Environmental Issues on the Shore
Maryland's Lower Eastern Shore possesses an extensive variety of environments, including barrier islands, coastal bays, tidal wetlands, cypress swamp, upland fields, and old growth forests. Located in the geographic province known as the "Embayed Coastal Plain," Worcester, Somerset and Wicomico counties link the fragile barrier island system on the east with the Chesapeake Bay and islands on the west. The counties lie within the watersheds of the Wicomico, Manokin, Big Annemessex and Pocomoke rivers. Dominated by wetlands, each of these watersheds contains a diversity of natural, physical and social characteristics. The Maryland Coastal Bays Program is an important organization that works to improve water quality, protect habitat and enhance forests and wetlands.
The Chesapeake Bay itself is recognized internationally as the largest and, historically, the most productive estuary in North America, with a watershed encompassing 64,000 square miles, portions of six states and the Nation's capital, 150 rivers and over 2 million acres of wetlands. A history of "Maryland's Arcadia" by Truitt and Callette described this region as the first English immigrants found it"
The area teemed with fish and furbearers since there were the ocean, the bays and the creeks, bordered by marshes and the deep, gentle Chesapeake tributary, the Pocomoke River, bordered by vast and almost impenetrable swamps in which to grow the ever abundant bald cypress, noted for its durability in building.
Much of this richness exists today. The area contains the nothernmost extent of bald cypress and is home to the largest nesting population of bald eagles east of the Mississippi. Coastal habitat and a temperate climate interact to create the northernmost breeding range of several southern birds. However, the area is most distinctive because of the close association between the ocucupations and ways of life and the resources of the land, water and seasonal cycles.
Archeological evidence indicates the diverse uses many native American groups had for the resources of the area. In more recent times, uses have included agriculture, timbering, commercial and sport fishing, recreational and commercial boating, sand and gravel mining, hunting and tourism. Today, strong relationships still exist between communities and the water, reflected in the evolution of shellfishing and processing, boat building and other industries.
Text is from: Lower Eastern Shore Heritage Plan, The Lower Eastern Shore Heritage Council, Inc. February 2, 1994