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Brooke Layton
Accomack, Virginia

Photo by Virginia NRCS

In 2004, hunter, angler and outdoorsman Brooke Layton purchased 70 acres of land in Accomack County, Virginia. Brooke had long hunted on the land, and decided it would be the perfect place to retire. In addition to inheriting a centuries-old farmhouse, Brooke inherited a 30-acre wetland.

The wetland on Brooke’s property was restored by a former landowner under the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Wetlands Reserve Program. (Today, the agency restores wetlands under the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program.) The voluntary Wetlands Reserve Program helped landowners protect, restore and enhance wetlands on their property, and strived to achieve the greatest wetland functions and optimum wildlife habitat on every enrolled acre.

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A bird box enhances the habitat value of the restored wetland. (Photo by Virginia NRCS)

While Brooke didn’t restore his wetland himself, he has maintained a great relationship with the staff at his local USDA Service Center. For the past five years, he has worked with a soil conservationist who visits his property once a year to check on the health of his wetland.

“[My wetland planner and I] get along very well. I listen to her, she listens to me, and she’s always got new suggestions for the land.”
- Brooke Layton

Brooke manages the water level of his wetland with a device the Natural Resources Conservation Service helped him install in 2007. Each spring, Brooke floods his wetland with six to nine inches of water, which attracts birds and other wildlife. When the ducklings that inevitably hatch are old enough to fly, Brooke lowers the water level and plants Japanese millet. His wetland floods again in late September, migratory ducks return in November and millet provides them with food and habitat. Brooke loves to watch the ducklings grow, and says thousands of ducks and geese visit his property each year.

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Cypress trees growing within the Layton wetland. (Photo by Virginia NRCS)
© Chesapeake Bay Program