A small branch with leaves pokes out of the top of a white tree tube in a field.
Tree tubes at McCabe Preserve Young trees grow out of tree tubes at a reforestation site at McCabe Preserve. © John Hinkson/TNC
Stories in Delaware

What Does Land Conservation Mean?

Successful conservation requires science-based management and stewardship. Learn how we’re ensuring a healthy future for Delaware’s lands.

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) has been acquiring and protecting more than 31,000 acres of land across Delaware since 1990 and leading large-scale conservation efforts that protect the lands and waters critical to the health and well-being of both people and nature.

When TNC acquires a parcel of land, we commit both legally and ethically to steward that land in perpetuity. Whether we’re planting trees to restore forests, conducting controlled burns to ensure vibrant grasslands or working with volunteers to remove invasive species, we consider the impacts our choices will have on wildlife, local communities and the people who visit our preserves.

Our stewardship actions not only enhance the visitor experience but ensure our preserves stay resilient in the face of a changing climate.

Our Work 

To achieve our stewardship and management goals, we focus on three critical pillars: Protection, Restoration and Collaboration.


We are prioritizing landscapes strategically and investing in lands/opportunities that provide the maximum contribution to our mission.

A view of a body of water surrounded by trees with orange and yellow leaves.
Protecting Lands We are prioritizing landscapes that expand and connect existing public lands in our priority landscape regions to provide the maximum benefit to our mission. © Yaprak Soysal

Land Protection in Delaware

By the Numbers

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    Total Acres Protected

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    Nature Preserves

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    Conservation Easements

Our Priority Landscapes

Several small brown and red birds wade in shallow water.
Red Knots Delaware’s coastal habitats support globally important biodiversity including the Federally Threatened Red Knot. © Deb Felmey

Delaware Bayshore

The coastline of Delaware supports more than 50,000 acres of highly resilient coastal wetlands that support an enormous array of biodiversity. These wetlands have been identified as having the physical characteristics that increase their likely resilience to sea level rise.

Delaware’s coastal beach and dune habitats support globally important biodiversity including the largest concentration of spawning horseshoe crabs in the world whose eggs support the 9,000-mile migration journey of the Federally Threatened Red Knot. Coastal saltmarshes provided critical habitat for commercially important species in Delaware such as blue crab and striped bass.

Places We Protect Near the Delaware Bayshore

Explore some of our preserves in this priority landscape

A sun sets over a body of water, creating a yellow and orange reflection.
Milford Neck Preserve A view of the Delaware Bay from our Milford Neck Preserve © John Hinkson/TNC


Utilizing the expertise and relationships our land stewards possess to restore and increase biodiversity at our priority landscapes.

One person kneels in a field holding a tree tube while another person standers beside them looking down at the ground.
Restoration From reforestation to prescribed burning, restoration work helps educate and inspire our partners, supporters, visitors and local communities. © John Hinkson/TNC

Restoration efforts are ongoing at our preserves across Delaware. Over the past few years, TNC in Delaware has led several restoration projects to improve the lands and waters of our great state. From reforestation to prescribed fires, this work is helping educate and inspire our partners, supporters, visitors and local communities.

Several small trees poke out of plastic green tree tubes lined in rows in a field.
Growth Update Trees begin to grow and green at the reforestation site in 2022. © John Hinkson/TNC


We have been working diligently across our preserves in Delaware to restore and reforest lands with native trees creating protection, food and habitat for Delaware’s native wildlife.

Our efforts have involved planting 7,150 native trees and shrubs at our Middleford North Preserve to restore 22 acres of former agricultural lands, planting more than 159,000 hardwood tree seedlings at our Milford Neck Preserve as an effort to create healthy and resilient coastal forests, as well as planting 11,700 native shrubs and trees at our McCabe Preserve to restore 39 acres of former farmland back to native forest.

A person stands in a field in yellow fire gear near an orange flame.
Burning at Ponders Tract An active burn being carried out by staff at Ponders Tract in Pemberton Forest. © Jenny Case/TNC

Prescribed Fire

Prescribed fires are a proven way to restore our forests. By managing the natural process of fire on the landscape instead of preventing it, we can improve habitats for native plants and animals and reduce the risk of out-of-control wildfires.

