2,075 Seedlings Planted for the Harriet Tubman Bicentennial Tree Planting

TOWNSEND, Del. (September 21, 2022) – On September 17, over 100 volunteers planted 2,075 trees at the Blackbird State Forest for the Harriet Tubman Bicentennial Tree Planting. This initiative will provide scenic beauty, enhance wildlife habitat, fight invasive species, and improve water quality in the critical Chesapeake Bay Watershed. This tree planting was part of a broader program to commemorate the 200th birthday year of Harriet Tubman in 1822 and part of International Underground Railroad Month.Sixth District Councilman David Carter and Del State student Lauren Smith work together to plant a seedling.

“This tree planting event along with the guided hikes (held separately), generated a lot of interest and positive feedback for more programming like this from Delaware citizens. We were fortunate enough to partner in these events with a cultural interpretive guide Dionne Patterson (UGR3day Underground Railroad Experiences Inc.), DelDOT Byways Program, and the Underground Railroad Coalition of Delaware,” said Delaware Forest Service’s Urban and Community Forestry Coordinator Kesha Braunskill. “Our forestry staff did an outstanding job in preparing the site for the planting to take place. And volunteers from all over the state did an awesome job getting all the trees planted in under three hours. These planting events are great for community involvement, and everyone gets to see the fruits of their labor for years to come as they come back to see the forest they helped create.”

The planting project allowed the Delaware Forest Service to continue its goal of increasing tree canopy, as well as increasing the community’s knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of forests and forest management. Volunteers who assisted included teachers and students from various school groups, honor society students, Cub Scout and Boy Scout troops, and volunteers from Delaware’s Air Force Crew.

Blackbird State Forest covers nearly 6,000 acres in southern New Castle County and is a stop on the historic Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway. The project was funded by the U.S. Forest Service and its Chesapeake Bay Program and the Delaware Forest Service and its Urban and Community Program.

To find out how to get involved in future tree plantings or other tree-inspired programs, visit https://de.gov/treeevents.

More photographs are available on Flickr, https://flic.kr/s/aHBqjA7XEp

Blackbird State Forest’s Meadows Tract Renamed in Honor of Senator Bruce C. Ennis

TOWNSEND, Del. (September 20, 2022) – At a bill signing ceremony held at the Blackbird State Forest’s Meadow Tract, Governor Carney signed Senate Bill 328, renaming the Blackbird State Forest’s Meadows Tract the “Bruce C. Ennis Tract” in honor of Senator Bruce C. Ennis. The Ennis Tract covers 456 acres with open meadows, forested trails, and three ponds, and includes one of Delaware’s two forest education centers. This tract of state forestland is part of an ecologically critical zone connecting the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays. The Blackbird State Forest is managed by the Department of Agriculture and is a popular destination for hiking, horseback riding, nature watching, camping, and hunting.

“There are a lot of people that work hard to make our state a better place and Senator Bruce Ennis continues to do so in such a humble way,” said Governor John Carney. “On behalf of the people of this district and the people of our state, for a great tribute to a man who has given so much to our state. What a way to celebrate the service of Senator Ennis, by renaming this beautiful meadow and piece of property in his honor.”Senator Ennis with his family at Blackbird State Forest around the new Ennis Tract sign

About 50 people were in attendance for the bill-signing event, including Senator Ennis’ family, and members of the General Assembly and the Governor’s cabinet. The renaming of the Meadows Tract in honor of Senator Ennis reflects Delaware’s appreciation for Senator Ennis’ legacy, who has served 40 years in both legislature and public safety. Senator Ennis will be retiring in November.

Lieutenant Governor Bethany Hall-Long shared that “Today we stand in a beautiful, peaceful location celebrating a man who really fought to make Delaware a safe, wonderful place to live.” She added that Senator Ennis is “truly a statesman” and has always been an avid supporter of “open space, natural resources and agriculture.”

Delaware Forest Service educator Ashley Melvin and Senator Ennis’s granddaughter had the honor of unveiling the new tract sign that will be placed on Blackbird Station Road at the entrance to Ennis Tract.

Secretary of Agriculture Michael T. Scuse stated, “Senator Ennis has worked tirelessly to improve everyone’s quality of life. He’s made sure that we have natural resources protected and preserved for future generations. This means a lot to me personally, and a lot to the Department. I can think of no better tribute to a man who has done so much for his state.”

