Stories in Delaware

Delaware Policy & Government Relations

Securing a sustainable future for people and nature in Delaware.

Dramatic view of the Delaware state capitol building. White clouds hang low over the colonial style state house that features a tall spire rising above the front entrance.
First State The capitol building in downtown Dover, Delaware. © traveler1116 / iStock

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Each month we highlight thought leaders & newsworthy developments in Delaware policy.

Check out this month's spotlight

The Nature Conservancy in Delaware is committed to creating a world where people and nature thrive. We apply the best available science to protect and restore our lands and waters. Working together, we can advocate for policies that address the causes and impacts of climate change, help our cities become more sustainable, protect natural and human communities and create opportunities for people to connect with nature. This work has never been more urgent.  

We develop legislative priorities at a city, county, state and federal level as we advocate for policy solutions that create equitable outcomes for people and the planet.  

2024 Legislative Priorities

As the lowest mean-lying state in the country, Delaware is facing enormous challenges that threaten both human and natural communities, including an estimated 9-23 inches of sea-level rise by 2050 and up to five feet by 2100. We must act now.

TNC is laser-focused on addressing climate change and advancing environmental progress in Delaware. Engaging with a broad group of partners, including government agencies, elected officials, nonprofits and academic institutions, TNC will:

To learn more about how you can help support TNC’s 2024 policy priorities, contact Emily Knearl, Delaware government relations director, at

In the News

Recent news from The Nature Conservancy in Delaware

  • An aerial photo of a a forest with a dirt path in the center.

    New Acres Protected!

    We are excited to announce that we have acquired 7.5 acres in Milton, Delaware to expand our Ponders Tract at Pemberton Forest Preserve. The acquisition will protect the land from future development and allow more room for nature to thrive. Read More

  • A body of water sits in front of a city skyline.

    Statement on Senator Tom Carper’s Retirement

    On May 22, 2023, U.S. Senator Tom Carper of Delaware announced his forthcoming retirement from Congress in 2024. The Nature Conservancy in Delaware released the following statement. Read More

  • Several horseshoe crabs pile on top of one another in shallow water.

    Delaware Land Protection Coalition Announces Second Annual Conservation Day

    Time is running out to protect Delaware’s natural beauty. Open spaces offer a variety of benefits, from protecting wildlife habitats to sequestering carbon to offering recreational opportunities and so much more. Read More

A flooded road leads to farm buildings.
Storm Damage Water floods the road at Big Stone Beach, Delaware after a heavy storm. © Deb Felmey

Climate Resiliency

Delaware faces significant challenges from climate change and rising waters. The state’s three counties directly influence how climate change will impact human and natural communities with their land use and planning decisions.

Climate change is already impacting the First State, and years of aggressive development means we are losing our vital natural resources. We are feeling the impacts of increased flooding, rising temperatures and more frequent and severe rain events. These growing challenges are stressing government and private infrastructure, threatening human and natural communities and overburdening our local governments. We must work together to build more capacity, strengthen coordination, support overburdened communities and increase available resources to fund programs and projects that build resilience. 

Our staff works locally with communities, partners and elected officials throughout Delaware to identify opportunities to deploy resources and funding, such as those made available through recent federal legislation such as the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act. 

Additionally, our Oceans and Coasts program focuses on protecting and maintaining the health of the Delaware Bayshore, which provides critical habitat for numerous economically and recreationally important marine species as well as migratory birds and native plants.

A person kneels on solar panels with tools in hand.
Installing Solar Panels A woman in a green shirt kneels as she installs solar panels © Eric Aldrich

Clean Energy

Climate change caused by the burning of fossil fuels is the gravest threat to healthy lands, waters, wildlife and people. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions to limit global warming to below 1.5° Celsius is an organizational priority for TNC across the globe and right here at home in Delaware.

This goal cannot be achieved without a rapid transition to a clean energy economy. The Nature Conservancy advances clean energy projects and policies that reduce emissions and benefit the environment where they can, including the deployment of wind and solar energy and broader accessibility of electric vehicles and charging infrastructure.

Several tall and thin trees grow in a forest.
Regrowth at Ponders Tract A healthy forest grows at the site of a previous burn at Ponders Tract. © John Hinkson/TNC

Protecting Lands & Waters

The Nature Conservancy maintains a number of public and private preserves in Delaware, showcasing a range of ecosystems. With your help, we have protected more than 30,000 acres across Delaware since 1990.

TNC is also a founding member of the Delaware Land Protection Coalition (DLPC), a consortium of organizations working to expand land conservation by identifying new sources of funding for land conservation, increasing partnerships with the state, working collaboratively with each other on projects. DLPC members include: Delaware Center for the Inland Bays, Delaware Wild Lands, the Kent County Conservancy, Ducks Unlimited, the Delaware Nature Society, the Sussex County Land Trust, Preservation Delaware, the Native Species Council and representatives from New Castle and Kent Counties. 

