John McPhee wrote a great book, The Pine Barrens, about the biology, history and people of the pines. He describes things like this….cars that had a purpose and sometimes left where they died. As I recall one individual had stories that, perhaps only important to the teller, went along with his cars. I pass this car on my way to visit a NJ Audubon sanctuary. This property was once privately owned so it wouldn’t surprise me that this car, in the middle of nowhere it would seem, just died and has a story to tell. Go out and experience the Pines. –at NJ Audubon Bartlett’s Branch and Bass River State Forest.
On January 12, 2015 the New Jersey Audubon Stewardship Department was awarded the Firman E. Bear Chapter of the 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 stabilization project, or innovative habitat development or enhancement project.
The NJA project that was selected was the conversion of an existing dilapidated in-ground swimming pool into a functioning vernal pool. “The Ecological Excellence Award is a great way to recognize projects in NJ that are making a difference for the environment. The NJ Soil and Water Conservation Society is proud to honor NJ Audubon with the 2014 award for their innovative restoration project at the Wattles property,” said the SWCS Chapter’s President, Christine Hall. “Our awards committee was impressed with this very unique project and the public awareness component that may lead to the protection of vernal pools elsewhere.”
Vernal pools are confined wetland depressions, either natural or man-made, that hold water for at least two consecutive months out of the year and are devoid of fish. These unique ecosystems provide habitat to many species of amphibians, insects, reptiles, plants, and other wildlife.
The Wattles Stewardship Center site is home to several amphibian species that rely exclusively on vernal pools as breeding areas. With the abundance of vernal pool breeders on site, an innovative proposal was made by NJ Audubon to USFWS under the Partners for Fish and Wildlife program to take the onsite in-ground swimming pool that had become non-functional and convert it into a functional vernal pool. This converted pool serves not only as prime suitable breeding habitat for amphibian species, but is also used for educational purposes to promote the importance and ecological significance of vernal pools. Additional support for the project had also been received from PSE&G, NJDFW and donated native plant materials were provided by the Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership (CWRP).
NJA believes it essential to bring public awareness to vernal pools because although the NJ Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act has been in place since 1989, many vernal pools had been filled because wetlands smaller than 1 acre were exempt from the regulatory protection prior to 2008. Fortunately, we can re-establish vernal ponds that look and function like their natural counterparts, thus, restoring an important component of the landscape.
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. We also thank the Chapter for continuing to support and encourage science-based conservation practice, programs, and policy.
New Jersey Audubon is embarking upon an ambitious effort to restore Northern Bobwhite to New Jersey. According to the data from the Breeding Bird Survey and Christmas Bird Count, the Northern Bobwhite quail has suffered one of the most severe population declines of any North American bird (an approximately 82% decline in the last forty years). This decline, attributed to habitat loss, fragmentation and predation, has also been connected to the significant loss of the young forest habitat. Habitat that is needed for nesting, resting, escape cover, and food resources. States in the southeast, particularly Georgia and Florida, have had success rebuilding quail populations through forest stewardship, including thinning pine stands with mechanical and herbicide treatments in conjunction with prescribed burning. This not only provides the critical habitat needs for Northern Bobwhite, but also benefits other young forest species and increases overall forest health. Since 1996, Tall Timbers Research Station in Florida has shown that through forest stewardship the Bobwhite population was increased 10-fold, reaching as high as two bobwhites per acre in the fall.
Recognizing the similarity in habitat between southern pine forests and the New Jersey pinelands, New Jersey Audubon staff began investigating sites and partners for potential habitat management conducive to Northern Bobwhite restoration. Almost simultaneously, discussions began with the Pine Island Cranberry Co. focused on Corporate Stewardship Council membership. Through discussions with Pine Island NJA learned of the scale of their property and also their efforts to undertake forest stewardship. Pine Island Cranberry owns approximately 17,000 acres in the heart of the pinelands and has been implementing a forest stewardship plan for years. In 2013 NJ Audubon welcomed Pine Island Cranberry as a member of the Corporate Stewardship Council and began specific discussions with them about potential stewardship projects, a requirement of Corporate Stewardship Council membership.
