Reflections on Sussex, The Nature Conservancy and the future

I have been fortunate to have lived in Sussex County my entire life and my family has lived here for generations. Many of us, who have lived here for so long, have seen the county transform from a quiet, rural setting into a place full of new developments and increasingly bustling beaches and towns. The challenge has been, and likely always will be, how do we preserve and protect Sussex County’s natural resources while continuing to increase the county’s economic opportunity for its residents.

In 2021, I was approached by The Nature Conservancy to join as a Delaware/Pennsylvania board member. I’ve thought about it – a lot. There are only a limited number of hours in the day and I like to be careful with my commitments. But what ultimately won me over was the importance of preserving more land in Sussex County and standing up for a better future. TNC is committed to working with partners to advance coastal resilience and climate adaptation, including strategies to conserve additional land, protect human and natural communities, and restore critical habitats for our iconic migratory fish, birds and wildlife.

The work TNC does to conserve land and protect Delaware’s natural beauty isn’t the only reason I joined the board. I also believe in their employees. Natasha Whetzel manages all six Delaware TNC Reservations, which total 5,000 acres and 12 miles of trails. Recently joined as Director of Oceans and Coasts for Delaware, Will Helt has extensive experience managing coastal restoration and monitoring projects. Kim Hachadoorian directs Stream Stewards, a community science program designed to engage people of all ages and backgrounds in watershed management at First State Historical Park. Emily Knearl, Director of External Relations, joined in 2021 with a 25-year career in public policy and partnership building in Delaware, most recently in the areas of environment and public health. And there are many more TNC employees serving in Delaware and Pennsylvania in everything from conservation to volunteer management to communications.

I look forward to working with them and helping to make connections with the many organizations and individuals working to protect the First State’s natural beauty. There is no more important time than today as we work towards a better tomorrow. I remember driving around with my dad as a kid and seeing the natural beauty all around us. I want my grandchildren and their children to enjoy Sussex County as the generations before them did. We must face this challenge together today, tomorrow and forever.

IG Burton is a native and lifelong resident of Sussex County. Four generations have operated a dealership in the Milford area for more than a century. Burton is now retired and serves as a Trustee for The Nature Conservancy Delaware/Pennsylvania Chapter, a member and Chair of the Board of Directors of Bayhealth, a Trustee for the University of Delaware, and a member of the Delaware Council on Transportation.