely observe protected Delmarva Bays in action, and maybe even spot a tiger salamander or barking tree frog. Eastern Shore Land Conservancy has also helped protect and restore a myriad of other wetland types across the shore. ESLC’s 17-acre conservation easement on the McBee Farm in Talbot County covers the property’s restored non-tidal wetland areas. This wetland was made possible by funding through the CBT/MDE Maryland Nontidal Wetland Award Program and constructed by Ecotone. Mallard Haven’s ESLC conservation easement protects a scenic Eastern Shore landscape and endangered species habitat with over 200 acres of forest and tidal wetland located within the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area. And along the banks of the Marshyhope Creek, Wades Savannah is a Central Coastal Plain Basin Swamp (the only one in Maryland of only seven total in the world) that supports at least six known threatened and or endangered species and other rare organisms. ESLC protected Wades Savannah in 2008 with the help of The Nature Conservancy, Maryland DNR, the Delmarva Council of the Boy Scouts, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and NOAA. ESLC continues to work to protect wetlands every day, through conservation easements, restoration, advocacy, and community engagement. By fostering partnerships with local communities, agencies, and partner conservation organizations, ESLC aims to ensure that the Eastern Shore’s unique wetlands are protected for future generations of people and wildlife.


A little wood satyr butterfly takes a rest near the wetlands in Millington Wildlife Management Area, protected by ESLC through land acquisition and transfer.

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