NJ Audubon Helps School and Farmer Take Action to Provide Important Habitat for Bird and Pollinator Species

Allamuchy, NJ – A unique collaboration between the Allamuchy Elementary School, a neighboring farmer, the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA), NJ Audubon Society (NJAS) and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has formed to established critical habitat for native wildlife species on the school's ground that also retains agriculture, provides the community with ecological resource benefits, as well as an "outdoor" class room for students.

The Allamuchy Township Elementary School property is located within an ecological and agricultural area of significance in the Highlands region of Warren county. Working with NJ Audubon, the school and the neighboring farmer, Larry Freeborn of Tranquility Farms, enrolled a portion of an agricultural field on the school's property that according to Mr. Freeborn was a "wet" field that had marginal production, into the USDA-Farm Service Agency's State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (S.A.F.E.) Program. SAFE is a voluntary sign-up program through USDA that provide cost share funding for specific conservation practices on land to improve, connect or create higher-quality habitat to promote healthier ecosystems in areas identified as essential to effective management of high-priority species. With the enrollment into the SAFE program, the school then entered into an agreement with the USFWS under their Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program to obtain, for no cost, all native warm-season grass and wildflower seed for the project, as well as several bird nest boxes and native trees and shrubsP7110038 for installation on the grounds.

The main portion of the project consists of planting a 2-acre native meadow consisting of native wildflowers and warm-season grasses, adjacent to Farmer Freeborn's production fields on the school grounds. With the addition of native wildflowers into the meadow planting, the constructed meadow area becomes an important refuge for native pollinators which provide immeasurable value to agriculture, as well as, keeping local plant communities healthy and productive.

According to the National Academy of Sciences, close to 75% of the flowering plants on earth rely to some degree on pollinators in order to set seed or fruit. From these plants comes one-third of humankind's food and even greater proportion of the food for much of our wildlife. Yet now pollinators are in risk due to loss of habitat. Types of habitat that they need, such as early successional grasslands, also are habitats for many other species that are in decline -like the Bobolink.bobolink at Richard's property in Bedminster -grassland enhancement project

“This project is a wonderful compliment to our educational philosophy in Allamuchy – to get students involved in authentic, experiential learning projects that they will remember for the rest of their lives. These projects combine all the best principles of environmental education and stewardship and help our students understand and appreciate the very special environment in which we live. Special thanks go to the Larry Freeborn, USDA, the USFWS, and especially to the NJ Audubon Society for working together to make this happen.” said Timothy Frederiks, Superintendent of Allamuchy School District.

"The Allamuchy School District and Larry Freeborn of Tranquility Farms are demonstrating an exceptional commitment to protecting natural resources in the region." said John Parke, Stewardship Project Director for New Jersey Audubon. "I am fully confident that this project will help the students, and the community, better realize how important both habitat and agriculture are to the region. The fates of farming and habitat in New Jersey are inseparable. So if they are to survive here, the farming and conservation community must work together to develop innovative strategies to promote economically viable farm communities and conservation goals. This project is a outstanding example of this concept".

Photos by John Parke