Keeping Sprawl out of Important Bird Areas by Dave Curson, Audubon Maryland-DC

One of the greatest threats to birds and their habitats in Maryland is habitat loss and degradation due largely to sprawling development. Audubon is doing its part to rein in rampant development on Maryland’s lower Eastern Shore, using its Important Bird Areas, or IBAs, as a planning tool.

Audubon Maryland-DC met with success in February 2009 when Wicomico County's Planning and Zoning Appeals Board denied an appeal by developers proposing a 147-dwelling residential cluster in forestland 10 miles from the nearest town. The site of the proposed development lay in the heart of the 180,000-acre Pocomoke-Nassawango IBA. This IBA supports probably the largest populations of Prothonotary Warbler and Worm-eating Warbler in Maryland in the state, as well as 10 other at-risk species.

The Appeals Board's deliberations included discussion of the area's IBA status and Audubon's assertion that fragmentation resulting from the proposed development would erode one of the area's prime ecological qualities - habitat contiguity. Partnerships with Wicomico Environmental Trust, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and other local groups were key to this success.

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