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


DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin, state officials and the Friends of Bellevue State Park dedicate new historical marker for Mount Pleasant Meeting House

(left-to-right) Sarah Denison, Deputy Director, Delaware Public Archives; Wilma Yu, President, Friends of Bellevue State Park; State Representative Debra Heffernan; DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin; Don Blythe, Board member, Friends of Bellevue State Park, dedicate new historical marker at the Mount Pleasant Meeting House in Bellevue State Park. (DNREC Photo)

WILMINGTON – DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin was joined by State Representative Debra Heffernan, Delaware Public Archives Deputy Director Sarah Denison and members of the Friends of Bellevue State Park today, to dedicate a new historical marker highlighting the history of the Mount Pleasant Meeting House in Bellevue State Park.

The meeting house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for architectural significance. It was originally used as a public meeting house then transitioned to a dedicated religious space. Construction on the stone building began in 1838, and a cemetery was added in 1841. A Queen Anne style parsonage was constructed in 1894. Numerous improvements and restoration work have occurred since then. The Church of Christ purchased the property in 1961 and restored it to its 1893 appearance. The state acquired the site in 1996, and incorporated it into Bellevue State Park.

“The Mount Pleasant Meeting House is unique given its age and historic significance,” said Secretary Garvin. “We are pleased that our parks visitors can enjoy learning about this important site. One of our state parks’ goals is to make sure the public is educated about our historic and cultural treasures, and this is certainly one of them. I thank the Friends of Bellevue State Park, State Representative Debra Heffernan, and the Delaware Public Archives for their support in making this possible.”

In 2016, DNREC’s Division of Parks & Recreation completely renovated the 1894 parsonage to restore its original design, including a new roof, full window restoration, exterior siding, restoration of the front porch, and new plasterwork on the third floor interior. Paint chip samples from the structure were color-matched, and the building was repainted in its original colors. In 2017, the Meeting House received a new cedar shake roof, and plans are in place to restore its large stained glass windows.

The restoration work was coordinated by DNREC in partnership with the Friends of Bellevue, which secured grants for the work from the Longwood Foundation, Crystal Trust and the Crestlea Foundation. The Delaware Public Archives administers the state’s Historical Markers Program. The new historical marker was funded by Representative Heffernan.

Contact: Beth Shockley, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902

Vol. 48, No. 319

Delaware Advisory Council on Wildlife and Freshwater Fish to meet Sept. 25 in Dover

The logo for the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental ControlDOVER – Delaware’s Advisory Council on Wildlife and Freshwater Fish will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 25 in the DNREC Auditorium, 89 Kings Highway, Dover, DE 19901.

The Council will discuss American shad restoration in the Nanticoke River as well as current and proposed upgrades to the Ommelanden Hunter Education Training and Shooting Range facilities. For more information, including the meeting agenda, visit the Delaware Public Meeting Calendar at

For more information on Delaware wildlife, please call the DNREC Division of Fish & Wildlife’s Wildlife Section at 302-739-9912. For more information on Delaware fisheries, please call DNREC Division of Fish & Wildlife’s Fisheries Section at 302-739-9914.

Follow the Division of Fish & Wildlife on Facebook,

Contact: Joanna Wilson, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902

Vol. 48, No. 257

DNREC, federal, local and conservation partners gather to celebrate completion of Mispillion Harbor restoration

MISPILLION HARBOR – Against a backdrop of migrating shorebirds and spawning horseshoe crabs on the beach at Mispillion Harbor, DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin was joined by U.S. Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons, and Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester to celebrate the completion of the Mispillion Harbor restoration. The three-year project restored the area in the wake of damage inflicted by a series of coastal storms including 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, and built resiliency against future storms impacting this vitally important habitat. Also joining the Secretary and the Congressional Delegation were U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Northeast Regional Director Wendi Weber, and National Fish & Wildlife Foundation Vice President of Conservation Programs Eric Schwaab.

Who is in the Photo?
Located east of Milford within the Milford Neck Wildlife Area, Mispillion Harbor is globally significant for the high numbers of migrating shorebirds that stop there each spring to refuel by feeding on the eggs of spawning horseshoe crabs, with both species favoring the harbor’s sheltered sandy beaches and calm waters than other less-sheltered sites along Delaware’s Bayshore. Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) led the task of restoring balance to this critical habitat, as well as planning the restoration of the surrounding Milford Neck tidal marsh, in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), National Fish & Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), The Nature Conservancy, and Delaware Wild Lands, with support from other conservation partners and local community members.

