Posted on April 5, 2022
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service will be receiving dozens of proposals to improve the Delaware regional watershed this week from environmental groups, non-profit citizen organizations, even churches with environmental stewardship teams.
The Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund is a $9.7 million conservation program to restore and protect Delaware’s bay and shorelines. With the new funds from the infrastructure law, the funding increases to $14 million in 2022.
“We are looking for targeted, nature-based solutions and projects to develop green infrastructure,” said Michael Slattery, landscape conservation coordinator for the North Atlantic and Appalachian region of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. “In terms of natural coastal areas, we seek projects that buffer these communities which are often hit by storm surge.”
The addition of $4.9 million of the bi-partisan infrastructure program money from the Biden Administration means a full $26 million over the next five years for special improvements. According to Fish & Wildlife, “these are nature-based infrastructure programs to improve wildlife habitat and sustain natural systems in the face of climate change.”
“The DWCF request for proposals has language on local capacity building,” said Slattery. “We are really trying to emphasize organizations and communities to support environmental justice.”
The new rules permit all organizations to submit for conservation funding in the Delaware basin and watershed. In the past, environmental groups had to bring “matching funds,” usually at a dollar-for-dollar ratio to the Fish & Wildlife-supported DWCF. Now, the “funding is available to non-profits and communities in need.”
“This really brings down the barrier to entry” for Delaware watershed funding. “The National Wildlife Federation is one organization which has brough faith-based groups to Delaware watershed conservation, including clean-up programs.”
The Sacred Grounds Program in Wilmington involved installing pollinator gardens and engaging Communities of Faith for plantings and upkeep of butterfly or bee natural gardens.
“Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester is on-fire about being supportive in the area of environmental justice,” said Slattery. “She has been just a tremendous supporter of ensuring EJ is in the equation.”
Slattery also cited the American Littoral Society as a group that provides beach replenishment projects for active citizens.
“ALS is working on beach replenishment in areas for horseshoe crab nesting,” said Slattery. “Their teams are righting the coastal geomorphology where it has been disturbed.”
This year, the Service will make $14 million dollars available — up from $9.5 million last year — to fund projects in four priority areas: reducing flooding and runoff, restoring fish and wildlife habitats, improving water quality, and enhancing safe recreational access for the public.
The 50-percent increase in funding from 2021 is thanks to new funds made available through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which provides an additional $26 million over the next five years.
“The additional funding is critical if we are to accelerate support for innovative projects that use nature-based infrastructure to improve wildlife habitat, sustain ecological functions in the face of climate change, and directly engage communities,” said David Eisenhauer, public affairs specialist for U.S. Fish & Wildlife.
Since 2018, the fund has awarded $26.6 million to 123 projects, which generated $46 million in matching funds from these conservation groups, for a total conservation impact of $72.6 million for the Delaware region.