Celebrating 25 Years

It was 1990 and Rob McKim was settling in as State Director for The Nature Conservancy’s new Delaware Chapter. The job required examining a lot of maps to determine conservation priorities around the state. One day, a particular topographic map left McKim scratching his head.

“I noticed a big, white blob located in the middle of what should be salt marsh habitat along Delaware Bay,” recalls McKim.

Public lands surrounded the 340-acre parcel in question, which McKim knew had value from a conservation perspective. Located in Kent County at Port Mahon, it comprised a mosaic of beaches, saltmarsh, tidal wetlands and coastal shrub habitats key to the health of visiting shorebirds, geese and ducks, a variety of hawks and owls, and numerous species of fish and amphibians. After learning that Delmarva Power and Light owned the land, he quickly scheduled a visit with the corporation.

“I learned that the site had been targeted for a power line which had been re-routed,” adds McKim. “The company was holding on to the land for no real reason.” In the spirit of it-never-hurts-to-ask, he inquired about a land donation. The inquiry paid off and even attracted interest from the CEOs of both organizations who saw an opportunity to advance a partnership between conservation and the energy industry.

“It really put us on the map,” says McKim.

The partnership also launched Delmarva Power’s “Serving & Conserving Delmarva” environmental stewardship program to bring attention to efforts at protecting and enhancing the environment on the Delmarva Peninsula. In subsequent years, proceeds from the program would benefit the Conservancy’s work in Delaware and in surrounding states.

In 2009, the Conservancy transferred 280 acres of the Port Mahon property to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to be included in the Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge. The Conservancy transferred the remaining acres to the state for inclusion in the Little Creek Wildlife Area located next to the refuge.

“It’s fitting that the Chapter’s first major land protection project, the Port Mahon property, wound up expanding public lands at Bombay Hook and Little Creek,” says Richie Jones, the Conservancy’s current Delaware State Director. “To this day, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the State of Delaware remain two of our best partners in conservation.”


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