A Forest for the Future

Student planting an Atlantic white cedar seedlingNew Jersey Audubon, teachers from the Toms River School District, and more than eight hundred middle school and high school students have just planted a new, 13-acre Atlantic white cedar stand at our Hovnanian Sanctuary in Berkeley Township.

We’ve written about work at our 513-acre sanctuary before, but the creation of the Atlantic white cedar forest is an event we’re extra pleased with. Atlantic white cedar forests have declined in New Jersey and throughout the Eastern Seaboard, with only an estimated 20 to 25 percent of their original extent remaining. These forests grow in wet areas and provide excellent habitat for a number of rare and endangered plant and animal species, including Pine Barrens treefrog, Hessel’s hairstreak, barred owls, curly-grass fern, and swamp pink. It is essential to manage and restore Atlantic white cedar systems to ensure the stability of these species.NJ DEP Commissioner Bob Martin planting with kids

In a collaboration between NJ Audubon and the Toms River School District, eight hundred students from grades 6 through 8, participated in the four-day event, planting more than 10,000 seedlings. They received help from Toms River High School advanced placement science students who have been studying Atlantic white cedar throughout the school year. These seedlings, most less than a foot tall, will take decades to develop into a mature forest. We hope that the students who helped us plant them will visit the site over the years to check on their progress, and that they will bring their own children to visit the forest someday.

During the four-day event, in addition to planting trees, the students spent time in the field learning about Pinelands flora, fauna, soils, and hydrology. They also were able to learn about careers in conservation from NJ DEP Commissioner Bob Martin, Brian Corvinus and Greg McLaughlin from the NJ Forest Fire Service, Eric Schrading from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and Jim Dunne and Courtney Compton from the NJ Division of Forestry.Students walking to Atlantic white cedar planting site

students plantingFunding for the restoration project has been provided by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, the U.S. Forest Service, New Jersey DEP’s Critical Habitat fund, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the William Penn Foundation. The education portion the project was funded by The National Park Foundation and the Trust for Public Land with support from the Toms River Regional School district.

Thanks to all of our many partners and volunteers for helping us complete this restoration effort!

Written by Jean Lynch