Another year in the critical “decade to deliver” is behind us. Both locally and globally, 2021 was an important year for conservation and the broader environmental movement. Explore the stories below to learn how TNC and our partners in Pennsylvania and Delaware are working to conserve the lands and waters vital to the health, wellbeing and sustainability of both people and nature in our region.
From the Executive Director
Making a Measurable Difference
Last year, TNC established a set of global 2030 goals representing the most ambitious conservation agenda in our 70-plus-year history to tackle the dual crises of climate change and biodiversity loss. These goals are intentionally aligned with goals set by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) so that TNC has the most significant impact on a durable future for all forms of life on Earth.
Within this framework, the PA/DE chapter established a three-year strategic plan, with local actions grounded in the places identified by our science and ambitious outcomes that will add up to make progress toward TNC’s organization-wide 2030 goals. The Nature Conservancy of Pennsylvania & Delaware is poised to make a significant, measurable difference for both nature and people.
In this annual impact report, we have organized information and accomplishments around our chapter’s new set of priorities, outcomes and direct actions that have and will continue to result in an outsized impact across our two states. None of that impact would be possible without our dedicated supporters, volunteers and staff. We know that by working together and sharpening our focus, our local actions will bring about the changes we want to see in the world.
Making an investment in The Nature Conservancy of Pennsylvania & Delaware is a tangible way to make a measurable difference for a stronger tomorrow. Join us to be part of the most remarkable success story in the planet’s history. We are grateful for your support.
Since The Nature Conservancy’s founding in 1951 much has changed, but one thing has remained constant—the passion and dedication of TNC’s supporters and staff. In this “decade to deliver,” we are in a once-in-a-generation moment to effect change, and our collective passion and dedication will be more important than ever.
TNC is bringing an enhanced focus and energy toward a set of ambitious, organization-wide 2030 goals created to tackle the dual crises of global climate change and biodiversity loss. Given TNC’s 70-plus-year track record of success, I’m confident that we will deliver.
Last year, my first as Board Chair of the Pennsylvania & Delaware chapter of TNC, we kicked off a thoughtful and ambitious strategic planning initiative. It was a collaborative, comprehensive process that included chapter staff, trustees and professional consultants. The overarching questions that we started with were:
- What are the greatest impacts that we can have on nature and people in Pennsylvania and Delaware?
- What can we do in Pennsylvania and Delaware that will provide the greatest contributions toward TNC’s global 2030 goals?
With those guiding principles in place, the subsequent planning process led to a new strategic plan under which we are now operating for the next three years.
This impact report includes highlights and accomplishments from this past year, plus information about new projects, programs and partnerships that will be launched in 2022—none of which would be possible without you! I encourage all readers to stay engaged and informed as TNC's Pennsylvania & Delaware chapter forges a new path in its journey to protect the lands and waters on which all life depends.
Your dedication, commitment and support will help us all continue to rise to the challenges of the moment and forever positively change the trajectory for all life on our planet.
2021 Impact Report: What's Inside
Discover how we're making a difference in Pennsylvania, Delaware and beyond
Stretching from Alabama to Canada is one of the most resilient, diverse and carbon-rich landscapes in the world—the Appalachian Mountains. Originally inhabited and stewarded by many Indigenous nations and communities, this region is now home to more than 22 million people who depend on it for their health and livelihoods.
Given our geography in the center of this continental-scale ecosystem, our chapter plays a critical role in TNC’s grand vision for continental conservation across the Appalachians.
The Appalachians were selected by TNC as one of four global focal places—and the only one in North America—that present an exciting opportunity to identify the “Best in Class” approaches for how we work together to expedite progress toward the organization’s 2030 goals.
Together with partners and TNC colleagues across the region, we can conserve one of the most important ecosystems in the world.
Delaware Bayshore and Seascape
Coastal marshes and wetlands are some of the most diverse habitats in the country. Around the Delaware Bay and up and down the Atlantic Coast, these brackish wetlands occupy a sliver of space where saltwater mixes with freshwater that drains from the land.
