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Habitat restoration project at Nanticoke Wildlife Area

DOVER – DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife is looking for volunteers to help with ongoing vital habitat restoration work at the Nanticoke Wildlife Area in Sussex County, from 1 to 3 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 7.

Fish & Wildlife conservation staff and volunteers began working in 2010 to restore a four-acre ancient sand ridge forest*, composed mostly of oaks and pines that develop on ridges or dunes. The project’s goal is to re-establish habitat for species such as the frosted elfin, a rare butterfly that depends on wild lupine and wild indigo, both plants primarily found in Delaware’s ancient sand ridge forests. Volunteer work has included clearing and thinning large canopy trees, propagation and planting of native sand ridge plant species, monitoring planted and newly grown plant species across the ridgeline and surveying for evidence of rare insect species.

On Dec. 7, volunteers will be removing pre-cut trees, limbs and logs. The work involves bending, lifting and possible use of handsaws and loppers. Work gloves, hand saws and loppers will be provided, but volunteers may bring their own. Volunteers should wear sturdy shoes or boots, and are encouraged to dress in layers based on the weather.

Volunteers will meet at the entrance gate to the Nanticoke Wildlife Area on Red House Road, just off of Woodland Ferry Road, south of Seaford and close to Bethel. (Click to view map) Volunteers for this project must be at least 15 years old. Those under the age of 18 must provide a parental consent form. An adult must accompany volunteers under the age of 16.

For more information or to sign up for this wildlife area project, please contact Lynne Pusey at 302-735-3609 or email lynne.pusey@state.de.us. Volunteers are strongly encouraged to pre-register with contact information in case of inclement weather leading to postponement.

*Ancient sand ridge forests – Habitats consisting of sand ridges or dunes that occur along the southern and eastern shores of the Nanticoke River and its tributaries – are identified as Habitats of Conservation Concern in Delaware’s Wildlife Action Plan. The sand ridges are remnants of ancient dunes that formed through glacial movements thousands of years ago. These communities have suffered over the years from logging, conversion to pine plantations, natural succession, fire suppression and disturbances, including off-road vehicles and deer browse. Restoration and/or enhancement of this habitat is crucial to many of Delaware’s species of greatest conservation need as listed in the Delaware Wildlife Action Plan, such as the frosted elfin. For the last four years, the Mt Cuba Center, a botanical garden with a focus on native plants, education and research near Wilmington, has partnered with the Division of Fish & Wildlife to propagate wild lupine from seed collected near the restoration site for spring and fall plantings to restore the natural habitat of the frosted elfin and other unique species.

For information about other volunteer opportunities with the DNREC Division of Fish & Wildlife, as well as parental consent forms, maps and directions to volunteer project sites, visit www.fw.delaware.gov/volunteers.