Blackbird State Forest, managed by the Delaware Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service, located on the border of New Castle and Kent Counties, is Delaware’s northernmost state forest. It has ten tracts totaling over 6,000 acres and contains of mixture of oaks, yellow-poplar, maple, gums, and hickories.

More photographs are available on Flickr, https://flic.kr/s/aHBqjA7QDa

Delaware Sends Wildfire Crew to Northern California

The 2022 DES1 Diamond State Wildfire Crew photo taken at Blackbird State Forest before mobilizing to northern California
The 2022 DES1 Diamond State Wildfire Crew: (Left to Right, Front to Back): Dave Pro of Newark and Bill Seybold of Dover; Adam Keever of Newark, Eddie Boyer of Frederica, Justin Sauble of Smyrna, Sam Topper of Federalsburg, MD, and Jim Charney of Felton; Erich Burkentine of Milton, Derek Coss of Berlin, MD, Hunter Melson of Middletown, Zachary Veasey of Millsboro, Eric Brown of Rehoboth Beach, Zach Brown of Millsboro, and Tom Hairgrove of Townsend; Ben Schnatterly of Dover, Noah Jackson of Delmar, Nate Shampine of Hockessin, Jeff Wilson of Clayton, and Scott Veasey of Millsboro


SMYRNA, Del. (August 9, 2022) –The Delaware Forest Service mobilized a 19-person wildfire crew from Blackbird State Forest to northern California today. The crew will travel cross-country to join other wildfire crews to battle blazes as the number of wildfires in the area continue to grow, sparked by hot, dry, and windy weather combined with an unstable atmosphere, creating lightning-caused fires.

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, 66 large fires and complexes have burned 1,694,298 acres in 14 states. More than 12,300 wildland firefighters and support personnel are currently assigned to incidents across the country.

Delaware has trained more than 600 firefighters since 1996 and battled wildfires in numerous states, including Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, California, Colorado, Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Utah, Virginia, and Washington. https://de.gov/wildfire.

For more information, contact Kyle Hoyd at kyle.hoyd@delaware.gov

More photos and videos are available at: https://flic.kr/s/aHBqjA2pY6

Delaware Aglands Permanently Preserves 3,800 Acres; Largest Number of Inland Bays Easements Ever Selected

HARRINGTON, Del. (July 28, 2022) — During a stop at the Delaware Agriculture Education & Commodities Building at the Delaware State Fair, Governor John Carney announced an additional 3,827 acres on 54 farms are now permanently preserved for future generations.

Map of Delaware depicting all the agricultural easements,2022 marks the 26th consecutive year of easement selections by the Delaware Agricultural Lands Preservation Foundation. In this round, three farms in New Castle County, 26 in Kent County, 23 in Sussex County were preserved, and two easements for forestland preservation.

“Preserving Delaware’s farmland is a priority and Delaware Aglands have helped keep farms in production,” said Governor Carney. “The Department of Agriculture has a big year ahead with $20 million allocated to preserve Delaware farms from the ground up. With this year’s average discount rate at 44%, there is no better time for farmers to consider preserving their farms for future generations. I want to thank members of the General Assembly for seeing the importance of protecting agriculture here in our state.”

Along with the state funding, Delaware’s success in preserving farmland would not be possible without the assistance of many county and federal partners. The Delaware Aglands Preservation Foundation has partnered with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), Sussex County Council, and Kent County Levy Court to purchase easements in this round. New Castle County provided funds this past winter to preserve a New Castle County farm that was not originally selected in Round 25.

“Farmland preservation is not just about preserving Delaware’s number one industry. It’s ensuring our residents have access to Delaware-grown food; that our next generation has a career in agriculture — no matter whether it’s on the farm, working in agribusiness, teaching agriscience to our youth, or developing the latest technology; and the heritage, culture, and beauty of rural Delaware can be enjoyed by residents and visitors alike,” said Secretary of Agriculture Michael T. Scuse. “In this round, nine easements in the Inland Bays watershed were selected, encompassing 486 acres. This is the most Inland Bays easements we have selected in one year and the most acres in the last twenty years. This is a big deal to ensure these communities have local farms providing them healthy food into the future.”

Since 1995, Delaware has preserved 6,873 acres of farmland in the Inland Bays watershed, costing $16.75 million. The easements selected in this year’s round have an estimated cost of $1.7 million. The only round with more acres preserved in this area was Round 5, announced in 2000.

