Delaware, DNREC awarded $731,000 federal grant to protect critical coastal wetlands within Delaware Bayshore
PORT PENN, Del. (Jan. 9, 2015) – A key coastal wetland property, part of the Thousand Acre Marsh near Port Penn, will be conserved through a $731,399 federal grant awarded to DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2015 National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program (NCWCG). The grant will be used, along with matching state and private contributions, to acquire a 140-acre property, bringing a total of 528 acres of the Thousand Acre Marsh under permanent protection. Conservation of the property protects and expands access to globally-significant wildlife habitat within the Delaware Bayshore.
“In addition to ensuring a diverse natural legacy for future generations, this project enhances our natural resources and boosts our economy by encouraging more Delawareans and visitors to enjoy our state as a world-class birding and wildlife-watching destination,” said Governor Jack Markell. “By adding this property to our state-owned wildlife areas, we are creating connections to conserve and protect habitat along the Delaware Bayshore, as well as connecting people with nature.”
Acquisition of this property within the Thousand Acre Marsh is a key priority of DNREC’s Delaware Bayshore Initiative, which builds on the state’s long-term commitment to conserving the state’s coastal zone, and on preserving the Delaware Bay shoreline’s natural beauty. The Bayshore Initiative’s goals also include boosting the local economy by encouraging Delawareans and visitors to enjoy the area through low-impact activities, such as fishing, hunting, birding, boating and ecotourism. The addition of this property enhances the management of the Augustine Wildlife Area, which is located at the northern end of the Delaware Bay. The Delaware Bayshore, extending from Delaware City to Lewes, is widely recognized for its expansive coastal marshes, bay beaches, agricultural lands and forests, which provide diverse habitat to many species.
The new property includes approximately 67 acres of wetlands and 73 acres of adjacent upland habitat. With this property, the Augustine Wildlife Area, including the Thousand Acre Marsh, will total 3,130 protected acres. The Thousand Acre Marsh provides habitat for thousands of breeding and wintering waterfowl, and serves as a stopover for migratory birds during spring and fall and as breeding grounds for waterbirds, as well as habitat for fish and muskrats. Protection and management of the property will help safeguard habitat for several species listed as State Endangered, as well as protecting foraging habitat for one of the largest and most diverse heronries on the East Coast and critical overwintering habitat for the bald eagle.
The new property also will provide public access to the southern portion of the Thousand Acre Marsh for wildlife-related recreation. Plans for the tract include waterfowl and upland hunting access and enhanced wildlife viewing, as well as wetland habitat restoration work and creating wetland buffer areas. The new tract also borders Delaware’s Bayshore Byway, a 52-mile segment of scenic Route 9 that runs along the edge of the Bayshore from the historic City of New Castle to its junction with Route 1 just south of Dover Air Force Base.
“Conservation practices are vital for a small, coastal state like Delaware and something I have been committed to since I was Governor,” said U.S. Senator Tom Carper. “This additional funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will further enable Delaware to safeguard critical fish and wildlife habitats in Delaware’s Bayshore, and provide Delawareans and Americans of all ages the opportunity to explore the treasured landscapes, ecosystems and wildlife of the First State.”
“The Thousand Acre Marsh is a treasured resource for Delaware’s natural environment and has been a source of great pride for the First State,” U.S. Senator Chris Coons said. “By expanding protection of this area and connecting the Yardley Dale property to the Lang Marsh tract, we will work to further preserve this richly diverse habitat for future generations to enjoy. I look forward to continuing my work with the Department of the Interior and with President Obama to ensure the conservation of Delaware’s wildlife.”
“Delaware is blessed to have a beautiful natural habitat for both residents and visitors to enjoy,” said U.S. Congressman John Carney. “It is our responsibility to care for these resources and ensure that future generations have the same opportunity. The coastal wetland property that will be preserved through this federal grant is home to many species of fish, waterfowl, and other birds, including the bald eagle. I’m excited that DNREC will now be able to undertake this project, and look forward to the improvements that will make it easier to enjoy this beautiful part of our state.”