A river calmly flows toward a city skyline.
Wilmington, Delaware A view of Wilmington Delaware from the Christina Riverfront. © Melisa Soysal/TNC

Healthy Cities

The Nature Conservancy has established a global cities program and a network of 24 urban conservation programs in the U.S. with the goal of changing the relationship between cities and nature. We know using natural solutions to address many of the challenges facing urban areas can create more livable communities and a world where people and nature thrive together.

We are also working to inspire the next generation of environmental stewards and engage residents in citizen science research to improve water quality and the health of urban forests via the Stream Stewards program. Finally, we are working with the city and community partners to develop policies that tackle the challenge of making Wilmington a more sustainable place to live. 

Learn more about our urban conservation work in Delaware.

Advocacy Spotlight

A monthly feature highlighting thought leaders and newsworthy developments in the Delaware policy space.


A sun sets over a body of water creating an orange reflection.
Milford Neck Preserve A view of the Delaware Bay from our Milford Neck Preserve © John Hinkson/TNC

July 2024

Senator Coons and the Global Leadership Summit: Environment Policy and Global Security

This text originally appeared in the Delaware Online as an op-ed

During the recent Mid-Atlantic U.S. Global Leadership Coalition (USGLC) event hosted by Delaware’s U.S. Senator Chris Coons, the global issues became local. Speaker after speaker, including U.S. Rep. Blunt Rochester, discussed how changes in the climate, environment, economic development, and food policy abroad impact us at home. Among a group of remarkable speakers, Mary Maker, a former Sudanese refugee who graduated from college in 2023, and who serves as a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Goodwill Ambassador, provided a unique perspective. Ms. Maker captivated the audience as she declared, "a hungry world is an unstable world," sharing her childhood experience in a refugee camp and the impact of violent conflict on food production and regional stability. Despite these challenges, she also emphasized the importance of hope and highlighted her story as one of positive change, even in the most desperate circumstances.

As a member of the U.S Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Coons has made it a personal mission to build hope and address the interconnected challenges we face not only at home but across the globe—the decline in our natural world and accelerated loss of species, climate change and the conflicts they exacerbate. Left unaddressed, these threats can severely undermine the world and the U.S. by weakening global food systems, damaging our lands and waters, and potentially creating large populations of climate refugees. The U.S. government, with the support of public and private partners like The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is uniquely positioned to provide urgent and comprehensive steps for the planet to become more sustainable, address the ever-growing loss of plant and wildlife species and the challenges caused by climate change, and increase opportunities for human communities to recover and thrive.

To assist in this work, TNC is advocating in Congress under Senator Coons’ leadership for the bipartisan U.S. Foundation for International Conservation Act to establish a conservation foundation that would leverage government, private sector, and philanthropic funding to support local communities and Indigenous Peoples around the world in effectively managing protected and conserved areas by investing up to $100 million annually. The U.S. would incentivize philanthropic and private giving to match government funds by investing new and additional resources that would complement traditional U.S. foreign assistance to biodiversity conservation. Combined, this would provide consistent funding for protected areas globally and ensure the long-term protection of these critical landscapes and habitats. Such stability also benefits global security by using conservation work to stimulate economic growth by providing jobs, skills training, and local revenue.

The key goal of Senator Coons and the Foundation is to prioritize support for countries committed to good governance, sustainable development of resources, and enhancing global security, which aligns with America's strategic interests. These investments can be instrumental in strengthening partnerships with developing countries and combating illicit activities such as wildlife trafficking and illegal deforestation. Together, we can turn one of today’s biggest challenges into our greatest opportunity: creating stronger environmental and food systems that go beyond sustainability and create positive growth for communities, economies, and the planet.

Author: Lori Brennan, Executive Director, TNC PA/DE

Advocacy Spotlight Archive

  • This text originally appeared in the Delaware News Journal as an op-ed

    Freshwater wetlands are nature’s superheroes. Covering nearly 25 percent of Delaware’s land area, freshwater wetlands are a vital part of our natural heritage and a key component of the First State’s healthy ecosystems. Wetlands are working wonders: during heavy rainfall, they are the first line of defense to soak up and slow down floodwaters. As greenhouse gases continue to threaten our planet’s health, wetlands act as a natural carbon sink and provide important habitat for numerous wildlife species, including many of our state’s threatened or endangered species. Yet, despite losing thousands of acres of freshwater wetlands over the past century, Delaware is the only Mid-Atlantic state without its own program to protect non-tidal wetlands.

