Towering trees of oak, hickory, elm and chestnut once covered Delaware, serving as a haven for songbirds, frogs, cougar and elk. A thick canopy above and healthy understory below shaded and filtered water to keep currents cool and clean. An array of wildlife made a feast of berries and seeds from flowering shrubs and fashioned homes from fallen leaves and trees. Sturdy roots prevented erosion while the leafy branches protected the landscape from storms.
For people, Delaware’s forests provide a quiet sanctuary to hike, hunt, go fishing or relax. For more than a century, Delaware’s forests have also yielded exceptional wood products to sustain local economies and livelihoods.
When everything is there – trees, shrubs, roots, leaves and streams – a forest works like a well-oiled machine to clean the water and air, support wildlife, moderate climate, generate income and stand up to even the biggest storms. Unfortunately, many of those benefits have been lost today since only 20 percent of Delaware’s original native forest remains. The rest has been cut down, paved over, opened up to non-native species or fragmented into small isolated patches.
Where We Work
Places where the Conservancy protects, manages or restores Delaware’s forests include:
- A $99,946 grant from the State of Delaware’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Project will make it possible for 55,000 native trees and shrubs to be planted on 60 acres of farmland at the Milford Neck Preserve during 2011. The carbon sequestered as a result of these efforts could offset the equivalent of what 2,833 cars emit during one year.
- At the Pemberton Forest Preserve’s Ponders Tract Trail System, interpretive signs lead visitors through a forest in transition, telling a story about the varying stages of forest succession and giving a glimpse of diverse habitats, areas of active management and secluded spots where nature has been left to take its course.
- Maturing forest at the Edward H. McCabe Preserve buffers sensitive wetlands from agricultural activities in nearby uplands and provides a home to numerous species of migratory and resident songbirds.
What We Do
- The Conservancy works with government, communities, corporations and landowners to protect Delaware’s forests and ensure they are managed to provide timber, jobs, wildlife habitat, clean air and water, protection from extreme weather events and a stable climate.
- A little detective work helps the Conservancy envision the landscape prior to human interference and take steps towards restoration. For example, seasonal flooding on agricultural lands may indicate that small wetlands once dotted a large, interior forest. Talking with farmers and other landowners also reveals knowledge of local woodlands and marshes that is unmatched by any history book.
- Planting habitat islands accelerates the natural process of succession by attracting birds needed to transport and deposit seeds which eventually become a forest. As a result, farm fields transform more rapidly into a native forest that benefits wildlife.
- Conservation easement agreements with willing landowners “stitch” together what has become a patchwork of wildlife habitats into larger stretches of functioning forestland across the state. Conservation easements protect natural habitat, productive landscapes and open space while keeping land in private hands.
- Modeled after the successful Agricultural Lands Preservation Program, Delaware’s Forestland Preservation Program supports the pursuit of conservation easement agreements with willing landowners aimed at protecting working forests and forestland habitat.
Help Us Out
- Plant native trees and shrubs to support wildlife visiting Delaware’s forests. On a large property, consider letting some land regenerate from natural seed dispersal. Make sure to water during droughts, remove non-native species and protect seedlings from deer and rabbit browse.
- Consider a conservation easement. Donating or selling a conservation easement provides advantages to you as a landowner, while also benefiting the landscape far beyond your property boundaries.
- Volunteer at one of The Nature Conservancy’s Delaware preserves.
- Learn more about how to slow down the spread of invasive species.
- Support forests that have been certified as sustainably managed by buying Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified wood.