The Nature Conservancy announces protection of 507 acres adjacent to prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge
Mon, Jul 12 2010 at 3:45 PM
By The Nature Conservancy
WILMINGTON, DELAWARE — The Nature Conservancy Delaware Chapter today purchased a conservation easement on 507 acres of land in Sussex County, kicking off a campaign to raise $2.18 million through grants and contributions from residents and visitors, committed to the future of Delaware’s landscape.
The 507-acre property lies adjacent to the 9,000-acre Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge. The conservation easement will substantially expand the number of protected acres of tidal marsh and high quality forested and agricultural lands in this ecologically important area. The project includes parcels known as Island Farm and Sanctuary Farm featuring 1.5 miles of shoreline along the Broadkill River providing saltmarsh and freshwater wetland habitat for numerous waterfowl, wading and shorebirds as well as the threatened Black Rail, a species that nests in wetlands just above high tide range. The Prime Hook location is designated by the American Bird Conservancy and National Audubon as A Globally Important Bird Area.
Quick response to this important conservation opportunity was made possible in part, through funding from the Delaware Landowner Incentive Program and support from the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Division of Fish and Wildlife and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service’s Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program. These programs contributed the first $585,000 of the $2.18 million needed to complete the project.
This purchase will permanently protect the properties and minimize the impacts of proposed development that would fragment and infringe on important wildlife habitat and diminish the wetlands’ flood storage capacity. According to Kate Hackett, the Conservancy’s Delaware Director of Land Protection, “Today’s action is very significant in curtailing the kind of over-development that is such a threat to Delaware’s natural environment. Close to the Atlantic Ocean and Delaware’s resort communities, the Island and Sanctuary Farms could easily have succumbed to yet another subdivision, degrading our waterways and placing an increased burden on the value and function of our coastal resources.” The acquisition of the conservation easement on these 507 acres expands Delaware’s protected lands, allows for greater air and water filtration services from the landscape, provides a coastline buffer and reduces the need for public investments to expand water, sewer, and road systems in the area.
This conservation easement will protect properties that have been a high conservation priority for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as well as The Nature Conservancy. Gregory Breese, US Fish and Wildlife Service Project Leader for Delaware Bay Estuary Project praised this important project, “Protecting this key habitat adjacent to Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge will improve connections between habitat utilized by diverse species of waterfowl, including American Black Duck and Northern Pintail, and help ensure that all species and natural resources in the area remain resilient in the face of increasing stresses to our coastal environment.”
Prior to this transaction, Conservancy scientists had identified the Prime Hook area as a conservation priority within the Delaware Bayshores landscape and knew this land contained tidal wetlands and salt marshes critical to migrating birds including the state-endangered Black Rail, the American Black Duck, Wood Duck, Prothonotary Warbler and Red-headed Woodpecker.
Wetlands in this area provide critical stopover sites for over 100 species of spring and fall migrating shorebirds and wading birds, and song birds utilize the Prime Hook Refuge’s upland forested habitat during fall and spring migration. Endangered and threatened species located in the immediate vicinity include the Delmarva fox squirrel, nesting bald eagles, and migrating peregrine falcons. Numerous other species rely on the site, including almost 270 species of birds and 35 species of reptiles and amphibians.
Debbie Heaton, Delaware Chapter Sr. Associate Director of Philanthropy, emphasized that “charitable donations from the community will make it possible for the Conservancy to act quickly when opportunities like this 507-acre conservation easement arise in the future.” To make a tax-deductible contribution, contact Debbie Heaton (302) 654-4707x124; firstname.lastname@example.org), or visit the Delaware Chapter website.
For more information on the conservation easement, or on protecting Delaware lands, contact: Kate Hackett (302-684-5348; email@example.com).
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