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April 19, 2024

Mr. Dan Murphy
Division of Habitat Conservation and Restoration
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
177 Admiral Cochran Drive
Annapolis, MD 21401-7307

Subject: Support for Establishment of the Southern Maryland Woodlands National Wildlife Refuge

Dear Mr. Murphy:

I am writing on behalf of more than 2,500 members of the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks (Coalition), who collectively represent more than 45,000 years of national park management experience. The Coalition studies, educates, speaks, and acts for the preservation of America’s National Park System. Among our members are former NPS directors, regional directors, superintendents, resource specialists, park rangers, maintenance and administrative staff, and a full array of other former employees, volunteers, and supporters.

We support this plan and the establishment of the Southern Maryland Woodlands National Wildlife Refuge (Refuge)—the first refuge to be established in the Chesapeake Bay Area in over 26 years. This plan would encompass currently unprotected lands in Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles, Prince George’s, and St. Mary’s counties, which have seen a growth of development in recent years. A strong partnership of land-managing agencies and environmental NGOs have been working together to protect the Chesapeake Bay. The establishment of this Refuge is important to enhancing that partnership and expanding those protections to the unprotected southern portion of the Chesapeake.

The Chesapeake Bay and the watersheds are important habitat for birds that migrate and overwinter along the Atlantic flyway. It also serves as an important nursery for nearly 350 species of fish and wildlife, including threatened and endangered species.

The establishment of the Refuge would further the goals of the America the Beautiful Initiative, as mandated by President Biden through Executive Order 14008. To help tackle climate change, the initiative calls for the protection of at least 30% of our nation’s lands and fresh waters, as well as 30% of our oceans by 2030. This proposal will also help the State of Maryland meet their 30 x 30 goals. Specifically, it will help protect at risk species by protecting habitat as well as provide Federal funding sources through programs that support large-scale habitat restoration.

Within the proposed boundary of 577,420 acres, the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has identified up to 40,000 acres which could be acquired in fee-title acquisition or easements from willing owners. The Coalition supports this plan as protection of lands and waters must include willing community members, who are most often the drivers of conservation. If landowners do not wish to sell their property or enter into a conservation easement, they are under no obligation to do so.

The Land Protection Plan discusses actions to address environmental justice. The minority population in the designated area, which is 62.6% (https://www.fws.gov/media/draft-land-protection-plan-and-environmental-assessment-establishment-new-southern-maryland, page 48), will benefit from the increased visitation, environmental education programs, expanded recreation opportunities, and increased access to open space. The establishment of the Refuge will also preserve the region’s aesthetic beauty.

We appreciate the opportunity to provide input on this important plan that will help protect the southern Maryland lands and waters through the establishment of the Southern Maryland Woodlands National Wildlife Refuge.


Phil Francis Signature



Philip A. Francis, Jr.
Chair of the Executive Council
Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks

Email: Ed****@pr********.org
Mail: 2 Massachusetts Ave NE, Unit 77436, Washington, DC 20013
Web: www.protectnps.org
Phone: (202) 819-8622