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"Blackwater Refuge Undergoing Major Shift in
Policy to Favor Hunters and Anglers"
The Daily Times, Salisbury MD
David Ciekot

This past Wednesday at a public meeting in Cambridge the staff of Chesapeake Marshlands National Wildlife Refuge Complex, which includes Blackwater NWR, provided insight into a new comprehensive plan for the Refuge Complex. Much of the evening was spent on issues such as conservation easements and timber management, but one area stood out for it's great interest to outdoor enthusiasts - a strong, new focus on public use.
Refuge Manager Glenn Carowan detailed a public use program that emphasizes environmental education, fishing, interpretive programs, wildlife observation, photography and hunting. I'll jump straight to the fishing and hunting details, of course, but first I'll say that this is one of the most pleasant surprises to come from the US Fish & Wildlife Service in a long time. Wildlife and habitat preservation should always be the first priority, but people need to be able to enjoy what they're protecting and have a vested interest in the resource.
Numerous things are in the works for hunters. Blackwater already has an extensive deer hunting program, with over 10,000 acres open for sika and whitetail deer hunting. Most of these are application and quota hunts, but close to 3,000 hunters participate annually.
Turkey hunting will be the next type of hunting opened, as the Regional Director of the USF&WS has already issued the directive to begin such hunts for the spring of 2006. Planned for Blackwater are the opening of 7,485 acres, following state regulations and seasons, on a quota/lottery basis of 14 hunters per day for a total of 112 hunters. With an abundance of wild turkeys and those extremely low hunter densities, the turkey hunting should be incredible.
Most astounding is the opening of many Refuge lands for waterfowl hunting. While it's not unusual for the rest of the country, as most Federal Refuges allow some amount of waterfowling access, for Blackwater it would be a first. Two hunts are planned, one for migratory waterfowl and one for resident geese.
The migratory bird hunts would take place on 40% of new parcels the Refuge system has acquired in recent years, potentially 12,000 acres, and could begin as soon as the fall 2006 season and include on-shore as well as off-shore hunting opportunities. "We're looking at areas like Bishops Head, Barren Island, Watts, Spring Island down near Bloodsworth, some of those areas certainly will be some of the first opened…also the upper Blackwater, Goose Dam area" said Carowan. Waterfowl protection will still remain a vital part of Blackwater, however, as 23,000 acres will remain an inviolate sanctuary.
The second possible waterfowl hunt on the refuge is a spring hunt for resident Canada geese. "That's going to be more difficult because that would require some extreme conservation measures or an amendment to the migratory bird treaty act."
Anglers and boaters will also receive attention under this plan. There is already a new parking area and canoe launch at the Rt. 335 bridge on the Blackwater River, but future plans call for construction of a fishing pier, boardwalk, kiosk and parking area on the Little Blackwater River, maps of waterways and channels, better signage, interpretive programs and a canoe/kayak rental concession.
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