    Last year’s Supreme Court’s ruling in Sackett v. EPA sharply limited the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate certain waterways, undoing decades of federal protections under the Clean Water Act and leaving approximately 75,000 acres of Delaware freshwater wetlands unprotected. Today, only freshwater wetlands considered connected to a navigable waterway with a continuous surface connection will fall under federal jurisdiction, resulting in over half of the country’s wetlands — including many in Delaware — being stripped of critical safeguards.

    Senate Bill 290 fills the void left by Sackett by requiring the state to establish state protections for freshwater wetlands while also affirming the existing state coastal wetlands program. We must increase local protection for federally unregulated freshwater wetlands and establish a consistent regulatory structure for navigation, permitting and recreation.

    The ecological consequences of widespread freshwater wetland loss would be severe: marshes would no longer filter pollutants or mitigate stormwater overflow, resulting in increased water contamination and flood damage. Many of our state’s most cherished plants, animals, birds, and fish could see drastic reductions in their habitats.

    Wetlands are conservation heroes and we cannot take their future for granted.  We ask members of the public to reach out to your state legislator to ask them to support SB 290 and urge the Delaware General Assembly to pass the legislation to ensure the continued health and well-being of these First State natural treasures before it’s too late.

    To find your state legislator, click here and enter your home address.

    Sen. Stephanie Hansen is the Chair of the Senate Environment, Energy and Transportation Committee and represents Delaware’s 10th Senate District, and Keith Fisher is the Conservation Director for The Nature Conservancy in Delaware and Pennsylvania.

  • Offshore wind is again in front of the Delaware General Assembly. Senate Bill 265 creates an offshore wind procurement strategy for the First State—a necessary step in helping Delaware meet its greenhouse gas emission reduction goals set in last year’s Climate Change Solutions Act.

    The legislation includes important language requested by TNC that requires that projects must address conservation and mitigation elements…essentially the idea that offshore wind construction must reduce potential environmental impacts and provide investments in natural habitat.

    You can make your voice heard to help build a cleaner, greener future for Delaware by contacting your legislator today. Don’t know who represents you in Dover? Use the Find My Legislator tool today and ask your state senator and representative to support Senate Bill 265.

    Why offshore wind?

    TNC recognizes that some are still skeptical about offshore wind. We support the rapid and sustainable development of clean energy, including offshore wind, that avoids potential impacts to habitat and species through the use of the best data available, mitigation strategies and engagement with key stakeholders.

    The Benefits of Offshore Wind

    Clean energy can help safeguard our natural heritage. Delaware’s unique natural environments—the bays, tidal marshes, dunes and freshwater wetlands—are home to rare, threatened or endangered plant and animal life, including the globally recognized horseshoe crab and migrating red knot. Climate change is a direct threat to their habitats.

    Offshore wind investments can help reduce the severity of climate change by cutting greenhouse gas emissions, funding vital wildlife data collection and habitat restoration in coastal areas, and even enhancing marine life habitats through a nature-based design approach.

    Clean energy is also better for public health. Air pollution, often caused by burning fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions, is a known trigger for asthma and respiratory diseases. Delaware and the nation would breathe easier with offshore wind and other clean energy build-outs.

    Developing offshore wind off the coast of Delaware will also benefit the economy. Wind energy promises to reduce our reliance on imported fossil fuels and enhance national security by increasing U.S. energy independence. Offshore wind can also be a job creator requiring a full range of skilled jobs, from electricians to construction workers to design, manufacturing, installation and other technical skills. And the jobs won’t end when construction is complete.

    Offshore wind can help build a cleaner, greener future for Delaware.

    To learn more or participate in the May 16, 2024, Offshore Wind Lobby Day in Legislative Hall, please contact Emily Knearl at emily.knearl@TNC.ORG.

  • Delaware is known for its natural beauty. Our iconic beaches, rivers, wetlands and forests offer recreational opportunities and a home for wildlife. The First State has so much in the natural environment to appreciate and protect. Yet we also hear stories of how flooding and sea-level rise are increasingly impacting our everyday lives—communities in Delaware who after a rain storm watch the tide schedule to see if they can drive on a certain road, or a town that moves fire trucks out of a fire company HQ to avoid flooded roads and aid in rescues based upon the weather forecast, or boats used to retrieve stranded neighbors after a Bayshore storm, and homeowners’ yards that more and more become small ponds after a rain event. And, of course, the most dramatic example of recent flooding is Tropical Storm Ida, which impacted 200 homes and required 248 water rescues in Wilmington. We must do more to plan for these events—and plan new developments out of harm’s way.

