The Waterfowl Festival is investing almost $93,000 in conservation, environmental education and research projects this year through its 2009 Conservation Grants. Each year, the nonprofit organization awards the proceeds from the three-day November event, along with contributions to its Donor Programs, to organizations enhancing wildlife habitat or teaching children and adults the importance of preserving ecosystems. Since 1971, the Waterfowl Festival has given more than five million dollars to Chesapeake Bay-area projects.
Chesapeake Wildlife Heritage in Easton will receive $13,000 in support of two projects helping waterfowl. Its Wood Duck Nesting Box Program adds an estimated 25,000 Wood Ducks to fall flights by installing man-made nest boxes where natural habitat has been depleted. The Waterfowl Festival Canada Goose Sanctuary Program works with farmers to leave standing rows of corn and winter wheat cover crops as resting and feeding areas for overwintering geese.
A Waterfowl Festival partner since the event’s beginning, Ducks Unlimited has been awarded $20,000 for Phase III of its Wetlands Restoration Initiative at Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge in Kent County. Continuing work begun with the restoration of 25 wetland acres in 2007, the remaining six sites in the project will help to offset waterfowl and other migratory bird habitat lost to development and agricultural use.
Eastern Shore Land Conservancy in Queenstown will receive $2,000 in general operating support. The organization targets the most critical farm and habitat properties, working with landowners to explore long-term conservation options.
To increase environmental awareness and create future conservationists, the Waterfowl Festival supports several local education programs. A $5,000 grant to Environmental Concern of St. Michaels will enable its Wetlands on Wheels mobile classroom to visit schools and special events, introducing wetlands to those who may not otherwise have an opportunity to discover the importance of this resource.
Pickering Creek Audubon Center in Easton will receive $8,000 towards its Audubon Watershed Experience for tenth-grade biology students from Talbot and Wicomico counties. Learning ecological principles through bird watching and fishing, the students also mentor younger classes, passing on the newly acquired skills.
Fifth-grade Talbot County students experience first hand the role of wetlands during a three-day stay at Echo Hill OutdoorSchool, made possible through a $4,000 Festival grant to Talbot County Public Schools.
A $3,500 grant to the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Horn Point Laboratory in Cambridgesupports research into submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV). The Festival-funded fellowship explores the interaction of SAV and water flow, creating new analytical tools to improve the success of critical SAV bed restoration efforts.
While the Waterfowl Festival is known for almost four decades of support for other organizations’ projects, this year the Festival is designating more than $37,000 to a project of its own. The funds will partially match federal funding recently awarded to help restore the Bay Street Ponds by improving their flood storage capacity and pollutant filtration function.
Located on a major entrance into Easton, the ponds were donated to the Waterfowl Festival by the Grayce B. Kerr Fund and drain more than 700 acres of Easton watershed emptying into the Tred Avon River.
Waterfowl Festival President Albert Pritchett congratulated this year’s grant recipients and commended them for their efforts on behalf of wildlife and the environment. “We are pleased to be able to partner with such outstanding organizations to further these important projects,” he said. “We thank all of our Festival donors and attendees who have been making these grants possible for almost forty years.”
The 2009 Waterfowl Festival will be held in Easton November 13, 14 & 15. For more information, to volunteer or to make a donation, contact the Waterfowl Festival office at 410-822-4567 or visit its website, www.waterfowlfestival.org.