At the Conservancy, land protection takes many forms. Sometimes, we purchase a property for permanent inclusion in our system of preserves. Other times, we hand over the reigns to a like-minded conservation organization or agencies better equipped to manage the property in the long-term. In the case of the Island Farm & Sanctuary Farm properties, the Conservancy entered into a conservation easement agreement, which limits certain uses from taking place on the land in perpetuity while it remains in private hands.
The Conservancy jumped at the chance to enter into a conservation easement agreement to protect these properties based on existing knowledge that the Island Farm & Sanctuary Farm properties had all of the right habitat ingredients – salt marsh, wetlands, forests and fields – necessary for supporting shorebirds, waterfowl, songbirds, raptors and marsh birds like the state-endangered Black rail, which visits the Delaware Bayshores area each Spring. Small as a sparrow and quiet as a mouse, the elusive Black rail's distinctive “kick-ee-doo” can be heard at night from nests in the high ground areas of coastal marshes, dwindling coastal habitat chosen for the same reasons as commercial and residential developers – because it is less prone to flooding.
These properties could have become another subdivision in a sea of residential developments, degrading streams and rivers and placing an increased financial burden on taxpayers due to a growing public infrastructure. Instead, acquiring a conservation easement on these 507 acres expands protected lands, enhances water quality and encourages elected officials to think about the budget-reducing benefits of smart land preservation investments.
Located close to Cape Henlopen, the Atlantic Coast and the Delaware Bay – and adjacent to the Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge, where thousands of acres are already protected and managed for conservation purposes.
What’s at Stake
Due to tidal wetlands and salt marshes located on the property, numerous rare species have been observed on or in close proximity to the Island Farm & Sanctuary Farm properties.
- The federally-threatened Delmarva fox squirrel, the red knot, a candidate for the Federal endangered species list, and the recently de-listed bald eagle have been observed nearby in habitats similar to those found at these properties.
- The state-endangered Black rail lives in the Broadkill River’s shallow salt and brackish marshes and nests in elevated marsh areas that are flooded only during extremely high tides.
- Several state-endangered species, including Cooper’s hawk, Black- and Yellow-crowned night-herons and Black skimmer forage on the properties at varying times of the year.
Other state-endangered birds likely to inhabit the Island Farm & Sanctuary Farm properties include Pied-billed grebe, Northern harrier, Short-eared owl and sedge wren.
Development has already fragmented forest habitat, degraded water quality and introduced invasive plants within this important salt marsh and wetland ecosystem.
Assisted by DNREC’s Division of Fish and Wildlife Landowner Incentive Program and USFWS’s Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program, the Conservancy purchased a conservation easement to permanently protect 507 acres of land located along the Broadkill River and adjacent to the Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge. The property owner retains ownership limiting the type and amount of development that may take place. The Conservancy will monitor the property annually to ensure the easement’s terms are upheld.
Restoring 33 acres by planting native trees expanding existing forest lands to buffer key habitat.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program, the Delaware Department of Fish & Wildlife, Delaware Coastal Management Program, DNREC’s Division of Fish and Wildlife Landowner Incentive Program.