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Delaware

Blackbird-Millington Corridor


Imagine a landscape where streams meander through forests not far from where a tractor makes its way across a newly harvested field. A chorus of frogs sings near where an angler releases his fishing line from a small boat. Colorful dragonflies flash above a coastal plain pond. A heron stands motionless out in the marsh, its thin reedy legs blending perfectly with the waving grass. Overhead, a family of pintail ducks zig-zag down through the air, landing with a splash.

These are the sights and sounds of the Blackbird-Millington Corridor.

A mosaic of forests, farm fields, streams and tidal marshes spanning the Delmarva Peninsula, the Blackbird-Millington Corridor’s beauty and vitality has been maintained over the years by the good stewardship of local landowners and the creation of public lands such as Blackbird State Forest and the Millington Wildlife Management Area. However, encroaching development threatens to fragment the Corridor’s remaining rural countryside and rich natural heritage.

In response, the Conservancy collaborated with partners in 2004 to develop a Blackbird-Millington Corridor conservation plan centered around studying, protecting and restoring this special landscape in ways that support sustainable working lands and other human uses. These partners – including non-profit organizations, government agencies, local families, farmers, hunters, loggers, hikers and scientists – shared knowledge and perspectives to create a clear vision of why the area is so special and an action plan for keeping those unique qualities intact for the long-term. It’s a conversation that continues today.

Size
52,000-acre band of undeveloped lands and waters embracing farms, fields and diverse habitats

Location
Located south of Middletown and north of Smyrna, stretching from the Delaware Bay to the Cypress Branch headwaters of the Chester River in Maryland.

What’s At Stake
The Blackbird-Millington Corridor harbors some of the best quality forest cover and open spaces on the Delmarva Peninsula that support migratory songbirds, salamanders, freshwater mussels, herons, dragonflies and rare plants like featherfoil. As a whole, this pastoral setting purifies the air and water, moderates local climate and preserves a portion of the region’s rural history.

Threats
Rapid development taking place across the eastern seaboard, including in Delaware’s New Castle County.

Milestones
Convened more than 30 organizations and 150 local residents in 2004 to develop the Blackbird-Millington Corridor Conservation Area Plan for conserving the region’s natural and rural heritage. The plan was funded thanks to support from the Delaware Division of Fish & Wildlife’s State Wildlife Grants Program, the Crestlea Foundation, the Conservancy’s Efroymson Program and the chapter’s generous membership. Local landowners interested in protecting the Corridor reconvened at a workshop in 2005.

More recently, actions in the Blackbird-Millington Corridor included several land acquisitions, including: the purchase of the 163-acre Sheats tract by Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control in 2006;the 359-acre Eagle Nest Farm tract and a second property located near the Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve thanks to Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation funding in 2007; and a 70-acre private landholding by the Delaware State Forest Service that will be reforested and managed as part of the Blackbird State Forest.

Since 2007, the Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve has hosted the Blackbird Creek Fall Festival – which features crafts and demonstrations, hands-on learning, lively music and activities for kids along the creek. The Reserve also provides public access for canoes and kayaks.

Action
The Conservancy works with partners to implement and ensure funding for strategies outlined in the Blackbird-Millington Corridor Conservation Area Plan, which includes acquiring additional land from willing sellers and helping to implement the Forestlands Protection Act that is modeled after the successful Delaware Agricultural Lands Preservation program.

Partners
Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Delaware Open Space Council and local residents.
 

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