Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar joined Delaware Governor Jack Markell, Senator Tom Carper and other state and local leaders to launch the Delaware Bay Initiative, a partnership with the state, tribes, local communities and other stakeholders to boost conservation, outdoor recreation and tourism on Delaware's "Wild Side."
The initiative is part of President Obama's America's Great Outdoors initiative to establish a 21st century agenda for conservation and outdoor recreation built on partnerships and community-driven efforts across the country.
"While we have already achieved a great deal together in protecting 60 percent of the Delaware Bayshore, we still have a lot of work to do if we are going to conserve this region in the face of pressures like climate change, sea level rise, and human development," Salazar said at a kickoff event near Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge. "This initiative reinforces our shared commitment to protect the region's clean air, clean water, coastal marshes and beaches, and agricultural lands, all of which support jobs and a vibrant recreation and tourism economy."
"The Bayshore Initiative builds on Delaware's reputation as a unique and beautiful natural resource and boosts our economy. The initiative is encouraging more Delawareans and visitors to enjoy the state as a world-class birding and wildlife-watching destination," said Governor Markell. "I want to thank Secretary Salazar, our federal partners, bayshore communities, and the many organizations working collaboratively. Together we ensure we are conserving and protecting the Delaware Bayshore and its wild and scenic landscape for future generations."
"The Delaware Bay shoreline includes precious coastal marshes, farms and forests that are home to many diverse species, spectacular views, and great recreational opportunities," said U.S. Sen. Tom Carper. "The Delaware Bayshore Initiative will help our continuing efforts to protect these lands for generations to come, while encouraging Delawareans and visitors to the First State to get outside and enjoy these beautiful natural treasures. Protecting and highlighting these valuable lands provides growth opportunities for tourism -- one of our state's largest employment sectors. As part of the America's Great Outdoors Initiative, the Delaware Bayshore Initiative is a great way to bring awareness to the wildlife and recreational opportunities that exist just outside Delawareans' front doors."
The goal of the Delaware Bayshore Initiative is to confront the challenges faced by the region with a strategic, coordinated and dedicated effort across land ownerships and jurisdictions. It will engage tribes, local communities and other stakeholders in efforts to conserve, protect and restore important lands and waters; promote recreational uses such as hiking, kayaking, hunting and fishing; improve recreational access within the region; and support and market ecotourism opportunities.
"No single entity, whether federal, state, local or private, can achieve the goals of America's Great Outdoors alone," Salazar said. "We can only succeed if we work together, with the support of local communities and other partners, and under this initiative, we will."
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will be the Interior Department's lead agency overseeing the partnership. The Service manages Prime Hook and Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, protecting 26,000 acres within the Bayshore region.
The refuges are important economic engines in the local economy since the region is within a three-hour drive of 30 million Americans and each spring and fall, hosts a spectacular migration of shorebirds. For example, Prime Hook generates $3.5 million and 31 jobs supporting the local economy. Sixty percent of the visitors to Bombay Hook refuge drive an average of 175 miles to get there.
The Bayshore Initiative builds on existing collaborative efforts such as the Atlantic Coast Joint Venture, a model public-private conservation partnership.
Since 1992, the Joint Venture has funded five projects under the North American Wetland Conservation Act grant program with more than $4 million, matched by $7.6 million in partner contributions, to conserve important areas for migratory birds and other wildlife in the Bayshore Initiative area. The Joint Venture also supported the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife's acquisition of the 194-acre Thousand Acre Marsh with more than $800,000 in National Coastal Wetlands Grant funds.
The Fish and Wildlife Service provided more than $2.6 million in Sport Fish Restoration funding to renovate and upgrade the Cedar Creek Boat Ramp in Sussex County. The State provided $880,000 in matching funds for the project. That facility is expected to open soon, improving recreational access and public safety for boaters and anglers.