During prescribed fires on our Delaware preserves, the low-intensity flames can knock back fire-sensitive species such as red maple and sweetgum and reduce the number of pine saplings growing in the understory, allowing more sunlight to reach the forest floor.

The increased sunlight paired with the burning of the underbrush also helps set the stage for the return of native grasses, forbs and wildflowers—many of which haven’t been seen in abundance in the years prior to prescribed fires.

Using fire in the right places and at the right times can not only mitigate dry conditions and enhance healthy forests that attract diverse wildlife but also support local livelihoods and help reduce threats to public safety.

A person wearing fire-protective gear walks away from vegetation that is burning during a prescribed fire.
Fueling the Fire A designated ignitor fills in the unit with fire. © Stephen Ruswick/TNC
A hand holds a tablet with a view of a map in front of them while walking along a trail littered with orange leaves.
Preserve Monitoring Land Stewards use their field tablet to walk the trails of a preserve and report their findings. © Emily Tramontano/TNC

Preserve Monitoring

As an accredited land trust, we perform annual monitoring at our preserves. Monitoring allows us to track and identify the wildlife on our lands while simultaneously allowing us to look for threats to the resilience or conservation integrity of the land after a restoration project is complete. 



A large blueberry bush with several green leaves and small round blue berries.
Staggerbush Staggerbush (Lyonia mariana) is a low-lying shrub found in coastal areas, preferring moist sandy or peaty soils and plenty of sun. © James Gaither/Flickr


Working with state and federal agencies, local land trusts and partners to drive conservation actions well beyond the borders of our lands.

Two people in matching fire outfits stand in a field of burned black grass while two other people walk around the burn perimeter.
Collaboration We work with state and federal agencies, local land trusts and others working in conservation in Delaware to enhance our shared capacity for tangible, lasting results. © CreativeNature

Our conservation impact is magnified when we work together. TNC works with state and federal agencies, local land trusts and others working in conservation in Pennsylvania to enhance our shared capacity for tangible, lasting results. 

A view from the forest floor toward to sky of several tall trees against a bright blue sky.
Atlantic White Cedar Delaware’s largest Atlantic White Cedar has been discovered at The Nature Conservancy’s Pemberton Forest Preserve. © The Nature Conservancy

Delaware Land Protection Coalition

TNC staff are founding members of the Delaware Land Protection Coalition (DLPC). Formed in 2022, the DLPC is a group of conservation-focused organizations from across the state committed to increasing open space in the First State, focusing on natural lands, including cultural, historical and recreational resources, protected through acquisition or conservation easement.

The Coalition seeks to expand land conservation by identifying new sources of funding for land conservation, increasing our partnership with the State, working collaboratively to develop a statewide vision for conservation and continuing the work of each of our respective organizations. 

A small fire burns in a field in front of a tree line and 3 people dressed in yellow fire gear.
Prescribed Burn at Middleford Prescribed burns are a proven way to restore our forests by improving habitats for native plants and animals and reducing the risk of out-of-control wildfires. © Natasha Whetzel/TNC

Delaware Prescribed Fire Council

TNC is a director organization of the Delaware Prescribed Fire Council (DPFC), and Delaware Stewardship Manager, Natasha Whetzel, acts as the council Vice Chair. The DPFC works to protect and promote the Delaware prescribed fire communities' right to responsibly utilize prescribed fire; and to exchange information, techniques and experiences as well as promote public understanding of the importance and benefits of prescribed fire as a natural resource management tool. The goals of the DPFC include: 

  • Promote and protect the safe and responsible use of prescribed fire.
  • Promote the public understanding of the benefits of prescribed fire.
  • Promote the development and utilization of locally appropriate prescribed fire practices and protocols to safely achieve desired environmental and ecological resource management goals with minimal impact to the public.
  • Engage local, state and national prescribed fire issues and concerns and promote effective solutions.
  •  Provide a framework for communications related to prescribed fire objectives, techniques and issues.
  • Disseminate technical information on prescribed fire and its application.
  • Support the training and education of landowners and land managers who implement low complexity prescribed fire on private property.