• Co-Chair of Initiative
    • Lori Denno, Delaware Nature Sociey
    • Bill Whitman, DNREC
  • Meeting Dates & Agenda
  • Meeting Notes
  • Accomplishments

The Resource Management Initiative will seek to ensure that state laws and policies allow, support and encourage the protection of Delaware’s wildlife, fish and native plants while guarding against actions and circumstances that pose a threat to those resources.

Objectives

  • Protect the most critical ecosystems and communities through the use of incentive programs, land use planning, resource management and habitat protection strategies.
  • Prevent the introduction of and control the spread of non-native invasive species.
  • Develop mechanisms to achieve the mandate of the Land Protection Act to protect appropriate natural resource lands contained within State Resource Areas.
  • Keep the common native species common while providing protection for all rare, threatened and endangered plant and animal species.
  • To enhance and maintain aquatic systems (tidal and non-tidal wetlands, streams, and riparian zones) and forested habitats (old-growth areas, in particular), giving the highest priority to areas that could connect hubs of biodiversity and maintain landscape interconnectivity.
  • Restore and enhance degraded ecosystems to maintain and create native biodiversity.

Priority Actions:

The Resource Management Initiative’s priority actions for achieving these objec-tives fall under four areas — Incentives for Private Landowners, Land Acquisition, Public Land Management and Habitat Protection.

INCENTIVES FOR PRIVATE LAND OWNERS

With over 80 percent of Delaware in private ownership, programs and incentives for private landowners are important for developing a strategy to protect biological diversity. State tax policies and state and federal incentive programs can have a profound effect on land use and management decisions on private lands. Individual landowners need to be engaged in and rewarded for preserving, restoring and maintaining Delaware’s biodiversity. Working closely with private landowners, the State of Delaware has the potential to help protect significant habitat on private lands.

1. Secure high-level state agency and private landowner commitments to support and implement the activities developed by the Delaware Invasive Species Council.

2. Expand private landowner incentives to promote biodiversity conservation through the following options:

  • Establish a Habitat Conservation Act or Program to provide financial and man-agement incentives for landowners who want to conserve and protect habitats and to manage for biodiversity. Create financial incentives such as low- or no- interest loans, cost share or tax credits to encourage landowners to protect habitat and manage for biodiversity.
  • Amend Delaware’s Farmland (and Forestland) Assessment Act to allow lands managed for conservation purposes to be assessed using the same property tax scheme as lands used for agricultural, horticultural, or forestry purposes.
    Suggested criteria for “conservation-land” qualification include a minimum of 10 acres managed for biodiversity conservation as validated by a habitat management plan from a qualified agency (e.g., a Conservation District).
  • Amend the Commercial Forest Plantations Law to provide incentives for biodi-versity conservation to be addressed as a component of forestry management plans.
  • Amend the Agricultural Preservation Program policy to give priority qualifica-tion for cost share monies to agricultural lands using Best Management Practices (BMP) that promote biodiversity conservation. Set yearly goals for a percentage of available monies distributed specifically for BMPs that promote biodiversity con-servation. This may require only a shift in Department of Agriculture policy, not legislative action.
  • Simplify and coordinate landowner incentive programs to protect biodiversity offered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, Delaware Department of Agriculture, and other state and local natural resource agencies.
  • Enhance DNREC’s existing Wildlife Habitat Enhancement Program through increased funding.

Land Acquisition

In order to carry out the mandate of the Land Protection Act to protect appropriate natural resource lands contained within the State Resource Areas, a consistent annual source of funding is needed. Long range planning, even for acquisition and steward-ship of the highest priority lands, is difficult without knowing whether and how much money will be available on an annual basis. Over the first ten years of the Open Space Program, the funds available for acquisition averaged $13 million annually. This budget severely limits the amount of land that can be purchased for permanent protection. The Agricultural Lands Preservation Program needs approximately $10 million a year for the next 20 years to purchase development rights.

3. Identify and secure a permanent revenue stream for the Open Space Program.

4. Identify and secure a permanent revenue stream for the Agricultural Land Preservation Program.

5. Lands with high quality habitats or lands with habitat conservation plans should receive greater consideration for protection under the Open Space and Agricultural Lands Preservation programs.

