Delaware's Legislative Hall Becomes the First Capitol Certified - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Delaware's Legislative Hall Becomes the First Capitol Certified as a Wildlife Habitat

Posted: May 01, 2018 8:09 PM Updated:
Photo submitted by the Delaware State Senate Majority Caucus Photo submitted by the Delaware State Senate Majority Caucus

DOVER, Del. – Environmental advocates and local government leaders gathered today to unveil Legislative Hall as the first state capitol in America to become home to a certified wildlife habitat.

The certification is part of a larger effort to slow and reverse the precipitous loss of Delaware’s native flora and fauna, including dozens of other recommendations from the Ecological Extinction Task Force.

Democratic Sen. Stephanie Hansen, Middletown, Del., said she led efforts to obtain the certification because of state government’s responsibility to lead by example.

“We are calling on everyone to do their part to restore Delaware’s native species and habitats, and that has to begin with us,” said Sen. Hansen, who chaired the Extinction Task Force and sponsored Senate Bill 153, legislation creating a Delaware Native Species Commission. “We have already lost an enormous number of native plant and animal species, and nearly a third of our remaining species are at risk of becoming extinct or extirpated, and one of the greatest culprits is the loss of native plant species at the base of our food chain. The solution is achievable and affordable, but it’s urgent that we change course now.”

The National Wildlife Federation’s Certified Wildlife Habitat program promotes land and habitat stewards who employ sustainable land management practices and provide local wildlife with food, water, cover, and places to raise their young.

Former DNREC Secretary and President and of the National Wildlife Federation Collin O’Mara applauded Delaware’s leadership and highlighted America’s collective responsibility to reverse the nationwide trend of declining native species.

“At a time when monarch populations are down by 90 percent, native bee populations are down by 50 percent, and one-third of all songbirds are in trouble, these are the actions that can make a huge difference,” said O’Mara. “That’s why I was so excited about Stephanie’s intial work on the Extinction Task Force: these little actions add up to big impacts for wildlife. Right now across America, one-third of all wildlife species are in trouble and at potential risk of extinction. Lots of individual actions have gotten us to this point, and the only thing that’s going to bring us back is if all of us do our part.”

Native plant species in particular are profoundly important to wildlife restoration. Research from the University of Delaware’s Dr. Douglas Tallamy shows that 96 percent of terrestrial birds raise their young on insects, and that 90 percent of moth and butterfly caterpillars eat only particular native plants or groups of plants. That hyper-specialization means that adding or removing native plants has an enormous cascading effect on wildlife populations up the food chain.

County Executive Matt Meyer pledged to mirror the state’s efforts in New Castle County.

“By working together, state and local governments, non-profit organizations and everyday residents can reverse the alarming decreases in native plants and wildlife across Delaware,” said Meyer. “I applaud Senator Hansen’s groundbreaking role in driving state leadership in sustainable land management practices.  As one of the state’s largest landowners and regulators, New Castle County is also committed to lead by example, and that’s why we are taking new action to restore native species and habitat across our 6,000 acres of public lands.”

Anne Harper, acting Executive Director of the Delaware Nature Society, stressed that converting lawns and yards into spaces that preserve native species is easier than many may think.

“For over 50 years, Delaware Nature Society has promoted the benefits of native plants,” said Harper. “Native plants are critical to restoring healthy habitats and support our native birds and other pollinators. They also need little to no pesticides or herbicides or constant watering to thrive thereby protecting our local waterways and drinking water sources. Fostering connections between our land use and our drinking water is a primary focus of both the Nature Society and the National Wildlife Federation, and I’m grateful to Senator Hansen for her leadership on wildlife conservation, from today’s Wildlife Habtiat certification to her advocacy for the Delaware Native Species Commission.”

Delawareans can search for native plant species through the National Wildlife Federation’s website at https://www.nwf.org/NativePlantFinder/ or visit the Delaware Nature Society’s annual native plant sale at Coverdale Farm Preserve in Greenville on Sat., May 5 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sun., May 6 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

 

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