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 shrubs 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.
“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
Two volunteer workdays took place last week at the Cape Island Important Bird Area (IBA) - both aimed at reducing invasive plants that are overtaking habitat. Located at the very tip of NJ, the Cape Island IBA is about 15,000 acres in size and includes a variety of habitat types. This IBA serves as a major migratory stopover site- millions of birds utilize Cape Island during spring and fall migration. Controlling invasive plants to increase and enhance suitable habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife on Cape Island is a stewardship priority for NJ Audubon.
On Thursday, volunteers removed invasive vines like porcelain berry (Ampelopsis brevipedunculata), sweet-autumn clematis (Clematis terniflora) and field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis) from young, native trees at a maritime forest restoration site at Cape May Point State Park. This restoration project is a cooperative effort led by NJ Audubon and NJ DEP Division of Parks and Forestry to control invasive plants and support the growth and regeneration of native vegetation.
The focus for Friday: purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) and mile-a-minute (Persicaria perfoliata) at the Nature Conservancy’s South Cape May Meadows. Volunteers carefully snipped and bagged the flower heads of purple loosestrife plants before they develop seeds and spread further, while folks with thicker gloves snipped and pulled mile-a-minute, which has a prickly, thorny stem. Mile-a-minute is an emerging invasive plant in Cape Island, which means it is not yet established and widespread, and is found in small patches in the area. In addition to mile-a-minute, kudzu (Pueraria montana var. lobata) is another emerging invasive plant found on Cape Island. We employ an Early Detection and Rapid Response (EDRR) strategy to eliminate the emerging plants immediately to lessen the likelihood that they will become widespread and established.
Cape Island has its fair share of both emerging and widespread invasive plants, and Cape May County has the highest number of reported invasive species in the state- 365 total. To address this growing threat to migratory bird habitat, NJ Audubon organized the Cape Island Habitat Restoration Task Force (CIHRTF). CIHRTF is a newly formed Coordinated Weed Management Area (CWMA), and our partners include NJ state chapter of the Nature Conservancy (TNC), NJ DEP Bureau of Land Management, the NJ DEP Division of Parks and Forestry, and the NJ Invasive Species Strike Team (NJISST). The mission of CIHRTF is to identify, control and monitor invasive plants, restore and improve wildlife habitat, and provide outreach and education to the community of Cape Island. CIHRTF will be hosting more volunteer events and educational workshops throughout the year- please check our webpage for the latest information!
These projects are made possible through the support from: the William Penn Foundation, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Atlantic City Electric.