The coastline of Delaware supports more than 50,000 acres of highly resilient coastal wetlands that support an enormous array of biodiversity. Conserving these habitats is a national responsibility, with Delaware serving as a vital home for spawning horseshoe crabs and migrating red knots. Coastal wetlands, dunes and maritime forests not only play an important role as wildlife habitat, but they also serve as a green suit of armor against rising seas and intense storms.
Delaware River Headwater
The upper Delaware River is known for its extensive forests and high-quality headwater streams and wetlands. The Delaware River watershed is a 13,500-square-mile system that provides clean drinking water for 13 million people. TNC has had a major presence in this landscape—which harbors the highest concentration of globally rare plants and animals in Pennsylvania—for more than 60 years.
Across the Delaware River Basin, TNC also plays an important role in the management and conservation of migratory fish. Building on an already strong foundation, we will continue to work with partners across the watershed to improve fish passage, fishery management and water quality so that migratory fish conservation in the Delaware River Basin can be held up as a model to the world.
The Delaware River watershed is home to the largest cities in both Pennsylvania and Delaware. Accelerating the use of nature-based solutions in our cities will create more equitable, climate-resilient urban communities. Improving our aging stormwater infrastructure while expanding urban green space will benefit both the Delaware River and the mental and physical well-being of the people who live where our work touches down.
By prioritizing urban conservation in Pennsylvania, Delaware and across the country, TNC is demonstrating a recognition that successful conservation efforts are inextricably linked with equity and social justice.
We completed the first major Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) in support of the Philadelphia Water Department’s Green City, Clean Waters program. TNC partnered with the Holmesburg Baptist Church and Christian Academy in Northeast Philadelphia to implement a series of green stormwater retrofit projects that will capture stormwater runoff and improve water quality in Pennypack Creek and the Delaware River.
TNC is also a proud partner of the South Wilmington Wetlands Park, a project more than 10 years in the making which will soon be open to the public. This project has reengineered the neighborhood’s aged plumbing to separate 36 acres of combined storm and sanitary sewers, while at the same time restoring a former industrial brownfield to a thriving wetland habitat.
In 2021 the PA/DE chapter was announced as the recipient of a significant grant from the William Penn Foundation (WPF). With this WPF grant, TNC will create a neighborhood-scale model for greening solutions, in targeted sub-watersheds of the Delaware River, with a focus on communities that face legacy problems rooted in the nation’s history of racial discrimination in housing and urban planning.
Chesapeake Bay Watershed
Like Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon, the Chesapeake Bay is a national treasure. The six-state Chesapeake Bay watershed is home to 18 million people—a population that has more than doubled in the past 50 years. Despite this population growth, and thanks to persistent conservation efforts by a legion of partners including TNC, the health of the Chesapeake Bay is actually improving, but there is still a lot of work left to reach our goal of cleaner, healthier Bay waters.
The Susquehanna comprises 43 percent of the Chesapeake Bay’s watershed but contributes 60 percent of the nitrogen load to the Bay. Those excess nutrients fuel the growth of algal blooms that lead to low oxygen “dead zones” that are harmful to fish, shellfish and other aquatic life.
To build on existing progress with the Chesapeake Bay restoration process in the upper reaches of the watershed, TNC in 2021 hired Regenerative Agriculture Specialist Brian Campbell and Restoration Specialist Dr. Jonathan Niles to work with local farmers and partners to improve the health of Pennsylvania’s and Delaware’s waterways.
The improvements we make to our waterways not only provide benefits to the people and nature that live nearby, but also export those benefits downstream to the Chesapeake Bay.
Climate, Energy and Policy
Pennsylvania is a major contributor to the pollution that causes climate change: The state is ranked fifth in the country for carbon dioxide emissions. The Keystone State is also the largest net exporter of electricity in the country, supplying power to many states within the regional grid. Actions to reduce Pennsylvania emissions and to encourage our elected leaders to prioritize climate action are essential to overall success in the United States.
