Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program in Maryland

The Partners for Fish and Wildlife program is the Service’s most popular and effective programs for voluntary, citizen and community-based fish and wildlife habitat restoration activities. Partners program serve as a bridge to owners and managers of private lands to develop partnerships for the benefit of these Trust Species. Its approach is simple: Engage willing partners, through non-regulatory incentives, to conserve and protect wildlife values on their property.

Habitats of Special Concern
Wetland restoration remains a high priority for the Partners Program in Maryland. Maryland’s Eastern Shore is extremely important to migrating waterfowl and shorebirds that depend on wetlands found along the coast.

Riparian Forest Buffers
Riparian (streamside) forest buffer restoration and reforestation of agricultural lands is also a high priority due to historical and continued losses of these critical habitats for migratory birds.

Endangered Species Habitat
Restoring endangered species habitats has become a focus for the Partners Program especially in Maryland. Many landowners have removed or fenced cattle from streams and bogs, thus improving streamside vegetation buffers and water quality. However, woody vegetation encroachment into some northern bog turtle habitat has reduced the value of these wetlands for this federally threatened species. The Partners Program is working with private landowners to improve bog turtle habitat by removing undesirable vegetation.

Warm-season grasslands act as stream buffers and provide important habitat for grassland bird species that are declining due to habitat loss primarily from agricultural practices. Restoration of these habitats also benefits aquatic species and their habitats by reducing sediment and nutrient loads from agricultural operations.

Five physiographic provinces are located in Maryland ranging from the Outer Coastal Plain to the Appalachian Plateau in western Maryland. Maryland has lost more than 50 percent of its wetlands since European settlement.

Maryland has lost a substantial amount of its forests in the Chesapeake Bay watershed primarily due to agriculture and development in the past 300 years. Urban sprawl represents a new threat to the remaining forests and wetlands because of the proximity of three major urban centers (Washington D.C., Baltimore and Philadelphia).

Invasive plant and animal species, such as nutria (a large rodent) and purple loosestrife (plant), are having a negative effect on native fish and wildlife and their habitats. Much of the riparian habitats in rural Maryland have been lost. This has contributed to the decline in aquatic habitat quality in the Chesapeake Bay as well as the coastal inland bays.

Endangered species such as the Delmarva fox squirrel continue to lose habitat due to commercial forestry practices that convert native hardwood forests to more commercially viable pine plantations.

Conservation Strategies
Wetland Restoration
Early wetland restoration efforts focused on restoring hydrology. Cost effective methods, such as crushing drainage tiles, constructing ditch plugs, and installing small berms and water control structures were used with much success.

Since 1998, the Partners Program in Maryland has developed a more holistic way to restore wetlands that includes: the recreation of microtopography (small ridges and swales on the land surface) to create a more diverse soil moisture regime; transplanting trees and saplings using conventional excavating equipment; additions of coarse woody debris to provide long term carbon sources and habitat structure. Straw or hay have been incorporated extensively into restoration projects to stimulate the denitrification process and to provide optimum substrates for aquatic invertebrates.

Wetland restoration projects have been focused in impaired watersheds in Maryland with a special emphasis on the proximity to State and Federal wildlife management areas and refuges. Wetland restoration projects cost approximately $1,500 per acre.

Restoring Riparian Forest Buffers
Thousands of miles of riparian buffers have been lost in Maryland in the past 100 years.  In 1998, the Partners Program began making tree seedlings available to interested private landowners who wished to restore riparian forest buffers on their lands. Since 1998 over 50 miles of riparian forest buffers have been restored with over 300,000 seedlings provided by the Partners Program. The costs for riparian forest buffers averages $500 per acre.

Grassland Restoration
Grasslands provide habitat for a variety of migratory birds. Elimination of many native grasslands in the Northeast has contributed to the steady decline of grassland dependent birds such as the eastern meadowlark and grasshopper sparrow. The Partners Program, working with other Federal, State and non-government organizations, has developed a strategy to reverse the loss of grassland habitat in Maryland, by planting warm-season grasses and forbs (i.e., small, non-woody broadleaf plants) as buffers around wetland restoration projects. Warm-season grassland habitat restoration costs $400 per acre.

Upland Forest Restoration
Maryland has lost over 50 percent of its forest lands since European settlement in the 1600s. The Partners Program initiated a forest buffer initiative in 2001 to reverse this trend. In partnership with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Maryland Forest Service, the Partners Program has provided 200,000 tree seedlings and technical assistance to private landowners to restore over 300 acres of agricultural lands to native hardwood forest. The cost for forest restoration is $600-$800 per acre.

Endangered Species
The Partners Program is identifying potential habitat restoration opportunities and implementing restoration projects that directly benefit threatened and endangered species such as the Delmarva fox squirrel and bog turtle. To date, 28 potential bog turtle sites have been identified and evaluated for the need for woody vegetation control. The forest restoration and riparian forest buffer initiatives will ultimately benefit the endangered Delmarva fox squirrel. Bog turtle habitat restoration costs $1,000 per acre.

Invasive Plant Species Control
Invasive plant species, such as purple loosestrife, are detrimental to the health of native fish and wildlife Habitats. The Partners Program is beginning to focus on the challenges of invasive plant control. These projects cost $100-600 per acre.

Farming for Wildlife and Profit
The Partners Program is actively involved in Maryland providing technical assistance to the USDA for their conservation programs, especially for the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program, and Wetlands Reserve Program. As members of the USDA-State Technical Committee, the Partners Program helps guide the development and implementation of habitat technical standards. The relationship with USDA combines funding with biological expertise to provide maximum benefits to the private landowner and to fish and wildlife resources. Partners Program biologists work with landowners in the agricultural community to discuss conservation practices that meet their financial needs and benefit fish and wildlife resources.


  • Over 400 projects have been completed.
  • 300 acres of forests have been reestablished.
  • 80 miles of riparian buffers have been restored.
  • 500 acres of warm season grasses have been restored.
  • 2 miles of spawning grounds have been reopened.
  • 300 students have been trained by Partners Program biologists
  • NRCS technical practices have been revised to reflect specific recommendations from the Partners Program

Future Needs

  • Restore or enhance 20,000 acres of wetlands.
  • Restore 1,000 acres of forest.
  • Restore 1,000 acres of grasslands
  • Expand Partners Program into western Maryland to address endangered species issues
  • Restore 50 acres of bog turtle habitat

Contact Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program in Maryland

Al Rizzo
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
177 Admiral Cochrane Drive
Annapolis, Maryland  21401
Phone: (410) 573-4543
Fax: 410-269-0832


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