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St. James School finishing project to help wildlife, Chesapeake

April 20, 2007

ST. JAMES - Aided by a grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust/FishAmerica Foundation, Saint James School will complete the final phase of its ecological land enhancement project.

It provides a "valuable outdoor learning environment for the school's students," the school said in a press release.

"This grant allows us to plant mature trees and other vegetation to benefit the wildlife immediately," said Geordie Newman, project leader and a 1993 graduate of the school south of Hagerstown.

"The objective of the stream buffer restoration and wetland creation project is to preserve critical freshwater fish habitat and to reduce stream bank sediment and nutrient inputs into the Chesapeake Bay watershed," he said.

"It will also serve as an educational project and a model for future projects," he said.

Last spring, Newman coordinated tree planting on 30 acres of what is considered ecologically sensitive land along the stream near the railroad tracks on College Road.

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This effort was a result of a USDA program through the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) developed by the Chesapeake Wildlife Heritage. Newman is its director of habitat restoration.

"The complete project funding wasn't through CREP, so we were able to secure additional funding with this grant," Newman said.

He said this is the only established wetland restoration refuge in Washington County.

"The stream buffer project will create 21.7 acres of forested buffer, 4.6 acres of warm season grasslands and a 5.6-acre wetland. The creation of grasslands and wetlands, in addition to the forested buffer, offers a habitat critical for wildlife, such as migratory and ground-nesting birds," he said.

He said wildlife will enjoy the benefits immediately.

"The outdoor lab at Saint James School is on par with many major universities," said Newman, who came to an environmental science class to spearhead the students' efforts in building at least 30 Wood Duck boxes.

He said the students will be able to "do countless studies - ground-nesting birds, warm-season grass, comparing various wildlife species ... the opportunities are endless."

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