Pennsylvania continued its path to joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). We appreciate the efforts of our Trustees who engaged with their state senators and state representatives to voice support for this important climate action. We also applaud the 600-plus members of the TNC community in Pennsylvania who contacted their elected officials through our action center page outreach and emails.
Although Delaware’s emissions footprint is considerably smaller than Pennsylvania’s, pressure from rising waters, increased flooding and rapid land development create a favorable policy environment in the First State on climate and clean energy to contribute to meaningful greenhouse gas reductions in the region.
With 25 years of experience working in Delaware, Emily Knearl was hired in 2021 as our new Delaware External Affairs Advisor. She has engaged elected officials, government agencies, community members and nonprofit partners on important matters related to environmental policy, budgeting and planning.
Stewardship and Management
When TNC acquires a parcel of land, we commit both legally and ethically to steward that land. The chapter currently manages more than 74,000 acres via 31 nature preserves and 46 conservation easements across Pennsylvania and Delaware. Of those 31 nature preserves, 14 are open for public recreation, where our stewardship actions not only enhance the visitor experience but also place public safety as a top priority.
Our preserves also provide engagement opportunities for hundreds of dedicated volunteers from across Pennsylvania and Delaware. Whether it’s helping with trail maintenance, installing bird houses or planting trees, our volunteers are a huge asset to help us accomplish tasks both big and small.
Prescribed Burning Heats Up
Working with Fire
Last year, our staff led and participated in numerous prescribed burns in Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland, working across state lines to achieve bigger regional impacts.
Members of our PA/DE burn team participated in prescribed fire operations with partners, including the Pennsylvania Game Commission, Pennsylvania Bureau of State Parks, Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry, Delaware Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bucks County Wildland Crew, and TNC colleagues in Maryland.
Fifteen burns on 1,300-plus acres were led by Chapter staff on TNC and partner lands in Pennsylvania, and our team assisted on a 435 acre-burn at TNC’s Nassawango Preserve in Maryland, as well as a 1,200-acre aerial ignition burn on State Game Lands #57 in northeast Pennsylvania.
In our ongoing efforts to restore a native mixed pine and hardwood forest at the Ponders Tract of our Pemberton Forest Preserve in southern Delaware, we successfully burned 188 acres of former loblolly pine plantation.
In March 2021, we burned 78 acres, and the November burn of 110 acres was particularly notable for the PA/DE fire team because TNC staff from the MD/DC chapter’s fire program joined in the burn, bringing their ignition drone to help with the day’s tasks. This new technology allows for a trained staff member to ignite the fire remotely, saving staff time and improving the efficiency of the burn. This was the first time that we used an ignition drone for a controlled burn in Delaware.
We also conducted a 43-acre grassland burn in March at Middleford North Preserve. This burn will help maintain the scrub-shrub habitat, a declining habitat type with open fields that is important for American woodcock and Northern bobwhite. An additional 12-acre burn at the Preserve in the fall was burned for the first time in 2018. Altogether, we conducted prescribed burns on 243 acres of TNC-owned lands in Delaware in 2021, the most we’ve ever accomplished in a year in the First State.
2021 Volunteer Program Impact
Making a Difference
Volunteers have been critical to TNC’s success since its founding, and we are delighted that our ranks of volunteers continue to grow.
Below are just a few examples of the work that our dedicated volunteers—including people like you—accomplished in 2021.
- Contributed 3,822 hours of service to improving TNC preserves in Pennsylvania and Delaware and cleaning up partner-owned lands.
- Maintained 50 miles of trails.
- Helped build a new trail at the Tannersville Cranberry Bog Preserve in the Pocono Mountains.
- Through our partnerships with the Heritage Conservancy and DCNR in Pennsylvania, as well as the National Park Service in Delaware, hundreds of volunteers removed 3,420 pounds (1.7 tons) of trash from the Delaware River watershed during service days in celebration of Earth Day and National Public Lands Day. In total, TNC hosted 11 successful volunteer workdays—seven in PA and four in DE.