    Senate Bill 237: Climate planning for local governments

    Currently, each county in Delaware and municipalities with more than 2,000 residents are required by law to engage in comprehensive planning every 10 years. These plans guide the use of land, water and resources including zoning, transportation, affordable housing, economic development, open space and recreation, and other important topics. But until now, state law is silent on requiring them to consider the impacts of climate change.

    New legislation Senate Bill 237, sponsored by State Senator Stephanie Hansen and State Rep. Deborah Heffernan, requires that counties take climate change and community resiliency into account when developing their comprehensive plans including reducing risk to property, infrastructure, agriculture and natural resources; encouraging the development of new housing away from areas vulnerable to flooding and sea-level rise; consideration of land restoration where appropriate; and reducing car-centric development patterns and requiring the consideration of state evacuation roads in case of an emergency.

    While municipalities of more than 2,000 residents face fewer requirements in state law, the bill will require they consider climate and resiliency in their plans going forward.

    Now is the time to act. We are working with General Assembly members and partners to pass this legislation because we know that the health of natural systems and human communities are closely linked. Our future depends on it.

    To learn more, please contact Emily Knearl at emily.knearl@TNC.ORG.

  • You are cordially invited to the Third Annual Conservation Day in Legislative Hall on Tuesday, March 26 from 11:00 a.m. to 4 p.m. Open space and conserved land are precious in Delaware, and the clock is ticking on our ability to protect our natural world. Conserved open spaces contribute to fighting climate change, preserving our rich natural heritage, protecting important habitats, helping our economy, and offering mental and physical health benefits.

    We are looking for supporters of open spaces and conserving lands to join us in Legislative Hall in Dover this March to meet with legislators and the governor’s office staff. Working with the Delaware Land Protection Coalition, we will provide talking points, a schedule and a TNC staffer to join you in every meeting. But we need you to share why open spaces are important to you!

    The Delaware Land Protection Coalition (DLPC) is a group of conservation-focused organizations committed to increasing the amount of lands protected, including natural, cultural, historical and recreational resources. As a coalition, we seek to expand land conservation by identifying expanded sources of funding for land conservation, increasing our partnership with the state, collaborating with each other and furthering the work of each of our respective organizations. 

    We hear repeatedly from our legislative leaders how important it is to hear from the public on open space conservation. If you are interested in joining us on March 26 in Dover or have questions, please contact Emily Knearl at emily.knearl@TNC.ORG.

  • You are cordially invited to the Third Annual Conservation Day in Legislative Hall on Tuesday, March 26 from 11:00 a.m. to 4 p.m. Open space and conserved land are precious in Delaware, and the clock is ticking on our ability to protect our natural world. Conserved open spaces contribute to fighting climate change, preserving our rich natural heritage, protecting important habitats, helping our economy, and offering mental and physical health benefits.

    We are looking for supporters of open spaces and conserving lands to join us in Legislative Hall in Dover this March to meet with legislators and the governor’s office staff. Working with the Delaware Land Protection Coalition, we will provide talking points, a schedule and a TNC staffer to join you in every meeting. But we need you to share why open spaces are important to you!

    The Delaware Land Protection Coalition (DLPC) is a group of conservation-focused organizations committed to increasing the amount of lands protected, including natural, cultural, historical and recreational resources. As a coalition, we seek to expand land conservation by identifying expanded sources of funding for land conservation, increasing our partnership with the state, collaborating with each other and furthering the work of each of our respective organizations. 

    We hear repeatedly from our legislative leaders how important it is to hear from the public on open space conservation. If you are interested in joining us on March 26 in Dover or have questions, please contact Emily Knearl at emily.knearl@TNC.ORG.

  • The General Assembly returns to session in January 2024. TNC will again be in Legislative Hall in Dover working with legislators, state agencies, and partners to advance environmental policies in Delaware. The 2023 session included some important environmental “wins” including the House Bill 99, the Climate Change Solutions Act, as well as progress on electric buses, solar power, offshore wind power, freshwater wetlands education, clean water, and more. But there is still much more work to be done as we start the new year.

    The 2024 advocacy agenda seeks to build on the 2023 progress and continue to keep conservation and climate change at the center of our advocacy work. TNC will:

    • Work with the Delaware Land Protection Coalition to increase funding for state and local open space and state agriculture preservation programs, an updated open space strategy that includes climate change considerations and the input of nonprofits and state agencies.    
    • Work with partners to advance coastal resilience and climate adaptation strategies including conserving additional lands, facilitating marsh migration as sea levels rise, exploring new agricultural easement strategies, advocating for public policy changes and restoring critical habitats for our iconic fish, birds and wildlife.
    • Create a state freshwater wetlands protection program following the U.S. Supreme Court Sackett decision which significantly weakened federal wetlands protections.
    • Support the creation of aggressive climate change policies on the state and local level in Delaware that address rising waters, flooding, carbon capture, land use planning, green infrastructure and the needs of overburdened populations.
    • Maintain and protect Delaware’s ground and surface waters, including new stream and waterway buffer requirements, and emphasizing resiliency, green infrastructure, flood mitigation, habitat protection and overburdened communities.     
    • Work with clean energy advocates and partners to develop policies that support increased solar and offshore wind power in the First State.
    • Support the Delaware Environmental Accountability Coalition to seek additional protections from pollutants for overburdened communities and increase partnerships, education and awareness on environmental justice issues and how they connect with TNC priorities.   

