Delaware Wild Lands helps roll out major restoration in the Milford Neck Preserve
In recent years, the 10,000-acre Milford Neck Preserve has suffered from the effects of rising sea levels.
“We started to see die-off in the marsh and of our coastal forest, but it happened at a rate much faster than we expected," said Kate Hackett, executive director of Delaware Wild Lands.
As sea levels rise, freshwater wetlands become degraded. When storms hit the coast, saltwater will run over the land and seep into the ground. This phenomenon, called saltwater intrusion, has caused damage to farmland and coastal upland forests in the Milford Neck Preserve.
This summer, Delaware Wild Lands will be carrying out two projects to tackle these issues. One will be a small collaboration with Ducks Unlimited to look at one site within the preserve, called the Dead Woods Freshwater Wetlands Restoration Project, costing $36,000. The other - a more comprehensive restoration initiative using $9 million total in grants- is in partnership with the state and the Nature Conservancy.
This effort will also essentially test the effectiveness of using a crop called the seashore mallow to tackle saltwater intrusion. Seashore mallow is a crop that thrives in salty soils.
“It has multiple benefits. It not only keeps those lands economically productive, but it also provides environmental benefits like carbon sequestration, filtration of sediments from water," said Hackett.
Delaware Wild Lands expects the Dead Woods project will finish up before the end of this year, but their larger effort will take from two to four years to finish.
“We’re hoping to not only slow those trends but even reverse them in a couple of areas so we can create more vital and vibrant habitat," said Hackett.