Delaware approves more funding for open space

July 12, 2022

The Delaware Legislature approved an additional $10 million in funding to the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control for open-space protection in fiscal year 2023, bringing the total amount available to $20 million. This is being celebrated by the Delaware Land Protection Coalition, which began advocating for an increase in funding late last year.

Since November 2021, the DLPC has met with state officials to discuss the importance of open-space protection and the need for additional funding. With inflation and the rising cost of land, land protection has become increasingly difficult, and opportunities to protect critical lands have been lost. This will be the fourth-highest funding level the program has ever received, and it is coming at a great time of need.

This is a major win for Delaware. Our landscapes are changing rapidly, and we need to continue protecting lands that not only provide opportunities for recreation, but also mitigate the effects of climate change and help provide clean water and wildlife habitat. By law, the Delaware Open Space Program is designated to receive $10 million each year to pay for land acquisition, conservation easements and open-space infrastructure. Despite this designation, the actual funding received has varied. Since 2007, an average of $7.5 million has been allocated to the program. The DLPC continues to advocate for permanent increased funding for the program.

I’d like to thank the Carney administration and Rep. Debra Heffernan, D-Bellefonte, Sen. Nicole Poore, D-New Castle, and the members of the Bond Bill Committee who supported this funding. There hasn’t been this much money for open-space protection since 2001. This shows how important open space is to Delawareans.

The DLPC is a group of conservation-focused organizations committed to increasing the amount of lands, including natural, cultural, historical and recreational resources, protected through acquisition or conservation easement. Delaware Land Protection Coalition members include Delaware Center for the Inland Bays, Delaware Wild Lands, The Nature Conservancy, Kent County Conservancy, League of Women Voters, Ducks Unlimited, Delaware Nature Society, Sussex County Land Trust, Preservation Delaware, Native Species Council, Nanticoke River Watershed Alliance, Delaware Ornithological Society and representatives from New Castle County and Kent County.

Michelle Schmidt is director of conservation and watershed planning at the Delaware Center for the Inland Bays. CIB is a nonprofit organization established in 1994, and is one of 28 National Estuary Programs. With its many partners, the center works to preserve, protect and restore Delaware’s Inland Bays and their watershed. 
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