Wildlife and clean water in Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, and New Jersey got a boost last year when the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act passed and was signed by the President. The National Wildlife Federation, its affiliates, and partners led the charge to pass this critical piece of legislation, and as spring takes hold I wanted to share my top ten list of wildlife that should get excited about this landmark legislation:
- Red Knots
The act will establish a first-ever basin-wide strategy for conserving the resources of an area that supplies drinking water to 15 million people and contains national parks, historic sites, and a globally important refuge for migrating shorebirds such as the Red Knot. The red knot depends on horseshoe crab eggs to survive and the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act will help better conserve the precious shorelines on which the horseshoe crab relies. So as the red knot makes its 9,300 mile migration, it can be sure its favorite way-station, the Delaware Bay, is safe and protected.
- Bald Eagle
Like the bald eagle that depends on the Delaware River, this law is as American as apple pie. Led by Democrats such as Delaware Senators Chris Coons and Tom Carper and Republicans like Pennsylvania Congressmen Ryan Costello, Charlie Dent, and Pat Meehan, it’s a model of how legislators from both sides of the aisle can work together to protect and water.
- Red Fox
The river and its tributaries flow through nearly a dozen National Parks and historic sites from the Delaware Water Gap to Cape May National Wildlife Refuge, and provides world-class recreational opportunities. Whether you want to float through Dingman’s Ferry, visit the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, or photograph the salt marshes in the Delaware refuges, the DRBCA will help keep our public lands healthy for wildlife like the red foxes seen at Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge.
- Bog Turtle
Our friends at the US Fish and Wildlife Service will take the lead in bringing together businesses, non-governmental and governmental agencies, and scientists from across the region, and the cutest endangered – technically Threatened – specie in country that calls the region home, the bog turtle, will benefit from increased attention to the watershed from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
While bobcats will benefit, everyone knows that cats don’t get excited about anything.
- American Shad
Fish are excited too! America’s founding fish that saved the revolution at Valley Forge, the American Shad, needs our help to get around the dams that dot the Delaware’s tributaries. The DRBCA sets up a grant and technical assistance program that could bring federal money into the region for the first time to help implement local projects that can help boost the numbers of migrating fish, such as the American Shad.
- River Otters
A few years ago a visiting river otter made a splash along the Christina River waterfront in Wilmington. We look forward to a day when otters of generations to come will make regular appearances at waterfronts across the region. Senator Tom Carper agrees: “The Delaware River Basin is an ecological and economic powerhouse for Delaware and our neighboring states. The basin is a vital watershed that contributes $25 billion to our region’s economy and fuels our local communities by supporting jobs in the maritime, agriculture, tourism, hunting, fishing and wildlife industries. This legislation will improve coordination among federal, state, and local partners who work to protect and preserve the basin, and ensure that partners can work together to protect the health of this vital resource for generations to come.”
- Black Bear
“When water flows down a stream or comes out the tap, it doesn’t distinguish between Democrats or Republicans” Collin O’Mara, National Wildlife Federation President and CEO said about the DRBCA. “All Americans, regardless of background or zip code, have a right to expect clean drinking water to flow from our faucets, and we want the waterways that provide our drinking water to be healthy and thriving.”
The basin provides drinking water to over 15 million people (5% of the U.S. population), and even America’s number one threat, bears, deserve clean water according to O’Mara. So as they sleepily awake from their winter’s nap prepared to pillage our nation’s pic-a-nic baskets, perhaps we can offer them a cold, clean glass of water to satiate their appetite.
- Wild Trout
Some of the best fly-fishing in the world can be found in the northern stretches of this watershed. The Upper Delaware’s pristine waters will benefit from more coordination and a renewed emphasis on creating sustainable jobs such as the recreational fishing industry. The basin provides $21 billion worth of ecosystem goods and services each year, and we can create more wealth through this act.
- Ranger Rick
I asked. He’s really excited.
With all this excited wildlife, what’s a human to do? You can make a difference! The elected officials that championed the DRBCA need to hear from you. Without funding, the program may have an impact, but not the kind of impact that will make Ranger Rick hop up and down. We need these leaders to take the next step and fund the restoration program that will keep wildlife healthy and happy.
So take five minutes to reach out to your Congressional Members and let them know how much you care about clean water for wildlife in the Delaware River and waterways.