Pine Island Cranberry’s Forest Stewardship Plan emphasizes long-term active forest management on a landscape scale, while enhancing a wide range of forest resources, wildlife habitat, and ecosystem service benefits (e.g., improved watershed heath). “The key to this business is water,” said Pine Island Cranberry CEO, Bill Haines. “The protection of our water supply has protected this business from the beginning. That’s how this family (the Haines family) was raised: if you have a resource, it’s your responsibility to take care of it.”
The Forest Stewardship Plan for the property, developed by distinguished NJ State Approved Forester Bob Williams (recipient of the 2013 NJ Audubon Richard Kane Conservation Award), utilizes a variety of forestry prescriptions and techniques, including prescribed burning and forest thinning. Both techniques help to promote forest regeneration and native herbaceous plant and tree regrowth.
Recognizing the outstanding forest and land management practices at the Pine Island Cranberry site, NJ Audubon initiated discussion about a Northern Bobwhite restoration effort. These discussions included engaging several partners, starting with Pine Island Cranberry Company and Forester Bob Williams, but then quickly expanding to include Dr. Chris Williams from the University of Delaware, Dr. Theron Terhune at the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy and Dave Golden with the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife. While Pine Island Cranberry and Bob Williams had been working diligently for several years on forest stewardship, Dr. Williams had been bringing students to the site to survey birds and other wildlife and was involved in a study of captive rearing and release techniques for quail at a site outside of NJ. NJ Audubon was also aware of the research efforts and depth of knowledge on quail conservation at the Tall Timbers Research Station. Through mutual friends NJA connected all the dots and arranged for Tall Timbers leading quail biologist to come visit with us and tour the Pine Island Cranberry property. Following that site visit and discussions about projects in nearby states, the decision was made to add the Pine Island site in New Jersey to a multi-state initiative to re-establish Northern Bobwhite in the Mid-Atlantic States. New Jersey will have the unique focus of releasing wild quail to the Pine Island Cranberry Property. Other aspects of the multi-state project include testing methods of raising and rearing captive bred quail in other states participating in the initiative, however no captive bred quail will be release in the NJ study.
Beginning in 2015 wild quail will be captured on private land in Georgia, health tested, radio tagged, transferred and ultimately released on Pine Island Cranberry’s property for study. Through the capture and release of 80 wild birds per year over the next three years (total of 240 wild birds) New Jersey Audubon and partners hope to establish a self-sustaining population of wild Northern Bobwhite in the heart of New Jersey’s Pinelands.
Financial support for the project has been generously provided by the Haines Family Foundation and other anonymous donors. To find out more about the project, or to make a donation to the project contact John Cecil (973-262-4981) or Brian O’Leary (908-203-8997 Ext 16). Photos courtesy of Tall Timbers Research Station and University of Delaware.
On October 14, 2014 the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) hosted New Jersey Audubon’s Corporate Stewardship Council’s (CSC) annual meeting at their offices in Trenton. The meeting was presided over by CSC Co-Chairmen, Mr. Ralph LaRossa, President of Public Service Electric and Gas (PSE&G) and Mr. Keith Campbell, Chairman of the Board of Mannington Mills, Inc. In attendance was NJDEP Commissioner Bob Martin who commended members of the Council for another highly successful year and their commitment to ecological sustainability. Commissioner Martin also reiterated the importance of the CSC initiative that affords the private sector an opportunity to take leadership roles in conservation stewardship that provides habitat restoration projects that benefit wildlife species all over the State.
The Corporate Stewardship Council (CSC) is a unique group of 19 New Jersey companies united behind a common goal of environmental sustainability and responsibility. Member companies include co-chairs PSEG and Mannington Mills, as well as Verizon, Johnson & Johnson, DuPont, Atlantic City Electric, JCP&L, United Water, New Jersey American Water, New Jersey Natural Gas, Eagle Ridge Golf Club, Merck, Eastern Propane, South Jersey Gas, Trump National Golf Club-Bedminster, Covanta Energy, New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance, Pfizer and Pine Island Cranberry Company Inc. Ex-officio CSC members are the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).
Each member company works closely with Stewardship Department staff at New Jersey Audubon to evaluate habitat restoration or enhancement potential on its property or affiliated sites. Once identified, they work together to develop and implement a conservation plan intended to improve upon existing conditions and enhance or restore habitat for wildlife and plants. In many cases, work is done specifically for the benefit of threatened or endangered species.
