NJ Audubon Wins Ecological Excellence Award for Second Year in a Row

For the second consecutive year the New Jersey Audubon Stewardship Department was awarded the Firman E. Bear Chapter of the2015 SWCS Award addressing Stormwater Soil & Water Conservation Society’s Ecological Excellence Award.  The award is given annually to an individual or organization that displays excellence in an ecological restoration project, unique soil and water conservation project, or innovative habitat development or enhancement project.

The NJA project that was selected this year was the design and construction of several rain gardens at a community center in East Orange utilizing former abandoned dry wells planted with native vegetation. Each rain garden utilized native plants that were representative of regions around the state (i.e. Highlands Region, Piedmont, Pinelands, etc). Each rain garden was then outfitted with an interpretive sign that outlines the region/habitat of NJ it represents and its purpose and water quality benefit. Ultimately the rain gardens collect water from the roof of the facility whereupon rather then discharge directly onto the city streets, the water is allowed to seep slowly into the soil via the vegetation planted in each garden which acts as filtering mechanism.

NJA Stormwater Interpretive signAlthough many cities are required to mark storm drains inlets with messages reminding people that they are connected to local water bodies, it is always a uphill battle to create awareness of how runoff impacts a community's ecological health. With these rain gardens in place they will act as models for visitors to learn how they can divert their roof leader downspouts to create a beautiful garden that would improve local water quality while creating a beautiful natural area that can attract wildlife and help make our cities more attractive places to live.

These gardens help solve water resource challenges in a friendly and comfortable atmosphere and teaches the community about the importance of protecting and creating green spaces in their urban cities and hopefully create a sense of wonder and appreciation for wildlife and natural systems. The project provides the physical visual experience in the five concept categories for conservation education: Habitat; natural communities; ecosystems; human ecological impact; and stewardship, all the while reinforcing the concept that rain gardens are an important way to make our cities more attractive places to live and will build urban ecological health through multidisciplinary water resources education and management.

We received several excellent applications for the award,” said Stephanie Murphy, Ph.D., Chapter President of the Soil and Water Conservation Society. “But the review committee felt NJA’s project stood out because of the high impact of conservation in the urban neighborhood. The outreach efforts, educational value and relative beauty of the project certainly will encourage other individuals and groups to follow their example and have beneficial results for people and the environment,” added Murphy.

New Jersey Audubon would like to express sincere gratitude and appreciation to the Firman E. Bear Chapter of the Soil & Water Conservation Society, as well as, Pinelands Nursery and the committee for selecting our project for the award and the Chapter for continuing to support and encourage science-based conservation practice, programs, and policy. We also would like to thank the US Fish and Wildlife Service Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, the NJ Corporate Wetlands Restoration Program and the Metro YMCA for their support and assistance with the project.

Addressing stormwater runoff is just one of the many environmental issues that New Jersey Audubon is working on to make NJ a better place for people and wildlife. Be it in urban/suburban areas, agricultural regions, or NJ’s wild lands, clean water is under attack from numerous stressors and we need your help. Through funding received from the William Penn Foundation and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, NJ Audubon is currently seeking landowners and farmers in the Lower Musconetcong River, Upper Paulin’s Kill River and Lopatcong River Sub-Watersheds of the Highlands region of New Jersey, as well as in the Kirkwood-Cohansey Aquifer region of Southern NJ, who are interested in potentially receiving funding and technical expertise focused on water quality improvement practices and implementation of agricultural and forest Best Management Practices. For more information please contact john.parke@njaudubon.org for the Highlands region and jean.lynch@njaudubon.org for the Kirkwood-Cohansey region.