    If any of these agenda items resonate with you and you would like to know how you can help, or if you have any questions, please email Emily Knearl, Delaware director of government relations & external affairs. 

  • As Vice-chair of the State House of Representatives Energy and Environment Committee, Rep. Sophie Phillips focuses her work on environmental justice throughout the state of Delaware with an emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in parks. Over the past few years, she has also worked on expanding urban green space in Wilmington, Delaware and in Baltimore, Maryland in partnership with community groups.

    Phillips has an extensive background in wildlife studies and environmental fieldwork. She was a sponsor on several clean energy and climate legislation bills, as well as the prime House sponsor on new stream buffer legislation. An avid outdoorswoman, Phillips is committed to working to increase access to environmental careers. She possesses a Bachelor of Science Degree with Distinction from the University of Delaware in Environmental and Marine Science and a Master's Degree in Energy and Environmental Policy from the University of Delaware.

    Why did you decide to work on environmental policy?

    I was fortunate to grow up in a household that valued the environment and raised me to love hiking, camping, and exploring. From a very young age, my sisters and I would run around the woods in our backyard barefoot, climb trees, and look for wildlife. My little sister and I literally spent every day after school in a tree doing our homework.

    My mom has always been politically active, especially when it comes to environmental issues. When I was 7 years old, a developer planned to build condominiums on 100 acres of forested land adjacent to where I grew up. My mom organized a petition drive and brought me with her door-to-door to oppose the plan. I remember how exciting it was to talk with our neighbors about the importance of protecting our forest. My mom and the neighbors we recruited showed up at the open space meetings with local elected officials and asked the developer tough questions, including asking for additional environmental studies. Eventually, given the public opposition, the developer decided not to do the project up and donated the land to the state and 20 years later, that forest is still protected.

    My mom has been discussing environmental policy with me since I could speak and my siblings and I have been exploring the natural world since we could walk, so it makes sense that I ended up getting degrees in environmental science and energy and environmental policy. It also makes sense that my prime focus in the legislature is environmental policy. I find environmental issues to be the most pressing because of the impact we are already seeing in our state, nationally, and globally. There is an urgency there that cannot be ignored.

    What do you see as the most important environmental challenges for Delaware?

    I think there are several environmental challenges impacting our state. Clean energy as a whole is something that we are going to have to focus on. Electrification of buildings for core functions and vehicles is vital to reduce fossil fuel use as is growing investments in wind and solar energy. As we shift to clean energy, we have to ensure we are keeping costs down for consumers and incorporating the needs of our environmental justice communities. We are going to have to take a serious look at land use and how we can incorporate sustainable development into our plans. Land use has an impact on water quality, air quality, and the preservation of open space. Delaware is the lowest-lying state in the nation, meaning we need to pay attention to sea level rise and how we are developing land along the coast.

    What are your legislative priorities for 2024?

    I am currently working on several bills, many of which include environmental bills. Senator Russ Huxtable and I are working on increasing buffers along waterways throughout the state to help improve water quality. I am working on a bird-safe window bill to decrease bird collisions and hopefully improve the energy efficiency of buildings. Collectively, the General Assembly environmental team is working on freshwater wetland protections, increased usage of clean energy, and the potential growth of aquaculture in our state. I am also very interested in having conversations around sustainable development. We had a fantastic year for environmental legislation in 2023 and it is my goal is to make 2024 another successful year.

    What tips would you share so the public can be more engaged in Leg Hall?

    On, the public has access to every committee hearing and all bills that are currently introduced. I recommend getting involved in public comment on committee days if a bill is on the agenda that sparks interest. Everyone has access to give public comment through email, phone, Zoom, or in person. I welcome folks to reach out to me and others with ideas/concerns/suggestions. It truly makes my job easier when people come to me with ideas. I represent you, so tell me what you are thinking.

    Many people get involved in politics through organizations like The Nature Conservancy. Attend their meetings, get to know folks already engaged in policy, and come see us in Legislative Hall on advocacy days.

    Lastly, I think attending civic association meetings is beneficial. These meetings allow you to meet your legislators and discuss issues that are impacting you and your community.  

