For sixty years, The Nature Conservancy has strived to conserve the diverse plants and animals representing the Earth’s diversity. In recent years, this work has become more important in light of scientific evidence revealing that greenhouse gasses in the Earth’s atmosphere are on the rise, causing increases in temperatures and significant changes to the natural environment by way of sea level rise, species declines, shifting weather patterns and more intense storms.
To combat these trends, The Nature Conservancy in Delaware and around the world is working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through conserving and restoring habitat. That’s why the Delaware chapter was thrilled to be awarded a $99,946 reforestation grant given by the State of Delaware’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Project’s grant program.
“The goal of the grant is to reforest 60 acres of farmland at the Conservancy’s Milford Neck Preserve by planting 55,000 native trees and shrubs over the next year,” says John Graham, the Conservancy’s land steward. “It’s an opportunity to achieve our traditional objectives to protect important habitat while also offsetting harmful carbon in the atmosphere.”
Adds Crystal Nagyiski, DNREC’s Energy Efficiency Program Manager, “We intend to create the equivalent of an environmental ‘triple play’ by returning land to its former forested state and natural beauty, providing shelter for endangered bird populations and offsetting harmful carbon emissions.”
The reason why the Conservancy’s work at Delaware’s Milford Neck landscape caught the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Project’s attention can be boiled down to two words: carbon sequestration. When trees and plants grow and thrive, they take up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in their leaves, branches, trunk, stems and roots. This process, called sequestration, reduces the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere as a result of human activities.
At this new Milford Neck Preserve project site, the carbon sequestered by the trees and plants could offset the equivalent of what 2,833 cars emit during one year— an estimated 17,500 tons of carbon emission. It’s expected that the project will provide additional co-benefits to the State in the way of wildlife habitat enhancements, adaptation to climate change, improved air and water quality, and public education and awareness.
Adds Graham, “We hope this project will serve both as a pilot on which to expand the geographic scope and size of future carbon sequestration projects in Delaware, as well as a demonstration project for other organizations and agencies interested in pursuing similar work.”
Spring 2011 Planting
Thanks to the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Project grant, work at the Milford Neck Preserve received a boost in April 2011. That’s when volunteers from the University of Delaware, Dover Air Force Base, Bank of America and the Conservancy membership showed up on a cold Saturday to plant 433 native trees and shrubs into one large habitat island designed to attract wildlife to the new project site and speed up the process of succession. In all, volunteers donated 144 hours of service to plant willow oak, white oak, tulip poplar, red maple, sassafras, arrow-wood viburnum and winterberry holly – vegetation that is indigenous to the surrounding area and were once part of the native forest.
AstraZeneca provided matching funds for trees and shrubs planted in April 2011 and the GreenWatch Institute contributed towards the purchase of 18 cubic yards of mulch and fencing needed to protect the new plantings from deer browse and rubbing. The planting of the remaining trees will occur during the Spring of 2012 after the Conservancy gets the invasive weeds under control.
“Thanks to help from dedicated volunteers and generous contributions, it’s starting to look like a forest,” says Graham, speaking how recent work has complemented habitat efforts begun more than a decade ago. “These folks are the heart and backbone of our restoration work at Milford Neck. Without their generous assistance, good work like this would not get done.”