- The Stream Stewards planted 150 native trees and shrubs along Ramsey Run in First State National Historical Park in Delaware. The program also welcomed three new Stream Stewards community scientists.
- Twenty-two iNaturalist users collected 369 observations at nine preserves, bringing the total observations to 3,277 and 1,400 species identified across our two states.
- A new crew of volunteers joined us in southern Delaware, assisting with reforestation and trail maintenance at the Edward H. McCabe Preserve and Pemberton Forest Preserves.
- Incredible rock work and trail improvements were completed at the Hamer Woodlands at Cove Mountain by members of the Susquehanna Appalachian Trail Club.
2021 At A Glance
Aging Dam Removal Complete
In late 2021, TNC staff and contractors removed the failing 128-year-old O’Conner Reservoir Dam from obstructing Sterry Creek on TNC’s Dick and Nancy Eales Preserve at Moosic Mountain. In 2022, the chapter’s freshwater conservation team will turn its attention to the stream restoration, which will include a combination of minor human intervention and simply letting nature take its course as the stream recovers to a more natural state. Explore the Preserve
Green Stormwater Infrastructure Project Complete
In 2021, we completed the first major Green Stormwater Infrastructure project at Holmesburg Baptist Church—an historic property in the Pennypack Creek watershed. This marks an an important milestone in Philadelphia’s Green City, Clean Waters campaign Greening our Cities
New Preserve Monitoring App Launched
Our volunteers are our secret weapon. In 2021, we launched an app that our volunteers can use to help keep the chapter informed of issues on our public preserves, such as downed trees on trails, vandalism, ATV use and other maintenance issues. Learn More
AWE Fellow Engages Wilmington Community
This summer, our Stream Stewards program hosted its sixth Alliance for Watershed Education (AWE) Fellow to support outreach, education and volunteerism in the Brandywine- Christina Watershed. Saada Wing, the chapter’s 2021 AWE Fellow, spent the summer working with TNC and First State National Historical Park staff to shape and implement community engagement strategies. Saada engaged with local students and represented TNC and AWE at Wilmington’s first annual ShadFest on the Brandywine.
Transfer of 68 Acres Helps Expand Kings Gap State
Last year, TNC was proud to transfer 68 acres of land to Kings Gap State Environmental Education Center in Cumberland County, PA, expanding the park to nearly 2,600 acres. The the property contains several vernal pools—vital to the lifecycle of amphibians, such as frogs and salamanders—and a section of Kings Gap Hollow Run, which has a native brook trout population. Explore Kings Gap
Expanded the Hamer Woodlands at Cove Mountain by 1,100 Acres
In early 2021, we closed on a land deal to expand the Cove Mountain Preserve. The purchase of 1,200 acres of land adjacent to the existing preserve quadruples its size and—most importantly—fills a gap between existing conservation lands, creating a 14-mile stretch of protected land along the Kittatinny Ridge, helping to ensure this chain of forests will remain connected and resilient into the future. Explore Hamer Woodlands at Cove Mountain
A Limited Opportunity
This opportunity will be available to the first 20 Legacy Gifts in 2022.
For more information about planned giving options, visit Nature.org/Legacy and let us know you would like to take part in the challenge.
2022 Legacy Challenge
What if you could leave a legacy for tomorrow and support work for nature today?
The Nature Conservancy’s ability to take on global challenges and projects of enormous scope has been made possible by Legacy gifts for decades. Today we are facing the most complex challenges of our lives and there is critical work to be done now and for generations to come. That’s why two generous donors have come together to create the Legacy Fund. For a limited time, you can make a difference for nature now and in the future.
- Name The Nature Conservancy in your will, or as a beneficiary to a trust, retirement plan, or insurance policy OR protect nature’s future with a planned gift that provides income to you for life.
- Let us know of your plans.
- An immediate $1,000 gift will be released to The Nature Conservancy in Pennsylvania & Delaware in honor of your Legacy.