    For more information on TNC’s advocacy in Delaware or to get involved, email:

  • In early October, TNC in Delaware joined colleagues and board members from across the country and globe to attend the Volunteer Leadership Summit (VLS) in Washington, D.C. The three-day event included meetings and educational opportunities, but the highlight was Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill where TNC staff, board members, and volunteers connected with their elected leaders in Congress. TNC PA/DE Executive Director Lori Brennan, Board Chair Carol Collier, and Board Vice Chair Rich Innes joined Delaware Director of Government Relations & External Affairs Emily Knearl, to meet with Sens. Carper and Coons and Rep. Blunt Rochester’s offices for phenomenal meetings where they discussed conservation and climate policies in Delaware. The First State is lucky to have such a strong delegation with a strong commitment to the environment.

    Recovering America’s Wildlife Act

    The TNC Delaware team thanked our congressional delegation for their support of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act which could bring $7.8 million to the First State to recover endangered species and to prevent at-risk wildlife from becoming endangered.

    Taking action on RAWA is urgent with over a third of America’s fish and wildlife species at risk of extinction. Over 1,600 species are already listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) with state fish and wildlife agencies identifying more than 12,000 additional species that need conservation help now.

    The Farm Bill

    Another important TNC priority for Capitol Hill is the Farm Bill. It is the most important legislation for conserving private lands in the United States. It provides farmers, ranchers and forest landowners with the tools to protect and preserve their land and way of life while addressing climate change. Conservation practices supported by the Farm Bill result in cleaner water, increased carbon sequestration, healthier soils, enhanced wildlife habitat and more.

    For Delaware, our Farm Bill and general agricultural advocacy focus on concerns about rising sea levels and its impacts on local farmers. Now more than ever the nation needs champions for innovative agricultural conservation strategies that take into account the real-world impacts of climate change.

    The sea level rise data is clear:

    • Coastal farms on Delmarva report twice as high the amount of saltwater inundation as the global average.
    • Visible salt patches nearly doubled in the Delmarva between 2011-2017.
    • Delaware had the highest amount of farmland lost on the Delmarva at about 9,500 acres.  Source: Spread and Cost of Saltwater in the Mid-Atlantic (Modal, et all, UD, July 2023)

    New research and development investments are critical to studying the impact of saltwater inundation on agriculture and to spur the development of saltwater-resistant crops. We, too, are advocating for greater flexibility in the federal agricultural easement and restoration programs so that farmers do not face financial penalties from something out of their control—rising seas. We need more partnerships and incentives to reward farmers for continuing to work with nature and facilitate wetlands and marsh migration in those lands impacted by sea level rise.

    The TNC Advocacy Day in D.C. was capped off by Delaware Sen. Chris Coons’ address to the 400 attendees of the Volunteer Leadership Summit. Coons shared the impacts of climate on his home state and the planned re-introduction of the National Coordination on Adaptation and Resilience for Security Act of 2023. The bipartisan bill takes a whole-of-government approach to climate resilience and adaptation. It will not only enhance coordination between federal agencies and other bodies of government but will also meaningfully involve and pay special attention to the most vulnerable communities that often have few resources to address climate change challenges.

    For more information on TNC’s advocacy in Delaware or to get involved, email:

  • From beaches to salt marshes to maritime forests, the Delaware coast provides a vital home for native wildlife and plant species while also serving as a natural filter and flood barrier. TNC is committed to working with partners to advance coastal resilience and climate adaptation, including strategies to conserve additional lands, facilitate marsh migration as sea levels rise, and restore critical habitats for our iconic migratory fish, birds, and wildlife.

    The coastline of Delaware supports more than 50,000 acres of highly resilient coastal wetlands that support an enormous array of biodiversity. These wetlands have been identified as having the physical characteristics that increase their likely resilience to sea level rise: i.e., available large migration areas with a diversity of tidal classes that are evenly distributed, a complex shoreline, and a geophysically diverse buffer area. Delaware’s coastal beach and dune habitats also support globally important biodiversity including the largest concentration of spawning horseshoe crabs in the world, whose eggs support the 9,000-mile migration journey of the federally threatened Red Knot. Coastal saltmarshes provided critical habitat for commercially important species in Delaware such as blue crab and striped bass. Delaware's maritime forests provide shelter from heat for species utilizing the marshes and breeding habitat for herons, eagles, etc.

    These areas are not only beautiful but play a vital role in reducing flood risk in an era of rising seas and increased precipitation events. In a study following Hurricane Sandy, researchers found existing wetlands avoided $625 million in direct flood damages in the northeastern U.S. As we think about how to respond to climate change and rising seas, marshes, saltwater wetlands, and maritime forests are already being impacted and will need to shift landward and be protected. Existing and new development in beach/ marsh/forest migration zones reduces the ability of natural systems to move and adapt in response to sea level rise and limits the opportunity for those systems to moderate the risk of flooding and storm damage. We must work together as a community to recognize the value of conservation, restoration and migration strategies for these vital areas.