“What separates the NJ Audubon CSC from other habitat restoration or certification programs for big business is that the CSC requires members to perform the necessary stewardship work long after the initial restoration or enhancement activities are performed,” said NJ Audubon Stewardship Project Director John Parke “ It is only trough the continued stewardship of the projects that meaningful results can be obtained”.
Ecological restoration and stewardship of those restored lands are endeavors of public concern, even if it is conducted on privately owned land without public expenditure. A restored ecosystem that is maintained over time provides beneficial natural services well beyond property boundaries. We depend on ecological goods and services everyday for our health, social, cultural, and economic needs. Ecological functions are the base resources that sustain our lives. The sustainability of communities and economies depends upon our ability to restore and steward the ecological functions of our landscapes for future generations, and the members of the CSC are doing just that through their projects.
To see current summary information regarding individual CSC Member Projects go to: http://www.njaudubon.org/Portals/10/Conservation/PDF/2014CSCBrochure.pdf
On September 11, 2014, New Jersey Audubon was presented with the Rutgers Gardens 2014 Distinguished Achievement in Horticulture Award. This award recognizes an individual or group who has made noteworthy contributions in the promotion and stewardship of public horticulture.
“Horticulture plays an important part of connecting people with the natural world,” said John Parke, Stewardship Project Director of NJ Audubon. “Gardening is a great way to engage and empower people to become better stewards of the land and allows them to become intimately familiar with how plants play a vital role in the health and well-being of our society.”
New Jersey Audubon would like to express sincere gratitude and appreciation to Rutgers Gardens and its Director, Bruce Crawford, for the award. Recognition by the Rutgers Gardens is truly an honor especially given Rutgers Gardens leadership and excellence in the art of horticulture that emphasis the relationship between plants, human health and nutrition in the designed, as well as in the natural landscape.
Each year New Jersey Audubon presents its Richard Kane Conservation Award, (named after NJ Audubon’s retired VP of Conservation) to a person(s) that has made a significant contribution to the conservation of birds, wildlife, natural resources and habitat in New Jersey.
On September 13, 2014 the award was presented to Dan and Barbara Todd who exemplify exceptional land management practices and stewardship.
Dan and his wife Barbara own the 132 acre Dardan Farm in Tewksbury, NJ. In 2009 they began partnering with NJ Audubon when they enrolled in NJ Audubon’s Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program Partnership Grant. The goal was to establish grassland habitat for rare and declining birds, but also to establish a biofuel market for the grass. In total Dan planted 66 acres of native warm season grass, 11 acres of cool season grass under a delayed mow regime, and 11 acres of brush management and hedge row removal, optimizing the farm for grassland birds.
Dardan Farm was a pivotal property towards reestablishing native warm-season grass in the region given the site’s adjacency to the Cold Brook Preserve. Comprised of 287 acres, Cold Brook, once a working farm, was acquired by Hunterdon County in 1982 and is the only county parkland in Tewksbury Township. Today Cold Brook consists of fallow and cultivated fields that are important to a variety grassland birds. The habitat creation and enhancement that Dan undertook extended the available habitat from the core patch found at the Cold Brook preserve, providing critical nesting \habitat for Bobolink, Savannah Sparrow, Grasshopper Sparrow, American Kestrel, Field Sparrow, Eastern Meadowlark and Indigo Bunting, among others. These grasslands also provide wintering habitat for birds and other wildlife, including Northern Harrier.
Dan and Barbara’s farm is also a model property for agriculture given the best management practices he has implemented. Dan has worked closely with NJ Audubon, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to optimize the farm for wildlife, soil health, and agricultural production. Further, Dan has been a champion of using prescribed fire for habitat management - he accomplished his own burn in 2013 and has been a strong advocate and vocal community leader promoting the benefits of burning for both fuel reduction as well as habitat management.
Dan has also been an early supporter of biofuel and worked with NJ Audubon to try and identify and create a market for the grassland slash as a biofuel. While those efforts have yet to reach the scale we hope for, Dan has continued to look for outlets for the grass. This has included selling grass to the mushroom industry for use as a medium, and promoting it for forage to livestock and horse owners. Dan has had success promoting grass as forage where others have not.