Federal funds totaling $5.8 million through USFWS and NFWF were paired with $2 million in state matching funds to complete restoration of Mispillion Harbor and to create a longer-term plan for restoring the integrity of Milford Neck’s marshlands and forest habitat.

“I want to commend everyone involved – the Congressional Delegation, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, and all of our other conservation partners – for their support in bringing this important project to completion,” said DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin. “Through this partnership, we have restored one of the Delaware Bayshore’s most extraordinary places. Mispillion Harbor can now continue to provide safe haven to migrating shorebirds, including the threatened red knot, and to the spawning horseshoe crabs whose eggs fuel their long journey, as well as drawing visitors from around the world to observe the vital interaction of these species.”

“The funding that the congressional delegation worked hard to acquire for Delaware projects after Hurricane Sandy not only saved this area, but saved a part of Delaware’s tourism economy,” said Senator Tom Carper, ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee in the U.S. Senate. “That money was put to good use. We didn’t just fix the damage, we created a long-term plan to mitigate damage from future storms. Some people say we can’t have a strong economy and healthy environment at the same time, but I believe this project is a great example of how we cannot have one without the other.”

“Delaware’s wetlands and coastal habitats are not only beautiful, they’re also unique parts of our ecosystem and critical to our economy,” said Senator Chris Coons. “In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, these wetlands were truly at risk, and I’m so proud of everyone at the state, federal, and local level who came together to protect the Mispillion Harbor Reserve, the Milford Neck conservation area, and all the creatures who call these places home.”
“This vital conservation project is a great example of steps we can take to restore ecological balance along our coast. With the completion of the Mispillion Harbor Restoration, horseshoe crabs now have a new beach to spawn their young, red knots have a place to refuel on their journey north, and Delaware is revitalizing its pristine coastline,” said Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester. “It’s only through the continued efforts of local, state, and federal collaborators that we can both save endangered species and preserve the First State’s beauty for all to enjoy.”

In Mispillion Harbor, habitat restoration work began in 2016 and was completed this spring, including:

  • The existing rock structure – originally constructed in the 1980s to protect the harbor – was raised by an average of 3.5 feet to a height of 6 feet over a distance of 2,300 linear feet, and was extended westward by an additional 400 feet, tying into the existing dune. To increase stability, the base of the structure also was broadened by 18 feet.
  • Sandy beach areas were expanded by adding 40,000 cubic yards of sand along the inside of the rock structure between the north groin and south groin, and on the south side of the south groin.
  • Five new groins ranging from 80-150 feet were constructed perpendicular to the rock structure to hold the sand in place.
  • Swains Beach was restored by adding 500 cubic yards of sand, after removing materials used as riprap by a previous owner, including: concrete waste, two truckloads of old tires, two truckloads of metal debris and other waste. Also, volunteers planted 5,000 beach grass plugs to help hold the sand in place.

For the Milford Neck conservation area, hydrodynamic modeling, restoration alternatives, and a restoration plan were collaboratively developed by DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife, The Nature Conservancy and Delaware Wild Lands, who collectively own 10,000 acres of Milford Neck, including the state-owned Milford Neck Wildlife Area.

“The success of this collaborative restoration effort has played out this spring on the shoreline of Mispillion Harbor, with horseshoe crabs spawning on the beaches and shorebirds eating their fill of eggs,” said Regional Director Weber, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “This project truly exemplifies the power of partnerships. When we combine our investments, energy, and innovation to restore Mispillion Harbor and build a stronger Atlantic Coast, we can accomplish far more for wildlife and people than any single agency or organization can accomplish alone.”

In addition to supporting the recovery of the federally-listed threatened red knot by helping provide a stable food source for shorebirds in a protected area, and offering a safe haven for spawning horseshoe crabs, the work at Mispillion Harbor, Milford Neck, and associated navigable waterways also benefits local residents and visitors.