Public Lands Management

While conservation action will necessarily be targeted to private lands, public lands may be the best hope for preservation and professional management of key species and natural communities. Continuing acquisition of fee-simple title and development rights is essential in the absence of strong land use controls. Further, specific parcels must be targeted to help land-managing agencies meet strategic objectives and to maintain the viability of the state’s agricultural economy.

6. Create a stewardship fund within the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control to ensure that lands acquired under the Open Space Program receive adequate funds for restoration and management.

7. Develop management plans that consider biodiversity conservation and restoration for each of the state’s protected conservation lands. Require regular updates to reflect new trends in wildlife and recreational use; include updates on exotic species; ensure that each agency’s constituents are being served; and ensure that management activities reflect current scientific understanding and do not adversely affect biological diversity.

8. Establish a comprehensive biodiversity partnership among state and local agencies to achieve biodiversity management objectives for public land.

9. The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control should develop a native plant list and planting policy using the Division of Parks and Recreation’s model. Update annually or biannually to ensure that the list of native species, list of exotics to be avoided and list of nurseries sup-plying native species remain current.

Habitat Protection

10. Revise the state Endangered Species Act to extend protection to include: critical ecological communi-ties, such as critical wetland habitats (e.g. coastal plain ponds) and Delaware’s plants and animals that are endangered, threatened and species of concern. Revisions to the Act should include provisions for:

  • Public works projects, financed with state and/or local funds, should be required to conduct an alternative analysis to consider the impact of these projects on species or habitats that are likely to become endangered or threatened within the state.
  • Extend protection to Delaware plants as well as animals, while broadening the scope of that protection to include species that are not only endangered, but also threatened, or noted as “species of concern.”
  • Trade in wild-collected, endangered, threatened or rare native Delaware plants should be regulated to promote conservation.
  • Prohibit taking of a listed species.
  • Update species and community lists regularly.

11. Identify existing statutory mechanisms which can protect isolated and/or critical unique wetland habitats, while furthering efforts for comprehensive protection of all non-tidal wetlands.

A recent Supreme Court decision leaves isolated non-tidal wetlands throughout the United States with no protection under section 404 of the federal Clean Water Act.  Certain types of rare and unique wetland communities within Delaware exist within this isolated wetland assemblage, which may be a significant portion of the whole of Delaware’s non-tidal wetlands. Immediate action is necessary in Delaware to achieve sufficient protection of these resources. This can be accomplished expediently and

12. Enact a Forest Conservation Lawthat will minimize the loss of forest-land within the state, particularly loss due to development projects. Consider including provisions to require mitigation for habitat loss.

Forests provide critical habitat for numerous plant species (more than 40 percent of Delaware’s native flora are forest-dependent species) and many animals, especially birds. It is estimated that Delaware’s original upland forest cover has been reduced by 75-80 percent, or nearly 800,000 acres. At present, little protection is afforded to upland forests and, in fact, certain activ-ities (e.g., highway construction, place-ment of stormwater ponds, etc.) are often directed to forested areas. Creation of a forest mitigation require-ment should be considered. True costs associated with forest destruction are not currently being incurred by those benefiting from the destruction. For example, services provided by for-est ecosystems, such as air quality improvement, flood control and wildlife habitat, are not factored into land value calculations.

13. Increase funding for marine restoration and marine research.

Delaware’s marine resources are rich in species, genetic and ecosystem diversity and economic value. Marine ecosystems support many valuable recreational and commercial fish species. However, the conservation of biological diversity in the Delaware Bay, particularly marine fisheries within the state’s territorial sea, are even more neglected than on land.

Management tools for decision-makers to protect the state’s marine biodiversity cost money. Such tools as biological inventories, research, monitoring, training and recruiting professionals, regulating threats to marine ecosystems and fisheries require a stable source of revenue. Possible options for generating this revenue stream include 1) replacing the freshwater fishing license with a statewide recreational fishing license; 2) transferring annually three-fifths of 1 percent (approximately $522,000) of the total motor fuel tax revenue paid by boaters but not reclaimed to the Division of Fish and Wildlife as match to the Sportfish Restoration Program; and/or 3) increasing the General Fund Appropriation to the Division by $500,000 annually.

 

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