The fields that Dan and Barbara have tended, the grass he has grown and his farm overall reflect their deep commitment to the land. Anyone that meets or talks with Dan will quickly recognize his commitment and passion for habitat and stewardship. The native warm season grasses he has established on his farm are providing some of the best grassland bird habitat in Hunterdon County. They have served as a model for other farms, farmers and landowners.
New Jersey Audubon congratulates Dan and Barbara Todd and thanks them for their outstanding commitment to conservation!
South Jersey Gas, in cooperation with New Jersey Audubon’s Corporate Stewardship Council, announced today that it has received NJ Forest Service approval for a Forest Stewardship Plan on 13 acres of forest adjacent to its Cape May divisional office along Route 9 in Swainton. This property has also received Forest Stewardship Council® certification, which is an internationally recognized standard for responsible forest management.
Based on the details of the 10 year plan, forest stewardship at this site will focus on enhancing forest health, diversity and integrity. Specifically, steps will be taken to create an enhanced structure to provide varied food sources, nesting and escape cover for birds. In addition, to create a better habitat for reptiles and amphibians, the plan includes the creation of small canopy openings for basking and nesting reptiles; retaining woody debris on the ground for amphibians; and establishing several breeding ponds or vernal pools for amphibians.
“We’re excited to begin this work in conjunction with New Jersey Audubon and improve the natural areas for both plant and animal life,” said Jeffrey E. DuBois, president of South Jersey Gas. “By implementing this plan, we will create a much more ideal habitat for numerous plants and animals, both common and rare.”
“The property’s location in eastern Cape May County makes it a critical forested habitat for breeding and migrating songbirds and rare frogs and salamanders,” according to John Cecil, New Jersey Audubon’s Vice President for Stewardship. “We are delighted to work with South Jersey Gas on this worthwhile project.”
Both organizations hope to begin plan implementation at the site this Fall.
Managing A Stubborn Invasive Vine
By Jean Lynch, Stewardship Project Director, South Region
For several years New Jersey Audubon’s Stewardship staff has been working with a landowner in southern New Jersey to improve wildlife habitat. One of the striking problems on this property is a large kudzu infestation affecting the forest edge and the border between forest and field.
Kudzu is a non-native invasive vine with large compound leaves of three, purple flowers, and long hairy seed pods. Native to Asia, this vigorous vine was originally brought to the United States in the late 1800s as an ornamental plant. The vine was later promoted to help reduce soil erosion and increase livestock feed; however, the fast growing vine had quickly escaped into natural areas, blanketing entire landscapes. In the right conditions, kudzu can grow up to a foot per day by sending out roots wherever the vine touches the ground. As many as 30 vines can then grow from a single root crown, allowing it to easily out-compete native plants. Although primarily found in the southeast, kudzu has been detected as far north as Ontario and is found in several areas throughout New Jersey.
Although tackling an invasive vine like kudzu might appear intimidating to many, we hope you will be inspired by the tremendous progress that we’ve seen in just the two years since the summer of 2012 when the first “before” photos below were taken. At that time, kudzu completely covered many of the trees along the forest edge, and blanketed the field edge. Several of the trees had already died under the blanket of kudzu.
With a willing and determined landowner and our partners at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, we decided to take on the challenge of eradicating Kudzu from the property. Getting a handle on this vine has taken planning, the right equipment, and consistent attention, and while our work here isn’t done, the results in just two years are remarkable.
In this and other efforts with invasive vines, we have used a combination of winter work and summer work to good effect. For kudzu, an herbicide mixed with oil (such as triclopyr ester) has been applied directly to the bark or to cut stems during the winter and summer months. Once the vine began to leaf out, the area with lower growing plants is mowed, followed by a foliar application of herbicide mixed with water (such as triclopyr amine). For the higher climbing vines in the tree tops, herbicide is then applied using a high pressure sprayer, curtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In this instance, the dead vines are left to decompose on site, minimizing its spread into other areas.
On average, with a group of two to four people, it has only required about a day of work each winter and two or three half-days of work each summer to achieve the results pictured thus far. With the right equipment and the knowledge of how to effectively combine chemical control (herbicides) and mechanical control (cutting), you can make tremendous progress on even the toughest invasives problems.