Restoration work to protect Mispillion Harbor and to maintain tidal flow through coastal marshes, supports local communities and enhances recreational and commercial boating and fishing access, as well as other outdoor opportunities in the area, including:

  • Public boat ramps at Cedar Creek a half-mile upstream from the harbor and on the Mispillion River in Milford 10 miles upstream;
  • The DuPont Nature Center, which overlooks the harbor with its deck offering a sweeping view of the spring spectacle of shorebirds and horseshoe crabs, is owned and operated by DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife, and attracts thousands of local, regional, national, and international visitors each year;
  • Local businesses near the harbor – Cedar Creek Marina, a commercial marina and dry-dock facility, and Delaware Bay Launch Services, which operates a fleet of boats servicing ship and barge traffic on the Delaware Bay and River headed to ports in Philadelphia, Trenton, Camden, and Wilmington; and
  • Farmlands and residential areas, notably the nearby Town of Slaughter Beach, which has more than 350 homes, a volunteer fire company, and public recreation facilities including beach access, a picnic pavilion, public restrooms, and interpretive signs. The town serves the region by supporting school and nature center programs, fishing, wildlife viewing, kayaking, and other recreational uses of the beach and bay.

Restoration work planned for Milford Neck will expand on the benefits from the Mispillion Harbor restoration, further facilitating movement of storm and spring tide waters throughout the tidal marsh system woven into the area of Slaughter Beach, Milford Neck, Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge, and other state and conservation partner-owned properties as well as residential and agricultural areas.

Media Contact: Joanna Wilson, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902

DNREC Honors Longtime Wetland Educator as Delaware’s 2013 Wetland Warrior

HARRINGTON (July 25, 2013) – Today at the Delaware State Fair, Governor Jack Markell, DNREC Secretary Collin O’Mara and U.S. EPA Region III Administrator Shawn M. Garvin honored Terry Higgins of Marydel with the 2013 Delaware Wetland Warrior Award for his lifelong efforts to conserve, restore and educate Delaware residents on the need for and importance of wetlands.

 “Wetlands contribute to the quality of life in Delaware by providing storage for floodwaters and protecting us from coastal storms, providing habitat for wildlife species, and purifying water by removing pollutants and nutrients from runoff. Efforts to protect, restore, and better understand processes affecting wetlands are critical to enable the continuation of the economically valuable services provided by wetlands,” said Secretary O’Mara. “We are proud to recognize Terry Higgins for his important contributions to protecting and understanding this vital natural resource.”

The Wetland Warrior Award, now in its sixth year, is presented annually to a citizen, organization, or business that has demonstrated exemplary efforts to benefit Delaware wetlands in the areas of outreach and education, monitoring and assessment, or restoration and protection.

“Often when we hear about wetlands, it’s about their decline, but this award focuses on recognizing individuals who are working to make a positive change in wetland health in Delaware,” said Maggie Pletta, DNREC Wetland Monitoring and Assessment Program. “Terry Higgins has set a great example of encouraging stewardship of our resources and educating young people on the value of wetlands.”

Higgins is a professor emeritus from Wesley College in Dover, where he served in the science department for 40 years, mentoring and educating more than 8,000 students. While at Wesley, he also became involved in the school’s environmental advocacy club, Team Cannon, monitoring the wetlands at Camden’s Brecknock Park.

After his retirement from Wesley in 2000, Higgins continued his commitment to wetlands as the Kent County volunteer coordinator for Delaware’s Adopt-A-Wetland Program. Through his initiative and mentoring, numerous volunteer groups have become informed and engaged wetland caretakers.

Not only did Higgins encourage others to restore and protect wetlands, he and his family recently preserved a 10-acre forested wetland site in the Choptank River Watershed.

During today’s annual DNREC Awards ceremony at the State Fair, Higgins also received DNREC’s Outstanding Volunteer Award for Conservation and Restoration for his work in environmental education and wetlands conservation in Delaware.

“For more than five decades of his life and career, Terry Higgins has passed on his knowledge, passion, wisdom and commitment to Delaware’s wetlands in countless ways,” said Delaware Adopt-a-Wetland Program Administrator Gary Kreamer. “On the occasion of his well-earned retirement from volunteer service, this award honors his lifelong legacy to Delaware’s natural resources.”

After decades of teaching and practicing environmental science, Higgins continues to find wetlands a fascinating area of study, from the biodiversity they support to the vital role they play in our daily lives. “There are so many important facets of wetlands that affect more than just the organisms that live there: protection from storm surges, absorbing excess nutrients and – though I feel this is not yet completely studied or understood – the unique ability of wetlands to filter out various pollutants,” he said.

Higgins’ widely-known passion for conserving and protecting wetlands and for urging others along the same path also continues unabated. “Wetlands have an amazing ability to restore and right themselves if we just stop impacting them. They are pretty amazing, and we need to do whatever we have to do to let them do what they were created to do,” he said.

Next year’s call for nominations will be posted in the spring on the Delaware Wetlands website,

 For details about past Delaware Wetland Warriors please visit: