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Group 2 Delaware River Watershed Initiative


A Distant View: Maine to the Delaware

I know the question that pops into your mind after viewing this photo of the Schuylkill and Delaware cradling the amazing city of Philadelphia. It’s summer, Jonathan! We’re just recovering from a heat wave and the temperatures are supposed to start climbing again!

Simple: it takes me back to the beginning of LightHawk’s work in the Delaware River watershed and the promise of an amazing collaboration of conservationists working to protect this amazing river system. It also is my chance to send an aerial image that might, in some small way, lower the temperatures. I’m from Maine and when the temperatures go north of 80 with humidity, we start to get grumpy. So I’m pretty grumpy.

A few weeks ago I had lunch with three great DRWI conservation partners: Eric Olsen of The Nature Conservancy, Jeanne Ortiz of Audubon Pennsylvania, and Danielle Wolfrum at the Land Conservancy of New Jersey. I was struck by their passion, and their success stories. I was experiencing firsthand the creative landscape of conservation colleagues with all of their imagination, smarts and love for these lands and waters.

These moments of clarity and creativity are priceless and they are everywhere! They happen with our funders at William Penn Foundation, with partners at the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed, and in the views I see when I take people up in the LightHawk planes.

These conversations and the stories are key to changing perspectives.  When we are able to experience first hand the view of the Maurice River watershed as it empties into Delaware Bay, or the Christina east of Wilmington, or the Schuylkill as it flows under Route 95 past the shipyard, or over the Paulinskill with shad returning once again, we add to our understanding and invest in our collective environmental legacy.

When I’m asked about LightHawk’s work across the Delaware River watershed, I’ve always explained it like this: I’m not a pilot, though I come from a family of naval and Marine Corp aviators and have been wrapped in the fabric of flight for as long as I can remember. I’m a conservation biologist, a former park ranger and a father of two amazing lads. I do not live near the Delaware, but I care about the health of its water and lands.  My family drinks its water. I want the Delaware Watershed clean, healthy and safe. And I love to bring people into the skies to see its beauty and vulnerability.

I fly to protect the Delaware for my sons, my possible grandsons and granddaughters, and even for those I will never have the opportunity to talk with face to face.

By Jonathan Milne

Eastern Program Director, LightHawk