2006 Delaware WHIP Implementation Plan
WILDLIFE HABITAT INCENTIVE
DELAWARE IMPLEMENTATION PLAN
The following Document requires
- Delaware Implementation Plan (52 KB)
State WHIP plans are developed at least every five years, with updates as
needed, to ensure that resources are targeted to the needs of the highest
priority wildlife habitats.
STATE PROGRAM OBJECTIVES
The broad objectives of WHIP in Delaware are to provide assistance to
participants for the protection, restoration or enhancement of upland wildlife
habitat, wetland wildlife habits, threatened and endangered species, fisheries,
and other types of habitat. This effort is accomplished while educating and
changing public attitudes toward wildlife habitat management and land
Meeting the objectives of this program required implementation of a variety of
conservation practices which benefit many wildlife and fish species. Although
the objectives of the Delaware WHIP program target specific habitat types for
restoration, other habitat types may also be included in WHIP plans where it
meets state and national priorities. All WHIP objectives and priorities are
presented to the State Technical Committee for input and concurrence.
NATIONAL AND STATE WILDLIFE PRIORITIES
WHIP National Priorities
In order to provide direction to the state and local levels for implementing
WHIP to achieve the objectives, NRCS established the following national
- Promote the restoration of declining or important native wildlife
- Protect, restore, develop, or enhance wildlife habitat of at-risk
species (candidate species, and state and federally listed threatened and
- Reduce the impacts of invasive species on wildlife habitat.
- Protect, restore, develop, or enhance declining or important aquatic
wildlife species’ habitats.
Priorities have been established to address the identified state objectives.
To avoid duplicating the efforts of other USDA programs, emphasis is placed
on the use of WHIP-funded practices in situations where USDA funding is not
otherwise available or has been very limited. WHIP works well to complement
other USDA programs such as EQIP, CRP, and WRP, which provide erosion control,
water quality, and wildlife benefits.
WHIP funding is available statewide, but restoration efforts are especially
promoted in locations where state and federal agencies, conservation
organizations, and local partners have already identified specific restoration
Specific priorities of the WHIP Program in Delaware are to:
Priority 1. Control of invasive species.
Within the last six decades, Phragmites australis has spread rapidly in Delaware
One of the major causes of tidal wetland degradation, especially in fresh or
brackish water areas of Delaware, has been the disruption of natural wetland
hydrology and topography that has allowed phragmites (common reed) invasions to
become monocultures. It has been recently confirmed that inadvertent
introductions from Europe over the past 100+ years of a more aggressive strain
of phragmites has been the primary contributory factor to this species’ rapid
spread, particularly since only a few of the numerous European insect herbivores
that feed upon phragmites have made the trans-Atlantic trip.
This aggressively-growing European strain of phragmites has displaced the less
aggressive native variety, and has out competed natural wetland vegetation
communities thereby creating monotypic stands that are largely impenetrable to
most fish and wildlife, and therefore of marginal value to many marsh dependent
species. Besides out competing beneficial plant species and reducing habitat
heterogeneity, this grass also usurps open-water habitats while providing little
nutritive value to fish and wildlife in live or detritus forms. It is estimated
that about 10-15% of Delaware’s coastal wetlands are now infested with tall,
dense stands of phragmites, and that about 1/3 of the State’s coastal marsh
acreage has phragmites occurrence of some description, in contrast to only a few
percent 50 years ago. The estimate of acreage of phragmites in the state is over
A unique partnership was formed earlier this year when DNREC – Division of Fish
and Wildlife and the NRCS teamed up to offer cost-share assistance to improve
wildlife habitat in private wetlands that have been degraded by the pesky plant,
The acreage will be treated for a minimum of three consecutive years since
phragmites is both fast growing and extremely hardy with an extensive root
system. It has taken over large areas of Delaware wetlands by displacing native
plants that provide better wildlife food and cover. Its extensive root system
holds dormant reeds in place during the winter, which causes a fire hazard.
