Adopt-A-Wetland Program Turns 20

by Dave on May 10, 2010

Over the last two decades, more than 3,000 Delawareans of all ages have joined the Delaware Adopt-A-Wetland Program to care for thousands of acres of our state’s treasured wetlands. On Saturday, May 8, DNREC staff and some of those adopters gathered at the site of the program’s 100th adoption in Frederica to celebrate the continuing success of Adopt-A-Wetland.

“The Delaware Adopt-A-Wetland Program began as a way to encourage grassroots environmental stewardship in our communities to help care for one of Delaware’s most vital natural resources. It was developed to increase public awareness about the many benefits our wetlands provide and to enlist volunteers to help monitor and protect them for the future. Today, the program is one of DNREC’s great success stories, and a wonderful example of what a public-private partnership can achieve,” said DNREC Deputy Secretary David Small.

Delaware Adopt-A-Wetland got its start in the late 1980s as the inspiration of a retired chemist and small farmer named Dot White. Concerned about the impact of her farm on the environment, Ms. White drew on her scientific background to research the best way to reduce that impact – and discovered the importance of wetlands.

Wetlands maintain and improve water quality by removing chemicals, filtering sediments and absorbing organic pollutants. These areas between land and water also control flooding by absorbing excess water; hold water in times of drought; stabilize soil with marsh plant roots to reduce erosion; provide habitat and breeding grounds for fish, birds and other animals; provide us with a rich harvest of products, from timber and salt hay to food gathered from hunting, fishing, crabbing and trapping; and offer recreational opportunities such as canoeing, kayaking, hiking, birdwatching and photography.

Ms. White launched her idea in 1989 with the adoption of a site at Records Pond near Laurel by a local school and soon gained the support of DNREC to start the Adopt-A-Wetland program. Since then, individuals and families, youth groups such as schools, scout troops and 4-H, service clubs and organizations, homeowners associations, and businesses of all sizes have adopted wetlands. The program’s 100th adoption, of a wetland on the edge of the town of Frederica, was made by a group of DNREC employees in the Division of Water Resources’ Subaqueous Lands Section.

Adopters may apply with a site in mind or ask that one be chosen for them. With guidance and support from the AAW Program, adopter activities can include cleanups, trail work, plantings and restoration work, plant and animal surveys, wildlife and bird watching, erecting nest boxes, monitoring water quality, removing invasive plants, monitoring reptiles, amphibians, fish and other invertebrates, habitat enhancement projects and more.

To learn more about the Adopt-A-Wetland Program and how you can adopt a wetland, please contact Program Coordinator Marlene Mervine at 302-735-8652 or email

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