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Maryland Called Leader in Wildlife Conservation

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Wednesday, January 27, 2016   

ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Climate change, residential and commercial development, and pollution are listed as threats to wildlife in Maryland in a new 10-year action plan being released next month.

For the first time, the report lists hydraulic fracturing as a threat to wildlife. State regulators are coming up with rules now, meaning fracking could happen in Maryland as early as October 2017.

Gwen Brewer is a science program manager at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. She says much of this plan's focus is on climate change.

"People are really seeing first hand the impacts of sea level rise and that's something a number of the counties and communities are trying to figure out how best to deal with," says Brewer.

Disease is another hot topic. Brewer says the state's amphibians are threatened, and white nose syndrome has decimated the bat population.

The report lists all 12 bat species in Maryland as in need of protection.

"Bats are really important for dealing with insect pests," says Brewer. "For example, they eat a lot of the moths of insects that are considered to be crop pests and provide other services for us."

One hundred and eight wildlife species have been added to the action plan. Newcomers include the American mink, ruffed grouse, and dozens of insects. Nearly a quarter of the listed species are birds.

David Curson, director of Audubon of Maryland, says he's happy with the Department of Natural Resources and the work that's been done, but he says citizens need to get involved, too.

"One of the points of this plan is that we can no longer depend upon a government agency like the Department of Natural Resources to fulfill all of the conservation needs because the funding just isn't there," says Curson.

The National Wildlife Federation says lawmakers in Maryland have shown a lot of leadership. Senior director Naomi Edelson says the point of creating a 10-year plan is to prevent species from becoming endangered or threatened.

"Congressional members have been some of the strongest advocates for more funding to help implement the action plan," says Edelson. "So Senator Mikulski, Senator Cardin, Chris Van Hollen. I think almost all of the delegation has signed letters supporting increased funding for a federal program called State Wildlife Grants."

A full report is available to the public in mid-February.



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