    Another potential tool in the toolbox of responding to a changing climate is restorative aquaculture. The ocean faces unprecedented challenges in the form of overfishing, coastal water pollution, and habitat degradation. Restorative aquaculture can offer multiple benefits and should be included for consideration in any ocean and bay plan. A substantial number of peer-reviewed publications now show that shellfish and seaweed farms—with the right practices, in the right places—can actually help restore ocean health. While restorative aquaculture can be a complex undertaking there are resources. An expert working group led by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) produced the Global Principles of Restorative Aquaculture in 2021, a report intended to define restorative aquaculture, provide implementation guidance, establish parameters, and forge a common understanding for this important ocean restoration and food production solution.

    At TNC we are committed to working together with partners and our members to build a more resilient ocean and bay in Delaware. Using innovative practices and with an eye toward the future, our goal continues to be to build a world—and a First State—where people and nature thrive.

  • There is an old saying that no one wants to know how sausages and laws are made but at TNC we want to share with you how environmental laws and policies are crafted—and we value your input and advocacy on behalf of the natural world. Today we are featuring Jon Patterson, a Delaware State House Policy Analyst to peel back the curtain on the legislative process and demonstrate how staffers play a key role in developing environmental policy.

    Jon Patterson is from Spring City, Pennsylvania, and moved to Delaware in 2015 to attend the University of Delaware, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and History. He is currently a Policy Analyst for the Delaware House Majority Caucus and has held several positions in the Caucus since 2017. He began as a Legislative Aide, serving various legislators including Reps. Quinn Johnson, Melanie George Smith, Paul Baumbach, David Bentz, and newly elected Speaker Valarie Longhurst before transitioning to his current role of Policy Analyst in July 2021. Jon has worked on various projects with the House Majority Caucus, including mental health, childcare funding, infrastructure, and environmental protection.

    What does a General Assembly Policy Analyst do?

    As a Policy Analyst, we work on a variety of projects for legislators. These projects can start in a couple of different ways; sometimes, a legislator approaches you with a policy proposal they’d like more information on, or they may present a problem in search of a policy solution. After this initial discussion, we dive further into these ideas and research for similar existing programs in Delaware, nationwide, or any other institution such as municipalities or even foreign nations. Our research is comprised of data and statistics on the success rate of relevant policies, and we identify those most applicable to the uniqueness of Delaware. From there, we condense the information into policy memos for the legislator so they can make the most informed decision possible.  

    Following the submission of the policy memo, the legislator may decide to pursue legislation; in this case, the Policy Analyst works with them and the drafting attorneys to turn the memo into draft legislation. The next steps will vary based on the strategy determined best to pass the legislation, however, we usually work with the legislator throughout the process to gather support, speak with other members of the General Assembly, and smoothly guide it through the legislative process.

    Beyond policy research and legislative strategy, Policy Analysts are the main staffers for House Committees. In 2023, we had 93 total committee meetings for a total of 145 hours and moved 329 bills through those committees. With four policy team members in our Caucus, it takes a lot of staff time to ensure committee meetings are running smoothly.

    What is a typical day like?

    During legislative session between January – June, our days are much more regimented compared to those in July – December when the General Assembly is out of session. On session days, Policy Analysts typically receive calls from legislators early in the morning to discuss a variety of topics. Once we arrive in Legislative Hall, we will have meetings with legislators to continue the development of legislation or prepare a legislative strategy. As the main staffers for committee proceedings, we work with committee chairs to ensure those meetings run efficiently and on schedule.

    The least busy time of day starts when legislators begin floor session at 2 pm, which is when we will respond to emails, texts, and phone calls, or quickly scarf down some lunch. This slow time will continue as legislators move into the caucus following the floor session. On days when legislation is being considered, we may work on some last-minute amendments or find answers to questions before the floor debate begins. Our days usually end shortly after legislators conclude their floor session, but we will occasionally meet with select legislators afterward if it is the only time we can catch them that day.

    What is your strategy when working with legislator(s) to craft legislation?

    So much of this job is trying to think several steps ahead when crafting legislation to ensure we can pass meaningful policy that helps Delawareans. This involves constant communication with the member you are working with, other legislators, advocates, stakeholders, and the executive branch. Knowing what is important to each and every group is the most critical part of navigating a policy through the legislative process. Sometimes just keeping the lines of communication open solves problems all on its own.

    Why did you select this as a career? What do you enjoy about it?

