Controlled burn aims to provide home for pollinators that have fallen victim to sprawl in Middletown area


State officials hope that a controlled burn last month on a 43-acre former farm field along U.S. Route 301 will aid “Delaware’s first pollinator mitigation site.”

The site will combat the loss of woods and forest that have come with developmentsprawl in the Middletown area.

The Delaware Forest Service conducted a successful operation on March 20 in cooperation with DelDOT and DNREC’s Division of Fish and Wildlife.

Thanks to favorable weather conditions and lane adjustments on U.S. 301 North, the four-hour burn caused minimal disruptions to traffic and virtually no smoke effects on the adjacent Spring Mill housing development.

The new Route 301 toll road is designed to ease traffic congestion in Middletown. The tolls have drawn fire and led to crackdown on heavy trucks using rural roads in neighboring areas of Maryland.

The Delaware Forest Service uses controlled burn exercises to improve wildfire conditions, increase staff training, and ensure equipment readiness.

Fire also helps aids in land management objectives. Controlled burns are an effective way to complete site preparation for reforestation and help remove invasive plant species.

For the U.S. 301 project, planners concluded that fire was the best way to remove woody vegetation in order to create and maintain an “early successional habitat” favorable to bees and other pollinators. Otherwise, the area would likely revert to forestland, a DNREC release noted.

“The Delaware Forest Service was happy to participate in this multi-agency cooperative project to benefit pollinator and wildlife species along U.S. 301. We hope that Delaware citizens and visitors to the First State will enjoy and appreciate this site for many years to come,” said Kyle Hoyd, Delaware’s assistant state forestry administrator who oversees its wildlfire program.

DelDOT’s plans for the Dove Nest Mitigation Sitenoted that “pollinator diversity and prevalence have declined in the Middletown area over the past half century, due in part to lost habitat.

The area is now populated subdivisions with large lawns that sometimes make heavy use of fertilizer and pesticides. Bee populations have also declined.

Pollinators need native, flowering plants and places to lay eggs. Many parts of Delaware that were once agricultural strongholds are rapidly being converted to residential uses leading to fewer fallow fields and marginal areas, where many wildflowers grow, the release noted.

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