Lopatcong Watershed Enhanced Through Teamwork and Creative Partnership

With financial support from the William Penn Foundation and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, New Jersey Audubon has partnered with the NJ Youth Corps of Phillipsburg to be an “on-call” work force to perform river bank and wetland restoration and other stewardship activities associated with the Delaware River Watershed Initiative (DRWI).

IMG_7918The NJ Youth Corps is a year-round program administered by the NJ Department of Labor & Workforce Development that helps young adults (ages 16-25) earn a high school diploma while developing employment skills through community service projects. The New Jersey Youth Corps arranges for each member to participate in Service Learning Projects that provide supervised work situations, allowing Corps members to develop skill sets that will support their future employment. For projects associated with NJ Audubon, the Corps participants are being trained in work skills associated with ecological restoration and environmental science.

Through our outreach and conservation planning in the region, NJ Audubon is providing the Corps with Service Learning projects in support of the Delaware Watershed Restoration Initiative. These are projects conducted in partnership with landowners and farmers in three sub-watersheds of the Highlands region: the Lower Musconetcong, Lopatcong and Upper Paulin’s Kill. These projects will help the overall watershed initiative, increasing the pace of project implementation in the field, and the projects will also provide Corps members with valuable employment skills.

Youth Corps members work in a team or "crew" that is led by an experienced Crew Supervisor. NJ Audubon will train Corp members on the specifics of each project and supply materials to implement the work. Each crew works on a project that benefits the community. NJ Audubon’s Delaware Watershed Restoration Initiative projects are focused on improving water quality and wildlife habitat through riparian restoration work. This includes, native plant plantings and invasive species removal among other activities. This partnership will also support the ongoing stewardship aspect of maintaining the functionality of the restoration, a long-term landowner commitment that can be hard to keep up with. Not only will these projects help the overall watershed initiative and get projects implemented faster in the field, but the projects will provide Corps members with valuable employment skills. Working as a sub-contractor for NJ Audubon provides much needed funding to support the Corps training programs, including Waders in The Water training, all while developing relationships with the public to help provide another level of outreach and education about the DRWI.

“The strong partnership NJ Youth Corps has established with NJ Audubon over the past year has been instrumental in our ability to participate in these types of projects, specifically riparian plantings, which is an essential component of a new training initiative called Waders in the Water – a training program in which students receive classroom instruction on ecological restoration projects, and then get to put them to use in the field,” said NJ Youth Corps of Phillipsburg Director, Michael Muckle. “Furthermore, this partnership dovetails nicely with our designation as a 21st Century Conservation Service Corps – part of a bold national effort to put thousands of America’s young people and veterans to work protecting, restoring and enhancing America’s great outdoors,” added Muckle.IMG_7977

During the week of April 7, 2016, NJ Audubon and NJ Youth Corps complemented two stream bank stabilization projects in the Lopatcong Watershed totaling over 1,331 linear feet of bank (installing over 4,000 live stakes). Specifically, NJ Audubon and the Youth Corp performed soil bioengineering practices, which is the use of plant material to arrest and prevent slope and stream bank failure and erosion. The roots and stems of the plants (in this case native willows and button bush ) serve as structural and mechanical elements in a slope protection system.

0008_live-stake-cross-section-diagram-lgLive cuttings and rooted plants are embedded in the ground in various arrays to serve as soil reinforcements, hydraulic drains and barriers to earth movement. Once established, this living material effectively controls a number of stabilization and erosion control problems by binding the soil with its root system and creating a natural, vegetative cover. Bioengineered sites are self-repairing and have the advantage of blending with natural surroundings. All live bioengineering materials for the project were obtained from Ernst Conservation Seeds.

“NJ Audubon is excited to partner with the NJ Youth Corps. This is a key step in promoting and implementing the goals of the Delaware Watershed Restoration Initiative, engaging another conservation partner in water protection activities while providing education and training to a younger generation that will live and work in the region for years to come,” said John Parke, NJ Audubon Stewardship Project Director. “To have trained Youth Corp members come to a work site with the knowledge and skills needed to do the job and do the job right the first time made for an extremely productive use of time and resources. This ensured we were able to install more plants and in a quicker period of time to meet the planting deadlines,” added Parke. “This service that NJ Youth Corps brings to the NJ Audubon work clearly builds capacity in the region for restorationIMG_7901 and stewardship implementation, and embodies what community outreach, education and sustainability for the initiative in the Highlands is all about.  We are so happy to be working with NJ Youth Corps to make NJ a better place for people and wildlife!”

Check out some of the work on a recent project in this video!

NJ Audubon is looking to engage more landowners for enrollment into the various federal conservation cost share programs for forestry/agricultural Best Management Practices, as well as distribute more free native plant materials. However to be eligible to receive free pant materials properties must be located in the following sub-watersheds of the Highlands region (the Lower Musconetcong, Lopatcong and the Upper Paulin's kill sub-watersheds) and must exhibit a degree of ecological impairment. For more information please contact NJA Stewardship Project Director, John Parke at john.parke@njaudubon.org

Photos by Michael Muckle

Diagram courtesy of Ernst Conservation Seeds