Priority 2. Restore seasonal, shallow water habitat for migratory waterfowl
Extensive conversion of wetlands to other uses has occurred since the European
settlement of Delaware in the 1600s. Many of Delaware’s wetlands were seasonally
inundated shallow water areas which provided resting and feeding habitat for
migratory birds from late fall through spring. It is estimated that
approximately half of these wetlands have been drained for agricultural
production or filled for residential and commercial development. Protection,
restoration, and enhancement of waterfowl habitats, including seasonal flooding
of active cropland, are identified priorities of the North American Waterfowl
Management Plan and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Region 5.
Throughout the state, there are numerous former wetland areas within
agricultural fields which are potential sites to recreate s seasonally ponded
depressions to provide spring and fall migratory habitat for waterfowl and
shorebirds. Existing cost-sharing programs such as USDA’s Conservation Reserve
Program (CRP), the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), and U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, are able to provide funding
for wetland restoration. However, many farmers are not willing to take cropland
areas out of production, as these programs require. Landowners have expressed a
strong interest in a cost-share program which would allow them to restore
seasonal shallow water areas, while continuing to farm these areas during the
Priority 3. Restore or enhance declining or important aquatic wildlife
Delaware has several programs that address upland and wetland habitat
restoration, including CRP/CREP, WRP, Partners for Fish and Wildlife, and the
Delaware Landowner Incentive Program, but have a limited focus on aquatic
resources due to lack of funding. The WHIP program in Delaware has been able to
provide cost-share to special projects that has greatly accelerated the time
frame to restore valuable habitats.
Three special projects currently funded are restoring eelgrass to the Inland
Bays, restoring historic oyster beds in the Delaware River, and restoring stream
habitat by dam removal on the Brandywine River to improve fisheries and water
NRCS in Delaware has had a longstanding statewide partnership with the Delaware
Department of Natural Resources (DNREC) and US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)
to develop and implement resource management plans on private lands. The partner
agencies have worked successfully together to combine cost-sharing programs from
a variety of federal, state, and private funding sources in order to meet the
resource management needs of landowners.
Delaware DNREC and USFWS provided technical assistance to assist participants
with development and implementation of habitat restoration plans, installation
of practices, operation and maintenance, follow-up, and outreach to potential
APPLICATION RANKING CRITERIA
Ranking of projects will be completed using the National WHIP ranking tool.
Environmental considerations are as follows:
- Wildlife Access: Priority is given for proximity of the WHIP site to
permanently protected conservation areas, as well as to other non-protected
areas (such as forestland, streams, or wetlands) which can provide direct
wildlife access to the WHIP site. Sites contiguous to permanently protected
areas are ranked higher.
- Size of Project: Priority is given for restoring significant amounts of
targeted habitats. Plans which include larger amounts of habitat restoration
are ranked higher.
- Habitat Evaluation Index (HEI) Increase: Priority is given to projects
which will provide a significant increase in habitat values. Plans which
will result in larger increases in habitat function values, as measured by
using the wildlife habitat evaluation procedure, are ranked higher.
CRITERAL FOR MEASURING PROGRAM SUCCESS
Although environmental monitoring of individual projects is desirable, NRCS
does not have the staffing to support such an effort. Therefore, NRCS must rely
on established long term monitoring efforts or on the efforts of partners to
document whether program implementation is benefiting intended species, i.e.,
The North American Breeding Bird Survey or the Amphibian Survey. NRCS ranking
criteria are designed to ensure that the projects with the highest benefits are
selected for funding. The WHIP practice requirements have also been developed to
ensure that wildlife criteria are being met or exceed.
It is essential that selected projects be monitored to evaluate success. The
phragmites, eelgrass, oyster restoration, and river restoration projects all
have detailed monitoring plans in place to evaluate the effectiveness of the
NRCS state office personnel conduct annual field office reviews. Field offices
conduct annual contract reviews to ensure programs and conservation technical
assistance are achieving their intended purpose and conservation practices are
properly applied and maintained. Also, feedback from field staff, partners, and
landowners are used to determine if the program is successful or where
improvements can be made.
NRCS management tools, including Protracts and Performance Results System (PRS),
are used to evaluate program implementation, including timely installation of
practices and use of contracted funds.
More recently, the DNREC Watershed Assessment Branch has been conducting rapid
biological assessments on restored, created and enhanced wetlands that were
funded through the CREP and WHIP programs.