You have to be at least as stubborn as the vines!
Representatives from Jersey Central Power & Light (JCP&L), New Jersey Audubon and the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife recently banded four American Kestrel chicks at a nest box located at the South Branch Wildlife Management Area in Hillsborough, New Jersey. This marks the second consecutive year the three organizations have partnered to help boost the population of this threatened species.
“American Kestrel populations are experiencing long-term declines in North America and in 2012 they were added to the list of threatened species in New Jersey,” said John Parke, Stewardship Project Director of New Jersey Audubon. “With the help of JCP&L and the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife, these nest boxes provide a critical part in the recovery of North America’s smallest falcon.”
The American Kestrel population has declined primarily due to lack of suitable habitat and the scarcity of nesting sites. Last year, JCP&L worked with NJ Audubon and the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife to install the nest boxes where two chicks ultimately were born. “We are hopeful that our efforts at the South Branch Wildlife Management Area will contribute to American Kestrels being removed from the threatened species list.” said Jim Fakult, JCP&L President. “Placing nest boxes and helping support the wildlife area are just a few of the ways JCP&L employees contribute to the communities we serve.”
The kestrel banding is part of an ongoing conservation program designed to study breeding patterns at the South Branch Wildlife Management Area. Created in 2006, the 422-acre location has been identified as a critical site for protecting nesting populations of threatened and endangered grassland birds. JCP&L helped restore the area by removing and recycling old electric wire, transformers and utility poles left by a former owner.
As an active member of the New Jersey Audubon’s Corporate Stewardship Council (CSC), JCP&L continues to work together with its partners to help improve ecosystems in the communities it serves. New Jersey Audubon established the CSC with participation from corporate landowners who have expressed a commitment to environmental sustainability through their stewardship of the natural resources within and beyond their property boundaries. The CSC emphasizes voluntary stewardship and promotes conservation partnerships.
The Skillman property of Johnson & Johnson Consumer Products Company in Montgomery Township, Somerset County, New Jersey recently completed Phase I of a 10-year habitat restoration project focusing on migratory birds and water quality improvement. As an active member of New Jersey Audubon’s Corporate Stewardship Council (CSC), Johnson & Johnson enrolled into the US Fish and Wildlife Services’ Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program to implement the project. Paul Romberger, Johnson & Johnson Site Manager, explains “by implementing projects such as this, we fulfill our Credo commitment to respect the communities in which we live and work, as well as to preserve the environment.”
“The Skillman site offers a unique opportunity to create important wildlife habitat, be a model for corporate land management, and demonstrate the value of native plant landscaping,” said Brain Mash, USFWS Program Coordinator for Partners for Fish and Wildlife. “The Skillman property lies within a mostly rural part of the Millstone River watershed in an area important to migratory birds and other wildlife. A variety of restoration and habitat enhancement measures are being employed at the Skillman property to create attractive, low maintenance but high quality wildlife habitat.”
Over several hundred native trees and shrubs were planted by USFWS, NJ Audubon and Johnson & Johnson staff this past spring around site ponds and streams in an effort to enhance the riparian buffer for migratory bird species such as: American Woodcock, Common Yellowthroat, Willow Flycatcher, Brown Thrasher, Orioles and Eastern Kingbird. Additionally many bird nest boxes have be erected on the site for Eastern Bluebird, Tree Swallow and the State Threatened American Kestrel as part of the habitat enhancement.
“Johnson & Johnson continues to show exceptional commitment for making New Jersey a better place for people and wildlife through its actions as a member of the CSC,” said John Parke, Stewardship Project Director of NJ Audubon. “This project in the Central Piedmont Plains of New Jersey has overarching conservation goals to not only improve habitat for birds but to help improve water quality and watershed health.”
Native trees and shrubs including buttonbush, arrowwood viburnum, pin oak, American sycamore, silky dogwood and elderberry were planted to create buffers around the open waters areas on the property that will help water quality by shading the water to regulate thermal pollution (e.g. warm water is less capable of holding dissolved oxygen) as well as making the areas less attractive to Canada geese, but more attractive to beneficial pollinators and song birds.