Contact: Joanna Wilson, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902
DNREC Division of Fish & Wildlife announces
addition to Sussex County’s Midlands Wildlife Area
Conservation partnership with Delaware Chapters of
National Wild Turkey Federation helped secure acquisition
WESTERN SUSSEX COUNTY (April 13, 2016) – With the Delaware spring turkey hunting season in full swing, DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife – in “calling out” to the future of the increasingly popular sport – today announced the recent acquisition of 650 acres of sprawling woods and fields in western Sussex County as part of the Midlands Wildlife Area. The newly-named West Tract expands the Midlands Wildlife Area, which sits within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, to more than 4,000 acres – all managed for wildlife habitat and public hunting. This year – if a hunter’s name was drawn in a preseason public lands turkey hunting lottery – that would include the opportunity for bagging a gobbler in some of Delaware’s best wild turkey habitat.
Funding for the acquisition of the West Tract at Midlands Wildlife Area came from the Delaware Open Space Fund and a private donation from a key conservation partner, the Delaware Chapters of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), whose mission is to promote Delaware’s hunting and land preservation heritage to the benefit of native wildlife, including the wild turkey.
“Conserving this substantial tract is part of the ongoing landscape-level initiative to protect the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, a collaborative effort involving federal, state and local governments alongside non-government conservation partners such as the National Wild Turkey Federation,” said Division of Fish & Wildlife Director David Saveikis. “It is fitting that this acquisition was made possible with the help of one of our long-term conservation partners, the Delaware Chapters of the Wild Turkey Federation – which history will credit for having worked with the Division in the early 1980s to reestablish Delaware’s wild turkey population as one of the state’s great success stories for wildlife conservation.”
The donation from NWTF’s Delaware chapters stems from the organization’s ongoing national initiative, “Save the Habitat, Save the Hunt,” intended to protect and enhance 4 million acres of upland habitat, introduce 1.5 million new people nationwide to the sport of hunting and create hunting access to 500,000 acres of land nationwide. The Delaware chapters have drafted a strategic plan for their role in the initiative that involves working with the Division of Fish & Wildlife and other agencies over the next decade to conserve or enhance 11,000 acres of wildlife habitat in the First State, help maintain hunter numbers at current levels and create 1,000 acres of new public hunting access.
The timing of the Midlands acquisition fits perfectly with NWTF’s local and national initiative’s goals, noted Bob Eriksen, a certified wildlife biologist retired from the organization: “The acquisition of a large tract of land of this quality occurs rarely in Delaware – and this property is already ideal wild turkey habitat, consisting of mature hardwoods interspersed with agricultural fields,” Eriksen said. “This property, along with other public lands in Sussex County, provides a great chance to begin development of a landscape level program to enhance habitat by connecting well-managed public and private lands and creating a core area of suitable habitat. Expanding the public land base assures the future of not only wild turkey habitat, but also additional wildlife habitat that helps secure our hunting tradition.”
Tom Spangler, past chairman of the National Wild Turkey Federation’s Delaware Board of Directors, said NWTF’s Delaware members are committed to supporting “Save the Habitat, Save the Hunt,” by actively fundraising from annual banquets for projects such as the Midlands acquisition. “Facing the overall loss of habitat across the country, we are determined to do our part to ensure that more habitat is preserved for future generations here in Delaware,” Spangler said. “On behalf of the NWTF’s Delaware Board of Directors, I’d like to thank our membership for their support on this purchase, and encourage them to continue their efforts to meet our conservation goals.”
The new Midlands tract includes older growth hardwood trees, relatively undisturbed wetlands along a stream, a portion of the Pepper Branch tributary to the Broad Creek and Nanticoke River system, and some actively farmed agricultural lands. Sussex County Wildlife Area Manager Rob Gano said the leased farm fields have been reconfigured to allow for future wetland restoration work along a ditch system and to create space for future tree and warm season grass plantings.
“We have the opportunity to establish early successional habitat – maintained grasslands and young forest areas that provide food and cover for wildlife – along the edges of the farmed fields,” Gano said. “The addition of this tract also allows for enhanced public access, helps protect water quality and conserves the landscape in rural western Sussex.”
Established in 1973 to perpetuate populations of wild turkeys on suitable ranges for the use and enjoyment of the American people, the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) is dedicated to the conservation of the wild turkey and the preservation of our hunting heritage. The NWTF is actively involved in wild turkey research and promotes sportsmanship ethics, hunting safety, wildlife conservation and conservation education on public and private lands for its more than 250,000 members as well as the entire hunting community. For more information, visit www.nwtf.org.
The Delaware Chapters of the NWTF raises more than $10,000 annually and allocates more than $7,000 annually in NWTF funding in partnership with the Division of Fish & Wildlife for conservation, law enforcement, land management, research and a variety of projects, as well as programs for youth, women, and disabled persons. For more information on NWTF-DE, visit www.nwtf.org/delaware.
In 1990 the Delaware Land Protection Act established the Delaware Open Space Program to oversee the protection and purchase of state lands as fish and wildlife areas, parks, state forests, nature preserves and cultural sites.
Follow the Division of Fish & Wildlife on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DelawareFishWildlife. Vol. 46, No. 123