Milford Neck Preserve Spring Planting 2011
Volunteers plant a habitat island at the Milford Neck Preserve.
What do 2,833 cars on the road and more than a score of volunteers planting trees and shrubs in the bitter cold of mid-April at The Nature Conservancy’s Milford Neck Preserve have to do with each other?
They are linked by a $99,000 reforestation grant given by the Delaware Greenhouse Gas Reduction Project to The Nature Conservancy Delaware Chapter. The primary goal of the grant is to reforest 60 acres of farmland by planting 55,000 native trees and shrubs over the next year to offset the harmful carbon in the atmosphere emitted by fossil-burning fuels.
“We intend to create the equivalent of an environmental ‘triple play,’” said Crystal Nagyiski, Energy Efficiency Program Manager, “returning land to its former forested state and natural beauty, providing shelter for endangered bird populations, and offsetting harmful carbon emissions.”
Ultimately it is estimated that the carbon sequestered by the plants could offset the emissions in one year of 2,833 cars— an estimated 17,500 tons of carbon emission.
AstraZeneca also provided matching funds for the planting of 433 native trees and shrubs in this first habitat island launch of the project. The planting of the remaining trees will occur early next spring after the Conservancy gets the invasive weeds under control later this year. GreenWatch Institute provided funds to purchase 18 cubic yards of mulch, as well as fencing necessary to protect the new plantings from deer browse and rubbing.
The project got a jumpstart with the aid of 13 University of Delaware students from a Sustainable Development class, and a dozen more volunteers from Dover Air Force Base, Bank of America and Conservancy members. On April 16, these volunteers planted 433 native trees and shrubs into one large habitat island designed to attract wildlife to the new site as a method to speed up the process of succession. In all, that day they donated 144 hours of service, planting willow oak, white oak, tulip poplar, red maple, sassafras, arrow-wood viburnum and winterberry holly. These are plants indigenous to the surrounding area and were once part of the native forest there.
The Nature Conservancy has been working aggressively since 1998 to restore forest and wetland habitat within 250 acres of several project sites located throughout the 2,800 acre Milford Neck Preserve.
John Graham, the TNC’s Land Steward and project supervisor, leads this large-scale project. Graham, an Entomology and Wildlife Ecology graduate of the University of Delaware’s Department of Agriculture, brings more than 30 years of experience in landscape construction and freshwater wetland habitat restoration and reforestation to the task.
“It now looks like a forest,” said Graham speaking of the earlier habitat efforts begun 10 years ago. “It is being restored in a planned way, providing shelter and food for both nesting and migrating birds. The habitat islands, with their large trees create instant shelter; fields with plantings like this speed up natural succession.”
Graham gives credit to the volunteers for their contributions. “These UD students and others who volunteered their time seemed immune to the elements on this cold Saturday. They are the heart and backbone of our restoration work at Milford Neck,” said Graham. “Without their generous assistance, good work like this would not get done.”
“The students loved it,” said Dr. Kent Messer, the UD Assistant Professor of Food and Resource Economics, of the work of his Sustainable Development class students and the help they provided. “They were wildly enthusiastic and enjoyed getting their hands dirty,” he said, referring to their opportunity to put theory and textbook learning into action.
This was the third year his students have participated in Conservancy projects. The Sustainable Development class engages students in learning and critical thinking about pressing environmental, poverty and natural resources issues in an international context. This course also covers basic policy and economic analysis as well as the ethical dimensions and assessing indications of environmental quality and human welfare. As the new plantings grow, they will siphon carbon from the atmosphere as part of photosynthesis. This process is called sequestration and helps to clean the air, reducing the carbon “footprint.” A carbon footprint is the measure of the amount of greenhouse gases, measured in units of carbon dioxide, produced by human activities.
A carbon footprint can be measured for an individual or an organization, and is typically given in tons of CO2-equivalent (CO2-eq) per year. For example, the average North American generates about 20 tons of CO2-eq each year. The global average carbon footprint is about 4 tons of CO2-eq per year.
(More information is at http://www.nature.org/greenliving/carboncalculator/index.htm)
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.