The Migratory Bird Conservation Commission has approved funding of a $900,000 grant to The Nature Conservancy in Delaware to permanently protect 507 acres of the Island and Sanctuary Farms. This land is along the Broadkill River, adjacent to the Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge. These funds will be applied to the $2.1 million purchase of the conservation easement. The funding approval followed recommendations from the North American Wetlands Conservation Council and the Atlantic Coast Joint Venture.
To be considered for funding, projects must meet certain biological criteria including, providing high quality wetlands and habitat for important bird species. Grant recipients are also required to provide one dollar in matching funds for every dollar of grant funds received. The State of Delaware Agricultural Lands Preservation Foundation, Longwood Foundation, Broadkill Realthy LLC, DuPont, Welfare Foundation and a private landowner have generously assisted by providing partner funds.
“This grant is a giant leap forward in our quest to protect this vital land,” said Kate Hackett, the Conservancy’s Director of Land Protection. “Already we have raised a total of $854,000, and the Conservancy is continuing to seek additional private contributions to complete the acquisition.
“Based on the Conservancy’s deep knowledge of the area, the property has all of the right habitat ingredients – including salt marsh, wetlands, forests and fields – necessary for supporting the Black rail and other shorebirds, waterfowl, songbirds and raptors dependent on the Delaware Bay throughout the year,” said Hackett. “By protecting these 507 acres, and increasing the amount of forested buffers on the property, wildlife and bird species will be able to travel from key aquatic habitats to upland forested habitats to rest and forage.
Numerous rare species have been observed on the Island and Sanctuary Farm property and nearby including:
Preserving the Island and Sanctuary Farms not only benefits Delaware’s unique natural resources, it also proves to be a worthwhile investment of the state’s financial resources. According to a 2006 American Farmland Trust report, Delaware lost more than 125,000 acres of land to development from 1984 to 2005. The impact has been immense, fueling new road construction and sewer and water projects. During the same time the state’s capital budget increased by almost 250 percent — eight times more than the population increase and six times more than the increase in total housing units.
The western Island Farms parcel was slated for development, adding to an over-abundance of planned residential developments in Sussex County. Instead, this conservation easement expands protected lands, sustains high quality habitat, and enhances water quality.
The Delaware grant is part of $23.1 million that is funding 24 U.S. projects in 19 states under the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) Standard Grants Program.
Tax-deductible contributions can be made to The Nature Conservancy, at 100 West 10th Street, Suite 1107, Wilmington, DE 19801 with a notation highlighting that it be dedicated to Island Farm and Sanctuary Farm. Call Debbie Heaton at (302) 654-4707, ext. 124 about making a cash or credit card contribution. Further information about the Conservancy’s work is at nature.org/delaware.
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.