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Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program (CELCP)


Blackbird Creek Reserve 

What is the Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program (CELCP)? The program was created by Congress in 2002 to protect coastal and estuarine lands considered important for their ecological, conservation, recreational, historical or aesthetic values. The program provides state and local governments with matching funds to purchase significant coastal and estuarine lands, or conservation easements on such lands, from willing sellers. Lands or conservation easements acquired with CELCP funds are permanently protected so that they may be enjoyed by future generations. 


Why should we preserve coastal and estuarine lands? These areas are of highest importance to both humans and wildlife – they shield and buffer us from coastal storms; offer natural flood control; filter pollutants to maintain water quality, and provide waterfront access for recreation. Our coasts also harbor an abundance of fish and shellfish that support both commercial and recreational fisheries. Additionally, coastal habitats provide nesting and foraging areas for shorebirds and other migratory birds. Coastal and estuarine lands support many animal and plant species, including rare, threatened, and endangered species.


How is the coastal and estuarine land conservation program funded? CELCP funds have been awarded through both a nationally competitive process and Congressional appropriations, or earmarks. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has developed CELCP funding guidelines to be followed by states seeking competitive awards.


To obtain funding under this program, each state must draft a CELCP Plan, outlining its priority conservation areas. Coastal and estuarine land protection in Delaware is of critical importance. These areas contain the best habitat, highest biodiversity and are threatened by the state's high rate of property development. CELCP offers an opportunity for Delaware to compete on a national level for funds to acquire properties or interests therein for permanent protection. 


Delaware’s CELCP Plan



Blackbird Creek ReserveThe Delaware Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program (DE CELCP) Plan was developed in cooperation with existing land protection efforts in the coastal region to allow the state to participate in the national program as administered by NOAA. The DE CELCP Plan identifies conservation focus areas for land acquisition that tailors the national program to the state’s coastal conservation needs. Delaware’s Plan also gives clear guidance for the nomination and selection of land conservation projects within the state.

This plan was developed through a process of interagency coordination and public involvement. The Delaware Coastal Programs (DCP) coordinated and hosted two public meetings in 2007 to explain the CELCP and the plan development process. Participants received an overview of the program, legislative history and were invited to provide comments. All state government organizations that are authorized to acquire land or interests therein were provided information about CELCP and were invited to participate in the plan development process.

The Delaware Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program Plan -  Final version


Properties Purchased


Over $7 million in acquisition funds has been awarded to the State of Delaware through the Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program. 


Fiscal Year 2006


In 2006, the first property to be purchased with NOAA’s CELCP funds was the 163.87-acre Ellingsworth Tract of the Blackbird Reserve Wildlife Area. The site contains mature forest with non-tidal wetlands throughout and is a clear example of Delaware’s natural landscape. Delaware Coastal Programs received $1.4 million in CELCP funds for this acquisition. 

Fiscal Year 2007

Delaware Coastal Programs submitted three proposals to the national competitive process and NOAA selected two projects for funding eligibility totaling $5.7 million. A 360.18 acre property near the headwaters of Blackbird Creek has been purchased along Eagles Nest Road, and negotiations are pending to acquire a second 200-acre property. Both contain important freshwater wetlands and a wide mature forest cover. The Eagles Nest Tract, along with the Ellingsworth Tract purchased with CELCP funds in 2006, will become a new 523-acre state wildlife area managed by the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife.

Fiscal Year 2008
Three proposals were submitted to NOAA in Fall 2006 -
Fiscal Year 2008 CELCP Competitive Funding Opportunity. These proposals are currently being reviewed and ranked in the national competition for funding.

For more information about Delaware's CELCP Plan, please contact Molly Ellwood at (302) 739-9283, or by email


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