A partnership for posterity: Delaware Highlands Conservancy and Eagle Institute take wing

Posted 2/19/09

UPPER DELAWARE REGION — Two organizations with complimentary missions have announced they will combine forces, resulting in an even more effective achievement of each one’s long-term work to …

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A partnership for posterity: Delaware Highlands Conservancy and Eagle Institute take wing

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UPPER DELAWARE REGION — Two organizations with complimentary missions have announced they will combine forces, resulting in an even more effective achievement of each one’s long-term work to conserve the natural resources of the Upper Delaware region. The Delaware Highlands Conservancy (DHC) has embraced the opportunity to bring the Eagle Institute (EI) under its wings and into its nest, to the benefit of both highly successful organizations.

The EI is the Upper Delaware region’s premier organization for the protection of eagles and the stewardship of their habitat. The DHC is the region’s foremost organization for the conservation of healthy lands and waters and has protected over 13,000 acres to date. Both share a conservation vision vital for thriving wildlife habitats, for the health and quality of life of the region’s residents and visitors, and for the success of the region’s locally sustainable economies, including its important outdoor recreation and ecotourism industries.

Formalizing the partnership will expand the capacity and leverage the resources of both organizations by combining the efforts of dedicated members, volunteers, and supporters. The partnership will enhance the protection of the region’s iconic eagle and the healthy lands and clean waters upon which eagles depend.

The EI, a non-profit volunteer organization founded by its executive director, Lori McKean in 1998, has reached nearly 50,000 people with its educational efforts on behalf of eagles and habitat stewardship. The DHC, also a non-profit organization, was founded by Barbara Yeaman in 1994 and works in partnership with landowners and communities to conserve the region’s natural heritage and rural quality of life.

At a press conference held on February 10, McKean announced the merger, describing it as an effort to “increase our capacity, leverage our resources and grow both organizations.”

DHC executive director, Sue Currier added, “The expanded role that we’ll be able to play, bringing together the passion, not only of the members and supporters and volunteers of the EI, partnering them up with the support and infrastructure that we have with the DHC, is really going to energize both groups to make a difference.”

Greg Belcamino, DHC president and board chairman described the opportunity as a perfect fit. “We have congruent missions, our members share interests, we’ll be able to combine resources and get more done. One interest of the EI is in protecting eagle habitat and we are in the business of land protection.”

The EI will run as a project of the DHC and become a committee chaired by McKean. It will continue to operate its winter field office in Lackawaxen, PA to offer eagle education programs and to provide on-site assistance for eagle watchers.

Sean McGuinness, superintendent of the National Park Service (NPS) Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River applauded the move. "We are excited to continue to work closely with these good people to conserve our natural resources, and educate the public as to why it's so important to assure our lands, waters, and wildlife habitats are protected,” he said. “Together they will be even stronger in providing leadership in effective and intelligent conservation in our region."

McKean recognized the partnership that EI has enjoyed with the NPS and said that will continue with the shared agreement that currently allows EI to conduct programs from December through March at the winter office. “It’s a great partnership and a wonderful location in the heart of wintering eagle habitat,” she said. “We’re very lucky to have the NPS here and the protected and private lands on both sides of the river.”

To protect land, the DHC uses a tool called a conservation easement (CE). “The terms of an easement allow us to protect the natural resources that are there,” said Currier. “We have a few easements with nesting eagle pairs, and they are designed to continue to protect that habitat. We also do CE’s that protect working farmlands and forestlands, because those are also important to the quality of life here. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle and we want to keep the pieces in place.”

“Most easements allow for limited and sensitive development while protecting the most important ecological, scenic or habitat aspects of the property that the landowner wishes to protect,” added Belcamino.

McKean pointed out that the top threat to eagle survival is loss of habitat. “We’re not talking about the one tree or one acre where the eagle has built its nest,” she said. “A species like the eagle needs a very large area of undisturbed trees and clean water. The DHC’s conservation tools help to conserve a part of the habitat. When you put the pieces together, you create corridors for wildlife to move through. Eagles need to live with people, but we need to cut down on fragmentation and provide large areas where they can still thrive.”

For more information, visit www.delawarehighlands.org, www.eagleinstitute.org, call 570/226-3164 or 845/583-1010, or email info@delawarehighlands.org. S

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