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New Castle County and Delaware Wildlands formalize conservation of critical habitats

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New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer and Delaware Wildland’s Executive Director Kate Hackett will sign a first-of-its-kind partnership agreement to allow for the preservation of over 220 acres of land in southern New Castle County. Resolution 20-060 was co-sponsored by County Council members Bell, Kilpatrick, and Sheldon in March 2020, which urged the County administration to investigate acquiring the property, initiating the process that resulted in this partnership.

220 acres of wetlands in southern New Castle County will become a long-term conservation preserve. | PHOTO COURTESY OF NEW CASTLE COUNTY

The property, known as the Fortner Farm and located at 950 Port Penn Road, is comprised of over one hundred acres of critical habitat including salt marsh, tributaries and old growth forest in addition to approximately one hundred acres of farmland. The County’s contribution of $1.2 million, half of the purchase price, allows Delaware Wildlands to acquire the property. In exchange, the County will receive a permanent conservation easement to ensure the long-term preservation of farmland and restoration of critical habitat.

Delaware Wildlands, Inc., is a nonprofit organization that manages over 22,000 acres of preserved land in the state, including hundreds of acres adjacent to the Fortner Farm. “Protection of this property is highly strategic and advances DWL’s goals to accelerate protection and restoration of critical land, water, and wildlife resources in New Castle county by permanently preserving those natural resources that provide the greatest benefit,” noted Kate Hackett.

“This unique partnership is the first of many creative solutions I am seeking to further the conservation of critical habitat and farmland for the future health and wellbeing of this County,” said New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer. “Benefits include improving water quality, reducing stormwater runoff, preserving and restoring vital habitat, conserving biodiversity and increasing opportunities for public engagement around natural resources, and preserving this land is part of the Meyer Administration’s overall sustainable growth strategy, which is to direct development to designated growth areas and to preserve rural areas,” added Meyer. This partnership is consistent with recommendations from County Executive Meyer’s Land Preservation Task Force, which emphasized the need to pool resources and to seek creative methods to fund conservation efforts.

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