“For the second year in a row, we have been able to accept every offer made by landowners to preserve their farms,” said Aglands Administrator Jimmy Kroon. “This is a significant change from several years ago when the process was much more competitive. Combined with increasing appraisals, we are paying more to preserve farmland, and we’re happy farmers are benefitting from that.”

The Delaware Agricultural Lands Preservation Foundation selects those farms approved for easement purchase using an impartial discounted ranking system that maximizes benefits for taxpayers. The Foundation does not own the land, but rather purchases landowners’ development rights and places a permanent agricultural conservation easement on the property. Landowners must first voluntarily enroll their farm into a 10-year preservation district and are eligible for permanent preservation the year after they apply. In addition to nearly 147,000 acres in permanent easements, Delaware’s Aglands Preservation Program has more than 34,000 acres of land enrolled in 10-year farmland preservation districts.

County governments can partner with the state program and add county funds to select properties in their areas, leveraging state resources for the most significant impact.

Delaware’s statewide program made its first round of easement purchases in 1996 and has since preserved 21 percent of New Castle County farmland, 38 percent of Kent County farmland, and 18 percent of Sussex County farmland.

Delaware farmers interested in preserving their farms should be sure they meet the following eligibility requirements:
• Property must be zoned for agriculture and not subject to any major subdivision plan.
• The property meets the minimum Land Evaluation and Site Assessment (LESA) score of 170. LESA is a process that attempts to estimate the farm’s long-term viability based on the farm’s soil productivity and the land use and agriculture infrastructure on and around the farm. Scores range from 0-300. Aglands program staff calculate the LESA score when applications are received.
• The property has to meet the state’s Farmland Assessment Act (10 acres or more which generate at least $1,000 in agricultural sales annually; farms under 10 acres which create at least $10,000 annually in agricultural sales).
• Farms of 200 acres or more constitute an agricultural district.
• Farms under 200 acres can enter the program if they are within 3 miles of an existing agricultural district. With over 1,154 farms already preserved, it is rare that a farm under 200 acres does not meet these criteria.

Entirely forested properties in managed timber production can also enroll in the Forestland Preservation Program, which purchases Forestland Preservation Easements through a similar process as Aglands Preservation.

For new farms interested in preservation, the deadline to apply and be eligible for Round 27 is October 31, 2022. For more information, visit https://de.gov/aglands.

The Delaware Agricultural Lands Preservation Foundation’s Board of Trustees includes representatives from agriculture and state agencies. Trustees are Mark Collins, chairman; James G. Vanderwende, vice-chairman; Janice Truitt, treasurer; William H. “Chip” Narvel Jr., secretary; Secretary of Agriculture Michael T. Scuse; State Treasurer Colleen C. Davis; Secretary of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Shawn Garvin; Peter Martin; Theodore P. Bobola Jr.; Robert Emerson; and H. Grier Stayton.


After arriving in Delaware in 2017, spotted lanternfly now confirmed in Sussex County

DOVER, Del. (July 12, 2022) — Five years after the first confirmed spotted lanternfly was found in New Castle County in 2017, the spotted lanternfly has made its way to Sussex County, creating a statewide quarantine for this invasive pest.

The spotted lanternfly is a destructive invasive planthopper that attacks many hosts, including trees, shrubs, orchards, grapes, and hops. The insect is detrimental to Delaware’s agricultural industry, forests, and residential areas.

Effective July 12, the Delaware Department of Agriculture (DDA) will expand the quarantine to include Sussex County due to established populations of spotted lanternfly found in Georgetown, Milford, Seaford, Ocean View, and Rehoboth. Quarantine means that residents, businesses, or municipalities cannot move any material or object that could harbor the pest without taking precautions to prevent the spread. Adults can fly, hop, or drop onto a vehicle – meaning that this pest can be easily transported to new areas where it can create another infestation.

“It is practically impossible to eradicate the spotted lanternfly because of its status as a hitchhiker bug,” said Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Nikko Brady. “For a small state, our Spotted Lanternfly Program has done an excellent job in fending off the spread of this invasive insect for five years and are just now finding it in Sussex County.”

Since the initial population of spotted lanternfly was found in 2018, DDA has partnered with USDA to conduct surveys and assessments. Overall, the Spotted Lanternfly Program has treated 23,721 acres with insecticides or herbicides to reduce Delaware’s spotted lanternfly population. Once the females began laying egg masses this past fall, the team scraped 90,147 egg masses with 30-50 eggs in each, significantly reducing this year’s population.

