Stewardship Blog

Collaboration is the Key to Award Winning Conservation, 2012 Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award Winners Announced

Collaboration reduced to its simplest definition means "to work together." This simple concept is powerful tool to effect change. By working within collaborative groups, projects are guided by trust and reciprocity, project actions tend to be more highly adaptive and naturally creative. By working with collaborators towards a common goal, ideas are cross-pollinated and information is gathered collectively and more opportunities for innovation and strong strategies for change are achieved. In the case of three winners of the 2012 Governor's Environmental Excellence Awards, collaboration is the key to conservation.

On January 28, 2013, the 2012 Governor's Environmental Excellence Awards were presented at the New Jersey State Museum. New Jersey Audubon staff were present and is proud to have been part of collaborative efforts for three of the eleven projects honored. Specifically, awards given in the following categories: Healthy and Sustainable Businesses, Healthy Ecosystems, and Land Conservation.

Winners of the awards are judged by the NJ Department of Environmental Protection on the basis of documented environmental benefits, innovation and the long term impact of their projects.

P1280018Category Healthy and Sustainable Businesses
Winner: Mannington Mills, Salem

NJ Audubon Corporate Stewardship Council member, Mannington Mills, is a recognized leader of sustainable practices. Their efforts include solar energy implementation, emission reductions, recycling initiatives as well as reducing water use by converting nearly 30 acres of lawn and agricultural lands to native grasslands and shrub lands, providing critical habitat areas for several threatened and endangered species. New Jersey Audubon, along with the USFWS and NRCS assisted with the design, installation and monitoring of this important habitat in the Delaware Bayshore.

Category Healthy Ecosystems
Winner: Drew University, MadisonDrew U Forest Poster Gov Env Exc

Drew University transformed its campus and adjacent forest preserve in Madison to restore lost ecosystem services, wildlife habitat, and biodiversity. Most significant is the ecological restoration of 18 acres of the Drew Forest Preserve, in synergistic partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program and New Jersey Audubon. By restoring this forest ecosystem and planting native species across the campus, Drew University’s habitat restoration efforts directly address many of New Jersey’s needs for ecosystem services and for protection of natural resources and open space. More specifically, this work addresses explicitly articulated objectives for New Jersey: preservation and enhancement of critical wildlife habitat, reduction of invasive vegetation, preservation of open space, natural resource protection, watershed management, water quality improvement, flood control, reduction of soil erosion, filtering of air pollutants, maintenance of water quality, and enhanced groundwater recharge.

P1280001Category Land Conservation
Winner: City of Linden

The City of Linden was recognized for its ongoing development of the Hawk Rise Sanctuary, a 95-acre preserve that reconnects residents to the Rahway River and the Arthur Kill. The Hawk Rise Sanctuary is a blueprint for turning a former landfill into open space and wildlife habitat while providing multiple public uses. New Jersey Audubon has been instrumental in assisting the City with the sanctuary’s new network of trails, viewing stations, interpretive signs and educational programs that connect people with natural areas and wildlife.

“The habitat enhancements and restorations at these project sites are expected to have far-reaching benefits, not just for wildlife, but for their communities as well.” said John Parke, NJ Audubon Northern Stewardship Project Director. "By bringing in talented and passionate collaborators such as dave kittsNJ Audubon and USFWS and working towards a common goal, these award winners solidified a symbiotic relationship with communities to foster environmental awareness while enhancing wildlife and natural systems. They should be seen as models for recognizing the benefits of collaboration when considering restoration, protection and stewardship of open space and natural resource protection."

NJ Audubon's mission promotes the stewardship of New Jersey's wildlife and habitat and promotes a conservation ethic among citizens of the state seeking to conserve. That said, NJ Audubon would like to congratulate Mannington Mills, Drew University and the City of Linden and say thank you for having NJ Audubon collaborate and share in your vision of achieving environmental excellence for your projects! Your incredible efforts to restore critical habitat for many species of wildlife in New Jersey are greatly appreciated!

NJ Audubon would also like to extend our congratulations to the rest of the 2012 Environmental Excellence Award winners and commend them for their efforts to make New Jersey a better place for people and wildlife!

North Helps South - Red Cedar and Snakes Perfect Together

New Jersey's landscape is forever changed by the impacts of hurricane Sandy, with the state experiencing some of the worst storm surge flooding seen inSlide6 modern times. However, while the coastal areas have received most of the press coverage associated with the storm, what many outside New Jersey do not realize was how Sandy's extended period of extremely high wind gusts changed the landscape of New Jersey’s interior forests. Tens of thousands of trees were brought down from one end of the state to the other.

Slide1Although storms may significantly change the woods, the woods are not "ruined". Despite the potential economic impacts, there are ecological benefits. While initially looking "messy", storms help create the "old-growth like" habitat characteristics often lacking in most forests (e.g., cavity trees, downed dead logs, diverse tree ages and sizes). Additionally, these "gaps" in the forests also cause an explosion of biodiversity as plants seedlings and saplings receive more light and space to grow, which in turn provide new habitat opportunities for a variety of wildlife.

