Conservation is a Collaborative Effort

Earlier this Spring NJ Audubon Conservation Department staff along with staff of the Natural Resource brook trout Gilmore holdingConservation Service (NRCS) and Trout Unlimited participated in the re-vegetation of a stream corridor as part of a Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) project. Several hundred native willows, donated by Pinelands Nursery & Supply of Columbus, NJ and shrub dogwoods, supplied by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), were planted along a 0.37 mile (~2,000 feet) stretch of the Pohatcong Creek for bank stabilization and habitat purposes. This section of the Pohatcong is a Category One Trout Maintenance Water, meaning this waterbody has been designed by NJDEP as having exceptional water quality that is important to all residents, particularly to the many communities that depend upon surface waters for drinking water supplies and fish production. In particular, New Jersey's only native trout, the brook trout (the NJ State Fish), use these waters for breeding and other parts of their life cycle.Slide3

What makes this particular project such an outstanding example of "conservation in action" was the persistency of NRCS to rectify a resource that was in peril for years, the level of commitment to implement the project by the new landowner, Dr. Calvin Shen, and immediate support from numerous agencies' staff, volunteers and conservation organizations to come out and lend a hand when needed.

Several years ago the site was the location of what was known as the Willever Lake Dam site. Prior to Dr. Shen's obtaining the property, NRCS had attempted numerous times to enroll the property into a conservation program because extreme siltation had occurred at the dam structure, which impeded fish passage and lead to degraded water quality. Specifically, the siltation lead to water levels to become shallow, which then lead to water temperatures becoming elevated. With that, native wetland and aquatic plants were then soon outcompeted by the non-native invasive Chinese water chestnut. The influx of water chestnut lead to decreases in dissolved oxygen in the water, thus the area provided little to no biodiversity or suitable habitat for fish and other wildlife. For a site that was listed as being a Category One Waterway, the dam structure in its previous condition was putting the water resource in a state of extreme peril.

After Dr. Shen became the new owner of the property, NRCS again reached out to offer assistance and education to the new landowner about the detriments that the dam was having on the water quality, wildlife habitat as well as NJDEP Dam Safety compliance. Through NRCS and a commitment from Dr. Shen,P3150002 restoration funding was secured, the site was entered into WHIP and engineering plans were designed by the RBA Group to breach the dam, provide better soil erosion and sediment controls, address the invasive vegetation and habitat restoration plans were implemented. The news of this project spread quickly through Great Blue Heron at Saxton Fallsthe environmental community with members of Trout Unlimited and New Jersey Audubon immediately responding to NRCS' request to help with the re-vegetation of the newly exposed stream corridor. Almost immediately the wildlife returned to the site with sightings of brook trout and small-mouth bass found in the creek during restoration activities, as well as great blue heron and belted kingfisher. With the breach of the dam, approximately 8 acres of low quality standing water was now exposed, creating a floodplain which now could again provide critical habitat, as well as flood-storage area during storm events as it once did before the installation of the dam structure.

NJ Audubon's mission specifically promotes preservation of New Jersey's valuable habitat and it also promotes a conservation ethic among our citizens and protects all wildlife, not just the birds. That said, NJ Audubon would like to congratulate and say thank you to Dr. Shen, NRCS, USFWS, NJDEP, RBA Group, Pinelands Nursery & Supply and the members of Trout Unlimited for their incredible efforts to restore a very special stretch of the Pohatcong Creek which now has added critical habitat and valuable water quality improvements to the region!Slide2

NJ Audubon is very proud to have assisted with the project and it was such an inspiration to see a project of this scope and size bring a wide array of people out to the field and work together for a common goal - conservation of NJ's natural resources!