Delaware Department of Agriculture First State Agency To Make Pledge

DOVER, Del. (March 18, 2021) – The Delaware Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service is the first state agency in the United States to make a pledge that supports the global goal to conserve, restore, and grow one trillion trees by 2030.

DFS will work with a wide range of partners to secure resources needed to meet the goal of conserving, restoring, and growing one million trees by 2030. DFS plans to support the initiative by utilizing best management practices for forest protection and restoration, conservation of soil and water resources, and increasing the urban tree canopy. Healthy forests are a critical nature-based solution to climate change. Forests in the United States and forest products currently capture almost 15 percent of the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels.

“A commitment to protect and enhance Delaware’s forests is in the best interest of everyone,” said Delaware State Forester Michael Valenti. “Community trees and rural forests provide so many natural benefits, but the most valuable of them all is a forest’s contribution to a clean and healthier environment.”

Encompassing 1.25 million acres, Delaware has nearly 360,000 forested acres. With 78 percent of the state’s forests privately owned, the Delaware Forest Service (DFS) recognizes that technical assistance will be vital to achieving the pledge made to the U.S. Chapter. The agency employs 22 full-time forest service staff, including professional foresters, conservation technicians, education, communication, and administrative professionals. These experts will provide technical assistance, funding, and education to serve as the foundation for tree planting, conservation, reforestation, forest management, and wildlife protection throughout Delaware.

“We are continuing our commitment to the State of Delaware by focusing on participating in sustainable forestry and stewardship, restoring forested wetlands and headwater forests, and promoting sound soil and water conservation practices,” said Urban Forestry Coordinator Kesha Braunskill. “While planting trees is an important component to increasing our tree canopy, it’s essential for us to protect and maintain the trees we already have. Trees are an important means to combat climate change by benefiting the quality of life and reducing the heat island effects especially in our underserved communities throughout Delaware where climate effects are most impactful.”

DFS also plans to assist new and existing businesses in opening new markets for forest products and increasing forestry professionals within the industry. Research has shown that for every million dollars invested in tree planting and forest restoration activities, 40 new jobs are created, improving Delaware’s local economy.

“States in the U.S. have a vital role to play in reaching the trillion trees goal, given that they are on the frontlines with private landowners and communities,” said American Forests President and CEO Jad Daley. “We are thrilled to have Delaware continue its proud ‘first state’ tradition by making the first state-level pledge to the U.S. Chapter of In addition to demonstrating how states can accelerate efforts to conserve, restore and grow forests, Delaware is contributing vital urban forestry expertise by having Kesha Braunskill of the Delaware Forest Service on the chapter’s U.S. Stakeholder Council.”

The U.S. Chapter, led by American Forests and World Economic Forum, was created in August 2020, shortly after the Forum launched its global initiative. The chapter is championing a new approach in the U.S. to creating healthy and resilient forests. Central to this approach is a diverse group of government agencies, non-profit organizations, corporations, and others who facilitate knowledge exchange, surface new collaboration opportunities, and unlock the full potential needed to accelerate and scale-up forests-related ambitions and actions. There is no other means in the U.S. for bringing together organizations that have made commitments related to forests to learn from each other and help each other achieve their goals.

To learn more about the pledge made to the U.S. Chapter of by the Delaware Department of Agriculture’s Delaware Forest Service, visit


Delaware Forest Service’s Ashley Melvin earns Gold Smokey Award


Delaware Forest Service Gold Smokey Award
Delaware state forester Michael A. Valenti was on hand in Ohio as Delaware Forest Service education specialist Ashley Melvin received the Gold Smokey Award for her fire prevention efforts as part of the Mid-Atlantic Fire Compact.

DOVER – Ashley Melvin, the Delaware Forest Service’s education specialist who directs its successful Smokey Bear fire prevention program, received a Gold Smokey Award at an annual meeting of state foresters in Ohio recently. The award was presented to the Mid-Atlantic Fire Compact‘s education committee, of which Delaware is a member. The compact is comprised of seven states including Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.

In the world of wildfire prevention, there is no greater honor than to receive a Smokey Bear award, especially the national Gold Smokey Award. These special awards are reserved for people or organizations that provide sustained, outstanding service, with significant program impact, in the wildfire prevention arena. Honorees demonstrate innovation, creativity, commitment and passion for wildfire prevention.

The Mid-Atlantic Fire Compact’s education committee meets once or twice a year to create prototypes that help with forest fire prevention education. The group has created bandannas, large Smokey Prevention Plinko Games for events, large puzzles for children to use at events, compiled a three-DVD set of old Smokey Bear videos, songs and artwork and large fire danger signs with Smokey Bear. The group also coordinated an international multi-compact workshop in Mystic, Conn.

Mid-Atlantic Fire Compact Gold Smokey
The Mid-Atlantic Fire Compact, comprised of seven states including Delaware, received a Gold Smokey for its fire prevention efforts.

Next year, Smokey Bear celebrates his 75th Birthday. To honor the occasion, the compact created a special 16-page supplement for the Highlights children’s magazine that will appear in early 2019. The issue will be delivered to subscribers in all seven states, with an additional printing of 168,000 copes for standalone use. Veteran educator Fred Turck of Virginia, the only person to earn the coveted Gold Smokey twice for his outstanding work in fire prevention education, noted that each item takes about a year to move from concept to production.

Ashley Melvin Gold Smokey Award
Delaware Forest Service educator Ashley Melvin received the Gold Smokey Award in Ohio recently for her efforts with the Mid-Atlantic Fire Compact’s fire prevention and education committee.

Under the guidance of Melvin, the award-winning trainer-educator who received a Bronze Smokey in 2009, Smokey Bear has become one of the Delaware Forest Service’s most successful educational programs. In the past several years, the Delaware Forest Service (DFS) has provided an average of 90 Smokey Bear fire education programs per year to about 8,250 students — almost 75% of the first-graders in the entire state. Nationwide fire data indicates that human activity causes the largest number of forest fires. This is why Smokey teaches children at a very early age that they should never play with fire or use matches. During a typical Smokey Bear program, first-graders learn about the many natural benefits that trees provide: oxygen, shade, wood products and wildlife habitat. Then, students learn about how harmful a fire can be to the forest. After discussing how a fire can start, students watch a video about how children playing who discover a box of matches are tempted to start a campfire. When the “real” Smokey finally appears on the scene, the children are asked to pledge to “not play with matches ever again.”

Every student receives a gift bag of complimentary Smokey Bear materials and school supplies. Many of the bags are assembled by senior citizen volunteers from the Modern Maturity Center in Dover’s RSVP Program. Every year, volunteers put together more than 6,000 bags containing Smokey-themed comic books, wrist bands, rulers, pencils, and bookmarks.