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Back River, Maryland

13 Acres | September 23, 2003
John Owings, donor
Owned in Title

The Back River Wildlife Sanctuary is 13 acres of undeveloped land on Back River where it opens into Chesapeake Bay.  The shoreline on both sides of this property has been developed intensely. This sanctuary provides the only natural conditions within this neighborhood and the only section of undeveloped shoreline. Estuarine wildlife, as well as shorebirds, benefit from this protection, and it has a positive impact on the environmental quality of Chesapeake Bay.

The Back River Wildlife Sanctuary came under the protection of the Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust in 2000 when the property was donated by John Owings.  The land had already been placed under conservation easement with the Maryland Environmental Trust, but by donating the land to HSWLT, Mr. Owings protected the wildlife who call it home as well.  Now this sanctuary, like all those owned by HSWLT, will always have commercial and recreational hunting and trapping prohibited.

There is a shallow, estuarine wetland here. The rest of the sanctuary slopes gently back from the water. It is nearly level and the terrain is typical of the low shoreline surrounding the Bay. The tract is forested, but most of the surrounding land is active or recently abandoned agricultural properties. Portions, particularly along the waterfront, are extremely small residential lots, and land that becomes available is sure to be under strong development pressure.

The Back River Wildlife Sanctuary provides an conservation island in this significant area. Any protection along the Chesapeake Bay contributes to the wildlife values of this stressed ecosystem. In an area that is so close to a major metropolis like Baltimore the conservation value is even more significant. The site is home to a myriad of small bird species and provides a needed rest area for migratory birds in the region.  Nesting, cover and foraging conditions are dramatically superior to the surrounding fields and forests. Even in November, there are numerous birds in the area such as cardinals, blue jays, and various wrens and sparrows, including several vocal white-throats.

In addition to birds, mammals such as mice, skunks and opossum benefit from this wildlife sanctuary, as well as soil invertebrates and other small wildlife that are crucial to sustaining a healthy ecosystem.

The Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust holds the title to this sanctuary.  That means HSWLT is responsible for all property taxes and maintenance costs for the property -- every year, forever.  In addition periodic inspections are made to ensure that the wildlife habitat remains in good condition.  These inspections, and the handling of any damage or destruction, cost heavily in professional staff time and travel expenses.

HSWLT has promised to keep this property as a sanctuary forever -- and that promise will be kept.  If you can help with the cost of stewardship for this and the other properties HSWLT protects, please donate here.

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