In 1997, Austin “Pete” Okie and his family provided financing and other assistance to establish a TNC Preserve along the banks of the Indian River in Sussex County. Today these lands and waters comprising 403 acres are now our Bullseye Ferry Landing Preserve.
Shortly thereafter that year, Pete and his family further demonstrated their faith in TNC by placing their farm in Conservation Easement with us. In doing so, the chapter established our first Conservation Easement in the state paving the way for use of this creative tool in conservation to expand our work by another 8 easements protecting 1,344 acres of some of Delaware’s best natural habitats. Because of their efforts, The Conservancy recognized the Okie family as national Conservation Heroes during its 50 anniversary.
In 2007, the Conservancy again worked with Pete Okie in protecting an additional 118 acres of family lands. After TNC established permanent protections for the property, the land was transferred to the state of Delaware which established the Marian R. Okie Memorial Wildlife Preserve at Poplar Thicket, now open to the public for visitation.
What’s At Stake
The diverse habitats of Bullseye-Ferry Landing support a wide variety of important plant life. The canopy of the dry upland forest is dominated by oaks, hickories, dogwoods, and the occasional state-rare shortleaf pine. Tidal marshes along the Indian River abound with salt hay, cordgrass, seaside goldenrod, groundsel tree and hightide bush. A small bog fed by a creek flowing from adjacent woodlands is home to several rare species, including twisted spike-rush, slender beakrush and delicate sedge. The mature woods and river frontage of Bullseye-Ferry Landing provide a valuable feeding, resting, and nesting habitat for more than 65 species of migratory songbirds such as the ovenbird, red-eyed vireo and scarlet tanager. Many species rely on the forest for habitat and nesting sites, including the hairy woodpecker, red-tailed hawk, eastern box turtle and five-lined skink.
Coastal forests and natural river shoreline habitats throughout this region are dwindling rapidly in the face of intense development pressure along the Indian River and the fragile inland bays at the river's mouth.
What TNC is Doing
We closely monitor several small populations of the invasive plant, Phragmites and work to keep this weedy species from spreading any further. We also regularly monitor the Preserve to insure that our Preserve sign looks good and that boundary markers are in place. In 2016 we removed 22 acres of farm land from production in favor of transforming these acres in to new forest lands which will provide habitat for even more wonderful wildlife species.