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Land preservation is a focus in Sussex County, but it won't be easy

Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media

Preserving rural land in Sussex County is a challenge that is becoming harder.

The latest Census put Sussex County’s population over 237,000 – and with that comes more homes being built - along with other commercial development.

And on top of that development taking up space, sea level rise is also expected to threaten undeveloped land along the coast over the next century according to an analysis by DNREC.

So, Sussex County is moving to boost its land preservation effort. It recently pledged $5.5 million of extra tax revenue toward preservation, significantly more than the usual $1-2 million it typically spends annually.

And Delaware Center for the Inland Bays executive director Chris Bason said those resources are necessary to keep up with the mounting losses of ag land and forests.

“We're losing so many forests. Every day, you're in the paper about another 100 acres proposed to get whacked. And we've lost a tremendous amount of forest. And we don't have the data available since 2017, to tell us how much we've lost since that time,” said Bason

He said losing forests can be harmful to waterways.

“Forests are key for healthy watersheds, you have to have forests, if you're going to have clean water and your rivers and your streams and your bays,” said Bason. “They're the most important types of lands to protect, for all those reasons.”

County officials say they have already identified some properties to pursue, but note the money budgeted this year doesn’t need to be spent this year.

This story comes from Delaware independent – an email newsletter for southern Delaware. More reporting on it can be found at the Delaware Independent website.