The Call of the Wild
The local chapter of The Nature Conservancy has helped protect and preserve thousands of acres of wild lands in Delaware. And its mission continues.
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The local chapter can receive what amounts to a bridge loan, with a very favorable interest rate, from the national office of The Nature Conservancy. Then, when the public entity has received all the necessary approvals, the DNC is able to turn the land over to the public entity and be reimbursed, then move on to the next project.
Once the land is acquired, it often must be reclaimed from invasive plant species like phragmites. Along with climate change leading to rising sea levels, this reed-like perennial grass is cited by Jones as a leading threat to much of Delaware’s natural habitats.
John Graham has done battle with phragmites, and he’s come out on top. “We maintain a very aggressive invasive plant control program,” says Graham, as he and Andy Manus continue wading through the Milford Neck marsh. “We have a great collaborative conservation success story down here. Delaware Wild Lands, The Nature Conservancy, private landowners, the state of Delaware have all worked together on beating back phragmites on the marshes. Once you’ve seen a marsh that had 90 percent to 95 percent of phragmites on it, crowding out everything, and you watch the marsh recover, it’s unbelievable.”
Fourteen years ago, at the age of 37, Graham abandoned a career in commercial landscape construction to attend UD as a returning adult student. He graduated cum laude in 1999 with a degree in entomology and a concentration in wildlife conservation, then went to work for the DNC. Places like this are why he changed careers.
He pauses, taking in the new trees and shrubs growing on this reclaimed ground. Then, with just a touch of pride, he says, “You wouldn’t even know it’s the same marsh.”