Returning to the Forest

by Victoria Spice, Restoration Project Manager

As the holidays come to an end and we are forced to fully embrace the winter months, warmer thoughts of spring are certainly welcome. Especially, when they involve creating 62 acres of habitat for spring migrating songbirds, butterflies, and other pollinators that flourish within the Inland Bays Watershed.

This spring, the Center will be busy implementing 3 major reforestation projects. Scheduled for Friday, March 29th and Saturday, March 30th volunteers will help to plant over 3,800 seedlings within the Assawoman Wildlife Area in Bethany off of Double Bridges Road. Prior to reforestation efforts, the site was farmed and used recreationally for hunting. By converting to a native mixed hardwood forest and pollinator meadow, the site will no longer require heavy use of fertilizer thereby directly reducing nutrient loads and improving water quality.

Volunteers work hard during a reforestation project at the James Farm in Fall 2018.

This project along with the others was selected using our Watershed Reforestation Model, a watershed approach to identifying both publicly and privately owned agricultural lands that would significantly reduce nutrient loads and improve wildlife habitat within the State’s most rapidly urbanizing watershed. Parcels were “ranked” based on factors such as proximity to small streams, proximity to the Delaware Ecological Network, proximity to groundwater recharge areas, proximity to already protected natural areas, etc.

The second volunteer planted project will take place on Saturday, April 6th at a County Landfill buffer site off of Dorman Road in Angola. In addition to the conversion of 7 acres from crops to forested area, 4.8 acres of interior forest will be created. Interior forest is the unfragmented portion of forests that sensitive species rely on to nest and find refuge.

Forestland in Delaware has experienced a rapid decline in recent years. Historically, this loss stemmed from conversion to agriculture but is now mostly the result of residential and commercial development and associated infrastructure. According to the 2016 State of the Delaware Inland Bays, from 1992 to 2012 upland forests decreased by 14 square miles in the Inland Bays watershed.

Reforestation is more than a feel-good opportunity: It’s important work that protects and extends vital habitats in our watershed.


Lastly, the final project will be a conversion of cropland to 20 acres of mixed hardwood forest and 8 acres of pollinator meadow within the Delaware Department of Natural Resources Midland Wildlife Area. This project will be contractor planted due to its large size and lack of accessibility of volunteers.

In total, these three projects will reduce 906 lbs of nitrogen and 22 lbs of phosphorus from entering waterways each year. Over 44 acres of interior forests will be created and 67,766,799 lbs of carbon will be sequestered over the next 20 years. Over the next few years, the remaining 8 projects within the Watershed Reforestation Plan will be implemented, helping to achieve the  Pollution Control Strategy for the Inland Bays Watershed.

If you’d like to learn more about upcoming reforestation projects or volunteer, please contact

Posted Under: Staff Blog