The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Jeff Ruch (202) 265-7337

Highway Agency Breaking Federal Laws on Delaware Refuge

DelDOT Committing Criminal Wildlife Offenses in Refuge Road Construction


The Delaware Department of Transportation is violating federal
wildlife laws in its road construction work on the Prime Hook National
Wildlife Refuge, according to a criminal complaint filed today by
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). "DelDOT" is
ditching, draining and building culverts on the refuge to benefit a
state legislator who owns adjacent land.

State Representative V. George Carey, former chairman of the Natural
Resources Committee, has pressed DelDOT to ditch and drain the county
roads next to his property to protect it from storm surges and prevent
saltwater intrusion on his farmland. Unfortunately, the work on Fowler
Beach and Prime Hook Beach Roads diverts saltwater into the refuge's
freshwater impoundments that are vital to migratory waterfowl - the
very purpose of the refuge. In addition, the work has degraded the
water quality and integrity of nearly 4,000 acres of freshwater

"Refuges are supposed to be sanctuaries for wildlife not sandboxes
for state legislators," stated PEER Staff Counsel Christine Erickson,
who filed the criminal complaint. "The fact that a violator is a state
highway department does not immunize it from the obligation to comply
with federal law."

The PEER complaint to the law enforcement arm of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service cites DelDOT for -

  • Violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act by destroying
    habitat of the federally threatened Piping Plover, the state endangered
    American Oystercatcher, as well as the Red Knot, Ruddy Turnstone, and
    nesting Bald Eagles; and
  • Violating the Endangered Species
    Act by significantly degrading habitat for the Delmarva Fox Squirrel, a
    federally listed endangered species.

In addition, federal wetlands violations have been reported to the
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers which has directed DelDOT to restore some
of disturbed areas.

"We do not know whether Prime Hook Refuge management was complicit
or simply clueless about what was going on," added Erickson, noting
that the work has been going on for months and is hard to miss. "The
fact that wildlife violations were occurring on a national wildlife
refuge should be reviewed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and
its parent agency, the Department of Interior."

The criminal offenses specified in the PEER complaint carry hefty
penalties: Intentional violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act is a
felony subject to fines up to $500,000 per violation and up to two
years in prison. Unintended violations can bring fines up to $15,000
per count and prison terms up to six months. Knowing violation of the
Endangered Species Act is also a felony, punishable by a fine of up to
$50,000 and up to one year imprisonment. All other violations are
subject to a fine of up to $25,000 per offense and up to six months


Read the PEER complaint

Look at other recent resource violations on Prime Hook

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.