The Nature Conservancy in Delaware was recently awarded funds from the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control to be used to restore 39 acres of forest at the conservancy's Edward H. McCabe Preserve outside Milton. The restoration project is designed to improve the quality of water moving into the Broadkill River through the elimination of agricultural runoff and groundwater transfer of nutrients into the river. The native tree species selected for the project will create new habitat for wildlife, including migratory birds.
Richie Jones, state director for The Nature Conservancy in Delaware, says this forest restoration will be the biggest improvement project undertaken at McCabe since the property was donated by Constance P. McCabe to the conservancy in 1993. "The Broadkill River will benefit from improved water quality by reducing agricultural runoff like excessive nitrogen and sediment," said Jones. "These stressors not only impair water quality, but also can potentially cause algal blooms which reduce oxygen levels in the water, possibly leading to fish kills. We're excited that DNREC chose to support this project."
The funding for this project comes from an agreement between DNREC and Perdue Foods LLC related to wastewater issues that occurred at Perdue's Georgetown plant in 2015.
The tree-planting project is scheduled to occur in fall 2018, after the final crop has been harvested by the current famer who leases the 39 acres of cropland. Weed control will be implemented as needed throughout the first two growing seasons of the project to reduce competition with planted native species and improve overall survivorship.
"The new trees will help mitigate flooding by absorbing and slowing down surface runoff, especially after they have become more established after a few years," said Sarah Cooksey, director of conservation programs for the conservancy. "This entire project will be a win-win for both people and nature, which is a goal we strive for at The Nature Conservancy."
The 143-acre McCabe Preserve, solely owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy, is situated east of Milton on lands along the Broadkill River within the Round Pole Branch subwatershed. The preserve contains a range of Delaware ecosystems, including tidal marshes, upland forests and Atlantic white cedar swamp. The diverse landscape also supports more than 100 species of migratory and nesting birds including waterfowl, raptors and songbirds. The Broadkill River snakes along Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge and the Great Marsh before it reaches the Delaware Bay near Lewes.
The Edward H. McCabe Preserve is one of the conservancy's two public preserves in Delaware. Visitors are welcome to walk the three miles of trails and watch the progress of the reforestation project. Eventually, additional trails may be added to these 39 acres of reforested lands. For more information including directions and a trail map, go to www.nature.org/mccabe.