Due to quarantines in other states, interstate commerce will be impacted if the pest is transported out of the Delaware quarantine area. Therefore, DDA’s Spotted Lanternfly Program is focused on priority properties that are pathways for the movement of spotted lanternfly, including highways, railways, public transportation, and distribution centers. The Program’s inspectors use the tree of heaven, an invasive necessary for spotted lanternfly to reproduce, to search for the insect.

Managing Spotted Lanternfly
A 3rd instar spotted lanternfly is black with white spots. When it metamorphizes into a 4th instar, it will be black with red on its body and white spots.Homeowners are encouraged to visit Delaware’s spotted lanternfly website at https://de.gov/hitchhikerbug to learn what the quarantine means and how to manage this invasive pest. The Delaware Homeowner Spotted Lanternfly and Treatment Fact Sheet lists pesticides labeled for planthoppers or leafhoppers sold at local home and garden stores, which can be used to kill the insect. Residents can do their part by treating nymphs and adults from May to November and scraping and destroying egg masses from December to May. Homeowners can also hire a commercially licensed turf and ornamental pesticide applicator to treat their properties for these insects.

In Delaware, spotted lanternfly nymphs are in the third and fourth instar stages and will metamorphize into adults before the end of July. From now until early September, trees are actively moving phloem from the trunk into the branches, which feed the tree’s growth. At this time, using a systemic insecticide is preferred because it is absorbed by tree roots, bark, or leaves and is moved through its vascular system to other parts of the tree. This means that no matter what area the spotted lanternfly feeds on, it will ingest the insecticide and die.

Eliminating the tree of heaven helps decrease the spotted lanternfly population. The tree of heaven is found in industrial parks, unmanaged areas, or vacant lots, and along highways and railways. Municipalities and businesses should prioritize destroying the female tree of heaven while leaving some male specimens as trap trees. The average homeowner does not have tree of heaven on their properties, but the homeowner should remove it if identified.

Delaware Spotted Lanternfly Quarantine and Permitting
The general public is encouraged to download and print the Delaware Resident Spotted Lanternfly Compliance Checklist, indicating that you inspected and know that no living life stage of the spotted lanternfly is present on regulated articles before moving them. The checklist is available online at https://de.gov/hitchhikerbug. DDA recommends keeping the checklist in each vehicle’s glove box and noting the date when specific items on the list are inspected before transport.

Examples of regulated articles include:
• Any living life stage of the spotted lanternfly
• Landscaping, remodeling, or construction materials
• Firewood of any species
• Packing materials (e.g., wood crates, boxes)
• All plants and plant parts, including all live and dead trees, perennial and annual plants, and mulch
• Outdoor household articles like RVs, lawnmowers, chairs, grills, tarps, tile, stone, deck boards, and other vehicles not stored indoors.

Any person conducting business for a commercial company, a municipality, or a government agency that requires movement of any regulated item within or from the quarantine area must have a permit, available through the DDA spotted lanternfly website. To obtain a permit, a designated individual from an organization must receive training and pass an online test to demonstrate a working knowledge and understanding of the pest and quarantine requirements. This individual is then required to train other employees to inspect vehicles and products and remove any spotted lanternfly life stages. The permit demonstrates that the individual understands how to identify the pest and ensure the items transported are not carrying the insect.

Reporting Spotted Lanternfly
Adult spotted lanternfly on a person's thumb. The adult is about the length from the tip of the thumb to the first joint below the nail.Residents who live near the Dover Air Force Base or in Sussex County are encouraged to report sightings of the spotted lanternfly. Citizen reports help DDA inspectors determine how these insects move and which transportation pathways they utilize. These reports also allow DDA to notify agricultural operations with plants vulnerable to this insect. Residents can make a report by using the online form at https://de.gov/hitchhikerbug or emailing HitchHikerBug@delaware.gov and including the location of the find in the subject line. Due to the high level of reporting, DDA inspectors will not respond to emails but will use the information provided to determine if a new spotted lanternfly population is present.

Additional Information
In March 2019, DDA initially quarantined zip codes in New Castle County, where an established population of reproducing spotted lanternfly was found. The quarantine was expanded in September 2019 to include all areas of New Castle County north of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal and finally included the entire county in July 2020. DDA quarantined Kent County in October 2020, when established populations of the insect were found in Smyrna, Dover, and Harrington.