NJ Audubon also saw an opportunity from the impacts of hurricane Sandy, to utilize some of the downed wood from the storm in the northern part of the state, particularly eastern red cedar, to create artificial snake hibernacula (dens) in the southern NJ Pinelands.

Although the snakes of the NJ Pinelands, such as the State Slide7Endangered corn snake and State Threatened pine snake, are Slide5certainly capable of excavating their own den, habitat loss has created a need for man-made intervention to assist these species. Dens created at strategic locations within the habitat also help to increase the likelihood of intraspecific interactions and accordingly, help promote gene flow across populations.

With logs from storm damaged eastern red cedar trees, donated by Bob and Harriett Druskin of the McMertry Farm in Somerset County, NJ Audubon was able to salvage this wood to utilize in the construction of these artificial snake dens in the southern Jersey Pinelands. Typically, treated wood such as railroad ties or telephone poles are used in the construction of these dens, however with the use of natural rot resistant red cedar there was no need for chemically treated wood for the project.

Slide2The artificial den is a solid underground structure that mimics, but will outlast, the natural root cavities of trees. Although artificial in name, the design promotes the natural excavation behavior of the snakes as they dig out their den. As the different layers of soil are removed they are separated so that when back-filling begins, the appropriate material is returned to the right location, providing the natural underground conditions Slide4important to a pine snake den. A solid roof prevents cave-in and methodically placed PVC pipes offer ease of ingress and egress.

Beth Ciuzio of US Fish and Wildlife Service Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program and Bob Zappalorti, Executive Director and Founder of Herpetological Associates,Inc. of Jackson, NJ provided assistance to NJA staff in the construction of the pine snake den. The USFWS Partner’s Program donated the machinery used to construct this den. Bob Zappalorti donated not only his time to oversee construction, but also donated supplies to cap it off. The den design is a proven successful model developed by Bob.

NJA Partners with Newark Watershed to Restore Ecologically Valuable Conifer Stands

imageMany forestland owners in the mid-Atlantic incurred significant tree loss during Hurricane Sandy. One of New Jersey Audubon’s (NJA) Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified land owners, Newark Watershed, was no exception.

In the 1930’s, under President Roosevelt, the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) was formed to offer employment opportunities to young men between ages 18 and 25 during the Great Depression. Among other things, the CCC worked on forestry projects throughout New Jersey with one of the more common activities being the reforestation of abandoned farmland and other cleared areas. Typically, CCC reforestation efforts consisted of planting various conifer species in relatively small plantations. In Northern New Jersey, red pine, Norway spruce and Japanese larch were often used in plantations even though they were not necessarily native to the region. Now, some 75 years later, the unmanaged plantations have reached an over-stocked stage of development where the overall growth has slowed considerably, and the less dominant trees have become suppressed. Overstocked plantations typically have tall, spindly stems with small live crowns ratios. Additionally, they usually have minimal root system development compared to those growing under less crowded conditions. These structural factors can cause a predisposition to wind throw during storm events.

As a FSC certified forestland owner, the watershed has committed to managing the CCC’s exotic plantations in a way that will allow for a smooth transition back to a natural forest with a native species composition. NJA has partnered with Newark Watershed to assist with mitigating the mortality within these plantations. The objective for management following the hurricane begins with a salvage harvest of the wind thrown trees in an effort to ensure that desirable native trees become established in the storm affected areas. Removing wind thrown trees will afford access to the site in order to manipulate future populations of non-native trees and shrubs that may become established.

imageThe area of the Watershed seemingly hit hardest by the storm is located near Oak Ridge. Here, plantation salvage harvests will be conducted in the most easily accessible areas first. Typically, the storm affected areas requiring treatment range from a few acres up to ten acres in size. Each treatment area will be assessed individually with a restoration prescription being submitted to the NJ Forest Service and respective townships prior to soliciting contractors to complete the work. In all cases, appropriate healthy trees will be retained, as well as snags and course woody debris that will serve as prime habitat for woodpeckers, salamanders, beetles and many other species that thrive after a natural disturbance occurs. Following the treatments natural regeneration response will be closely monitored along with deer browse pressure. Invasive species will be treated as required and non-native regeneration will be inhibited with a method deemed appropriate to the species in question. If necessary, a native mixture of conifers may be planted to ensure this ecologically valuable softwood component is retained in the watershed.

Prior to Hurricane Sandy there was very little age class diversity and early successional upland habitat within Newark Watershed’s forests. This disturbance, if managed correctly, will be appreciated and used by many wildlife species that require young forests to live in. NJA is committed to enhancing the ecological integrity of the FSC certified forestlands that are listed under the Group Certificate. While the forestry team has a lot of work ahead, they envision this disturbance not as a problem but instead an opportunity to improve the overall health of the watershed’s coniferous stands and to improve their habitat suitability for those species that call them home. Gap disturbances, whether natural or man-made, enable regeneration to establish, provide critical early successional habitat and most of all ensure that the forests we value so deeply will be conserved for generations to come.

By: Jeremy Caggiano

New Jersey Audubon Stewardship Project Coordinator / Forester