“This National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant is another example of the success that comes with our strong conservation partnerships and will help continue the transformation of Delaware’s Bayshore into a world-class conservation and recreation area,” said DNREC Secretary David Small. “By leveraging federal, state and private resources to meet the goals of our Delaware Bayshore Initiative, we are connecting open spaces to urban centers and enhancing public access to our natural resources.”
“This National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant is another example of the success that comes with our strong conservation partnerships and will help our efforts to protect coastal wetland habitats and water quality along Delaware’s Bayshore,” said DNREC Secretary David Small. “By leveraging federal, state and private resources to meet the goals of our Delaware Bayshore Initiative, we are also connecting open spaces to urban centers, enhancing public access to our natural resources and transforming Delaware’s Bayshore into a premier conservation and recreation area.”
Delaware’s grant was part of more than $21 million in NCWCG funding announced by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe to support 25 projects in 13 states to conserve and restore coastal wetlands and their fish and wildlife habitat. The grants will be matched by more than $35 million in partner contributions from state and local governments, private landowners and conservation groups. The grants will be used to acquire, restore or enhance coastal wetlands and adjacent uplands to provide long-term conservation benefits to fish, wildlife and their habitat. States receiving funds include California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Oregon, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington.
“Coastal wetlands are among the richest and most important natural places on the planet,” said Wendi Weber, Northeast Regional Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “They are habitats for fish and wildlife, but also play an important role for people – such as providing clean water and special places to get outside and enjoy nature. National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grants are a critical to our work with partners to protect and restore these important places.”
Delaware’s matching cost share for the grant is anticipated to be $656,760, consisting of $86,760 in state Open Space Program funds and partner contributions, plus a $570,000 land value match from a nearby state-owned tract that as part of the grant provisions will be placed under the protection of the NCWCG program. Three conservation partner groups who financially supported the project are the Delaware Chapter of the Nature Conservancy, the Delmarva Ornithological Society and Delaware Wild Lands.
“The Thousand Acre Marsh is an incredibly important component on the Delaware Bayshore,” said Richie Jones, Executive Director of the Nature Conservancy in Delaware. “It is critical habitat for numerous species of fish and wildlife, and it also provides storm protection and recreational opportunities for Delawareans and visitors to the First State. This year marks The Nature Conservancy in Delaware’s 25thanniversary, and we are honored to kick off the celebration by partnering with the Delaware Division of Fish & Wildlife on such a high-priority conservation project.”
“The Thousand Acre Marsh is one of the most critical wetland complexes in the whole Delaware River and Bay ecosystem, which The Nature Conservancy works across four state Chapters to protect,” said Brian Boutin, Director of Conservation Programs for TNC Delaware. “This project not only protects valuable coastal wetlands, but also serves as a shining example of the successes to be gained by public-private partnerships based around the Delaware Bayshore Initiative. We are very excited about this latest chapter in our long-standing partnership with the Delaware Division of Fish & Wildlife.”
“The Delmarva Ornithological Society is extremely pleased and excited that DNREC has been selected for funding the protection of 140 acres on Thousand Acre Marsh. Bird-A-Thon funds were pledged towards this acquisition, and the participants, contributors and organizers of this annual DOS fundraiser should be very proud of their generosity, and volunteerism to benefit shorebirds,” said Delmarva Ornithological Society President Joe Sebastiani. “This marsh and the birds that call it their home now have a brighter future, and the visiting public will most certainly benefit from this newly preserved land.”
“Delaware’s coastal wetlands are critically important to the health and safety of Delaware’s waterfowl and wildlife, farms and forests, and economy and tourism,” said Delaware Wild Lands Executive Director Kate Hackett. “Delaware Wild Lands is pleased to work with the State, willing landowners and the non-profit community to make investments in the natural beauty and bounty of Delaware and to help protect and restore natural assets that will benefit Delawareans now and for generations to come.”
The National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and funded under provisions of the 1990 Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act. Funding is provided by Sport Fish Restoration Act revenue – money generated from an excise tax on fishing equipment, motorboat and small engine fuels.