LAUREL (March 10, 2015) – Delaware’s Division of Fish & Wildlife recently acquired 14 acres of woodlands and prime wildlife habitat surrounding Wrights Creek off Ellis Mill Road near Laurel in Sussex County. This newest addition to the Robert L. Graham Nanticoke Wildlife Area will be managed as wildlife habitat and will permanently preserve more than 2,500 feet of mature woodland buffer along Wrights Creek, a freshwater tributary that empties into the Nanticoke River 1.5 miles south of the newly-acquired property.
“The addition of this small but important tract to the Nanticoke Wildlife Area is the latest example of the progress we have made in protecting key habitat areas in the 25 years since the Delaware Land Protection Act and its funding arm through the Delaware Open Space Program were established,” said DNREC Secretary David Small. “With the support of Open Space funds, we have been able to conserve nearly 2,500 acres just in the Nanticoke Wildlife Area alone.”
“With the help of both Open Space funding and support from our conservation partners, we are building and expanding conservation areas such as the Nanticoke Wildlife Area throughout the state one tract at a time,” said Division of Fish & Wildlife Director David Saveikis. “The Nanticoke Wildlife Area encompasses forests and wetlands, and borders much of Delaware’s portion of the beautiful Nanticoke River and its tributaries, conserving a prime habitat area in western Sussex County.”
Funding for the acquisition of the Wrights Creek property came from the Delaware Open Space Program and a private donation from the Chesapeake Conservancy, a conservation partner of the Division of Fish & Wildlife whose mission is to strengthen the connection between people and the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, conserve the landscapes and special places that sustain the Chesapeake’s unique natural and cultural resources, and encourage the exploration and celebration of the Chesapeake as a national treasure.
“The opportunity to acquire this 14-acre tract is reflective of the vision of the Open Space Council to continue its mission to preserve for current and future generations, our precious natural resources,” said Open Space Council Chair John Schroeder. “The Nanticoke Wildlife Area is an incredible resource to be enjoyed by all.”
“We are grateful for DNREC’s leadership to protect this property, which is important for rare plant species and ecosystem function,” said Joel Dunn, executive director of the Chesapeake Conservancy. “This project is one part of a much larger collective effort to link together several habitats in the Nanticoke River corridor, which has become one of the Nation’s premier examples of large landscape conservation. The Chesapeake Conservancy's work on the Nanticoke is supported by the Mt. Cuba Center, which showcases projects like this one that inspire people to participate in conservation and improve the health of habitats and ecosystems.”
Located west of Laurel along significant portions of Broad Creek and the Nanticoke River, the Nanticoke Wildlife Area was established in 1967 and today encompasses 4,510 acres. The Wrights Creek tract is the 32nd tract to be added to the Nanticoke Wildlife Area. More than half of these properties were acquired by the Division of Fish & Wildlife with partial funding from the Delaware Open Space Program, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2015. Since the Delaware Land Protection Act was passed in 1990, Delaware Open Space funds have contributed to the conservation of 2,476 acres of land within the Nanticoke Wildlife Area.
Rare species and unusual geological features found in the Nanticoke Wildlife Area include the upland frosted elfin, a rare butterfly; rare plants and plant communities to include the Atlantic white cedar, bog fern and the showy aster; and ancient sand ridge dunes, inland sand dunes comprised of well-drained sandy soil formed tens of thousands of years ago that later grew vegetation including members of the pea and grass families and tree species such as pine, oak and hickory.
Delaware marks 25th anniversary of Land Protection Act
2015 marks the 25th anniversary of Delaware’s Land Protection Act, which has enabled protection of more than 56,000 acres of lands that are vital both as wildlife habitat and for public recreation, while also providing for preservation of historical sites and management of thestate’s forests. State funding for the Land Protection Act and its associated Open Space Program comes from realty transfer taxes and legislative appropriations. State public lands under Delaware’s Land Protection Act are managed by DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife and Division of Parks & Recreation; Department of State’s Division of Historical & Cultural Affairs; and Department of Agriculture’s Delaware Forest Service. To date, more than $257 million in state funding has leveraged more than $75 million in federal funding, conservation partnerships and private foundation support. Federal partners are the Departments of Interior, Agriculture, Transportation, Commerce, and Homeland Security. Conservation partners include Chesapeake Conservancy, Conservation Fund, Delaware Greenways, Delaware Nature Society, Delaware Wild Lands, Delmarva Ornithological Society, Ducks Unlimited, Kent County Conservancy, National Wild Turkey Federation, Sussex County Land Trust, and The Nature Conservancy. Additional private support includes Crystal Trust, DuPont Company, Longwood Foundation and Mt. Cuba Foundation. Surveys indicate that more than 60 percent of Delawareans participate in outdoor recreation and that public lands they use for recreational pursuits are a major driver for the state’s conservation economy, which generates $4 billion annually, $1.1 billion in income and $304 million in local and state tax revenue.