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Nanticoke Crossing Park is a tribute to conservation

June 28, 2021

Delaware’s conservation leadership on the Nanticoke River is a good model for President Biden’s 30 percent by 2030 conservation initiative.

In Executive Order 14008 on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, President Biden set a national goal for land conservation: conserve 30 percent of the nation’s lands and waters by 2030. The intent of this goal is to protect one important aspect of what makes our nation so wonderful: its natural beauty, its wildlife, and the natural resources that sustain nature and the American people. 

This is an ambitious but timely proposal, especially considering the current estimate that just 12 percent of lands in the United States have some level of protection against development. 

Achieving this national 30 by 30 conservation goal to protect America’s nature and wildlife requires us to think and act locally, and to forge partnerships in the community and across government. For a good model to guide his initiative, President Biden need not look further than his own backyard, to the Nanticoke River watershed located in Delaware and Maryland which today is 33 percent protected. 

Considering its natural beauty and largely undeveloped waterfront, the Nanticoke River is one of the most pristine rivers of the entire Chesapeake Bay. Many stretches of the river appear today as they did during the pre-colonial era. 

The Nanticoke River supports abundant fisheries, and the region is also home to the highest concentration of bald eagles in the northeastern United States. 

Take a paddle down river and look just behind the trees - there’s a flurry of activity working to protect the Nanticoke River. Conservation groups, along with the State of Delaware, local governments, the Department of Defense and private philanthropies are working together to ensure that the Nanticoke River watershed remains a natural treasure.

On June 7, Chesapeake Conservancy, the Sussex County Land Trust and a host of partners celebrated the protection of Nanticoke Crossing Park, a 41-acre property on the Nanticoke River near Woodland. Like much of the land along the river, Nanticoke Crossing Park is mostly forested, and the park will provide visitors direct water access. 

The conservancy and SCLT are planning that Nanticoke Crossing Park will serve as a campground for river paddlers, supporting the $1.3 billion outdoor recreation economy that is flourishing in the First State.

The conservation of Nanticoke Crossing Park was funded by a mix of private, state and federal dollars, and along with SCLT and Chesapeake Conservancy, supporters include the Mt. Cuba Center, the State of Delaware, and the Department of Defense. 

Nanticoke Crossing Park represents just one of many successes in collaborative conservation that has helped to maintain the Nanticoke River as one of the most pristine tributaries in the Chesapeake Bay.  The collaboration between public and private partners has enabled conservation efforts to advance successfully in Delaware. Gov. John Carney and his natural resources cabinet officials Secretary of Agriculture Michael Scuse and Secretary of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Shawn Garvin have strongly supported conservation on the Nanticoke River, dedicating staff and state resources to support many land conservation projects along the river and in the watershed. 

Local support from state legislators, including Rep. Daniel Short, Sen. Brian Pettyjohn, and Sen. Bryant Richardson, has also been critical in securing Delaware open space funding.

The Department of Defense has been a powerful partner in these efforts, through its Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration program. Through the REPI program, the DOD ensures military readiness by preventing encroachment near military bases, training facilities, and flight paths. 

In protecting lands near its area of operations, the DOD can also protect lands that have ecological benefits like wildlife habitat, as well as lands that have local economic importance like farmland or recreation areas.  

With 33 percent of its watershed protected, which resulted from locally driven efforts and outstanding partnerships, we believe that the Nanticoke River is an ideal model for President Biden’s 30 by 30 initiative. 

Randall Larrimore, 
Chair,  Chesapeake Conservancy Board of Directors
Joel Dunn, president & CEO of the Chesapeake Conservancy
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