Freshwater wetlands project aims to educate youth and drum up support for state regulations
State Sen. Stephanie Hansen and State Rep. Sophie Phillips are launching a Delaware Freshwater Wetlands project to educate students about the importance of the state’s wetland habitats.
Over a dozen community partners including Delaware’s Department of Education, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and the Delaware Nature Society are coming together for the project, which features essay and art contests, along with field trips and science projects for students of all grade levels.
Hansen says Delaware’s wetlands are home to many at-risk species, including the Bethany Beach Firefly, but they remain regulated by the federal government.
“And those rules have changed so much and so quickly over time, that it's hard to anticipate what they are going to be and even understand what they currently are," Hansen says. "And then even under their rules, in most cases, a lot of our freshwater wetlands, 30,000 acres in some estimates, are completely unprotected.”
Wetlands play a crucial role in Delaware’s ecosystem, from filtering water supply and reducing flood damage, to providing a habitat for many of the state’s most fragile and endangered species.
Phillips says the program is also about garnering support for an entire Freshwater Wetlands Program, which would include regulations by the state to protect the wetlands.
“But there are going to be developers that are not going to like this because it is going to hinder their ability to build wherever they want," Phillips says. "So we need to be ready for that and be able to compromise, but not too much, not too much that we’re giving away the wetlands but enough that we are finding other places for development.”
The first year of the project will seek to build a better understanding of freshwater wetlands, and why they’re important to Delaware’s ecosystem.