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Growing Blackwater

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is about to grow.

The US Fish and Wildlife service announced Thursday it has acquired 410 acres to add to the 27,000 it already holds on the Eastern Shore.

The mostly forested, freshwater tidal wetlands adjoin the Nanticoke River in Wicomico and Dorchester counties. Fish and Wildlife officials say the acquisition is part of a bigger plan to add natural buffers as sea levels rise around Maryland's 7,000 miles of shoreline.

Blackwater, for example, is losing about 300 acres each year to erosion and rising sea-levels. The Fish and Wildlife Service partnered with The Nature Conservancy to purchase the land to allow marshes to migrate landward.

Allison Vogt, regional deputy executive director for the conservancy, said farmers have had to deal with salt water intrusion on their lands and water supplies and coastal cities and towns have had to contend with increased nuisance flooding because of rising sea levels.

"So we think that these natural habitats are a tool not only for the wildlife value that they provide, but to possibly to reduce risk for towns and communities along Maryland's coasts," she explained.

Money for the purchase came from the sale of Duck Stamps to waterfowl hunters and national wildlife refuge visitors and with support of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.