A new service is available to connect Maryland homeowners interested in improving the fish and wildlife habitat and water quality on their property to programs that will help them accomplish their goals, Gov. Parris Glendening recently announced.

With one phone call to the Landowner Stewardship Referral Service, landowners can learn about the many federal, state, local and private programs that are available and in some cases offer free or cost-shared improvements designed to enhance habitat and water quality.

“The most serious threats to water quality in Maryland today are the nutrients and sediment carried into the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries by runoff,” Glendening said. “This one-step referral service will make it easier for landowners to work with government and private groups to improve habitat and protect the Bay’s water quality.”

The service is a free, voluntary program. Landowners can register their property for projects such as riparian forest buffer plantings, streambank stabilization, wetlands restoration and wildlife habitat creation.

“The program will be a major benefit to those who want to get involved in restoration,” said Edmund Temple, who coordinated the Chesapeake Bay Initiative, the joint Ducks Unlimited/Chesapeake Bay Foundation restoration partnership. “It promises to be a great way to ensure that landowners get the information — and the resources — that they need.”

“Restoration is the next frontier in saving the Chesapeake Bay, said Bill Street, a scientist with the CBF’s Maryland office. “Because we have already lost much of our wetlands and forest buffers, which play such critical roles in improving water quality and providing habitat, we must fully utilize our resources to gain back some of what we have lost. The Landowner Stewardship Referral Service is a key element in identifying restoration opportunities and building the partnerships necessary to accomplish our goal.”

The Landowner Stewardship Referral Service is a cooperative effort including the Maryland Departments of Natural Resources, Environment and Agriculture, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the Maryland Chapter of Ducks Unlimited. For information, contact the DNR Watershed Restoration Division at 1-800-989-8852, or CBF at 1-800-445-5572.