    When I was a freshman at the University of Delaware I had the pleasure of securing an internship for a Pennsylvania State Representative in my hometown. It was there I was first able to see how much of an effect state government can have on people’s daily lives. I knew after that internship that I wanted to work in state government and help connect people to these critical services. After graduation, I worked for the Delaware Democratic Party and was able to meet many elected officials from the General Assembly, and I was lucky to be given the chance to work as a Legislative Aide for the Delaware House Majority Caucus. From there, I had great mentors to learn from who help me grow to eventually be promoted as a Policy Analyst.

    I love being able to work so hard on a policy that we believe will help even one person in Delaware. When we hear back or speak with someone that has been helped by a new law or policy we worked on, it is an awesome moment and truly makes all the late nights and tough conversations worth it.

    What would you like members of the public to know about the General Assembly?

    We are not a monopoly on good ideas. If there is something you are passionate about, Delaware is one of the easiest states to have your voice heard. There is always work to be done and so often the best ideas come from experiences everyday Delawareans have had. Because of this, we find ourselves working together to improve upon them so that they or someone else can have a better experience the next time.

  • The 2023 Delaware General Assembly session is officially closed for the year. This session was the best in many years from an environmental and clean energy perspective, with several important bills going to the governor’s desk.

    House Bill 99, the Climate Change Solutions Act, was passed after a similar bill failed in 2022. The landmark bill sets greenhouse gas emission reduction targets for Delaware and requires the state to take climate change into account when making a major investment and purchasing decisions and to ensure that climate change reduction strategies do not disproportionately impact overburdened communities.

    The Climate Change Solutions Act was our number one state legislative priority this year. Thank you to everyone who made their voice heard in support and to Sen. Stephanie Hansen and Reps. Heffernan and Phillips for their hard work to pass the bill.

    Other important environment and clean energy legislative victories include:

    • House Bill 10, which requires 30% of Delaware School Buses to be electric by 2030
    • House Bill 11, which requires all new large commercial construction to be equipped to install rooftop solar
    • House Bill 12, which codifies and expands the State electric vehicle (EV) rebate program to include used EVs
    • House Bill 170, which requires the state to study and develop an offshore wind procurement strategy for the First State

    A very special thank you to Rep. Valerie Longhurst, the newly elected State House Speaker, who conceived of and helped to organize the environmental bill package above, and to the State House and Senate sponsors of these important bills.

    There was also good news in state funding, including:

    • Funding the Tree for Every Delawarean Initiative
    • Allocating $31.8 million to improve Delaware’s drainage, drinking water and water resources
    • Dedicating $7.5 million to protect shorelines and beaches

    Even after a good year in the General Assembly, there is always more work to do. We are already working with legislators and partners to develop legislation for next year. But today we are celebrating the above victories, the legislators who led the way, the partners committed to a stronger environment and everyone who made their voice heard.

    For further information on wind in Delaware, email Emily.Knearl@TNC.

  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions to limit global warming to below 1.5° Celsius is an organizational priority for TNC across the globe. This goal cannot be achieved without a rapid transition to a clean energy economy. TNC supports the rapid and sustainable development of offshore wind that avoids potential impacts on habitat and species through the use of the best data available, mitigation strategies, and engagement with key stakeholders.

    Many states up and down the Atlantic Coast are further along than Delaware in the offshore wind energy development conversation but this June we took a major step forward when Senate Bill 170 passed the General Assembly. TNC supported the legislation and advocated for its passage as part of our work to support more renewable energy sources. The bi-partisan bill requires the state to study the transmission impacts of offshore wind and to work with key energy partners and neighboring states on offshore wind transmission, then report back to the Governor and the General Assembly on a process for procuring offshore wind power.

    The bill is not about bringing a specific offshore wind project to Delaware; rather is about the state working with energy partners to review how wind power can become part of a diverse energy portfolio supplied by the electric grid to residents of First State.

    TNC wanted to hear from Delawareans on their views of offshore wind and so conducted an anonymous survey this spring. The offshore wind survey response was positive statewide—surprisingly so. The survey was set up to oversample Kent and Sussex Counties (meaning roughly an equal number of people from each county was surveyed) to ensure diverse geographic viewpoints were heard. Interestingly there was not much variation by county. The survey found:

    • Nearly two-thirds of people have a positive or very positive attitude toward offshore wind power. ​
    • More than three-quarters of people believe the development of offshore wind power projects in Delaware should be encouraged. Less than 10% believe it should be discouraged.​

    There is much more work to do on offshore wind; the Delaware wind procurement study is only the first step. There will be many important public conversations to come. TNC will continue to advocate for the careful, thoughtful build-out of renewable energy as we work together to reduce the impacts of climate change.

    For further information on wind in Delaware, email Emily.Knearl@TNC.