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Pine Island Cranberry Co. Becomes First Agricultural Entity to Join NJ Audubon Corporate Stewardship Council

Chatsworth, Burlington County, NJ – Pine Island Cranberry Co. (PICC), a leader in cranberry production in NJ, has joined NJ Audubon's Cranberry Bog at Pine IslandjpgCorporate Stewardship Council (CSC), which is a unique group of 18 New Jersey companies united behind a common goal of environmental sustainability and responsibility in NJ. By becoming a member of the Council, PICC has the distinction to be the first agricultural production company member in the Council's five year existence. Not only does PICC bring an agricultural perspective to the Council, but its membership also brings with it the largest stewardship project to date in the Council. Specifically, a 14,000-acre project site involving large scale forest stewardship work in the heart of the New Jersey Pinelands. This project is also the first forest stewardship project to be part of the Council membership.

habitatA 122-year-old family owned cranberry business, Pine Island Cranberry has been managing and performing sustainable forestry practices for several years under a State approved Forest Stewardship Plan (FSP). The FSP emphasizes long-term active forest management on a landscape scale, while enhancing a wide range of forest resources, wildlife habitat, and ecosystem services. The plan, which was developed by NJ State Approved Forester Bob Williams of Land Dimensions Engineering in Glassboro NJ, utilizes a variety of forestry prescriptions and techniques, including prescribed burning, to control invasive vegetation and stimulate native plant growth. The forest stewardship work being conducted at PICC promotes forest regeneration, health, and vigor, while also providing critical habitat for various wildlife species and unique plants.

“We are truly excited to welcome Pine Island Cranberry Company into the Corporate Stewardship Council!"harrier said John Parke, Stewardship Project Director for New Jersey Audubon. "The work Pine Island Cranberry Company is doing through forest stewardship is exemplary. We commend Pine Island for being a model business that understands that the management of natural resources makes both economic and ecological sense. Thus, they are providing quality forest and farm products which help support the NJ economy, while protecting the future of New Jersey’s critical habitat and farmland. Meaningful and sustainable conservation is difficult to achieve without the knowledge and experience of people, like Bill Haines of Pine Island and his forester Bob Williams, who live and work on the land.” Parke added.

“Pine Island Cranberry is proud to join the NJ Audubon Corporate Stewardship Council. Our pride in growing high-quality, nutritious cranberries is matched by our love and respect for the land and our people. We are honored to be affiliated with an organization that shares our core values.” said Bill Haines, Jr., owner and CEO of Pine Island Cranberry Company. For more information about Pine Island Cranberry Company  please visit http://www.picranberry.com/

Jersey Central Power & Light Provides Key Improvement to Critical Habitat Project in New Jersey

South Branch Wildlife Management Area, Somerset/Hunterdon Counties, N.J. Jersey Central Power & Light (JCP&L) initiated its first habitat restoration project as part of the company’s participation in NJ Audubon's Corporate Stewardship Council (CSC), at the South Branch Wildlife Management Area. Volunteering to remove and recycle nearly a mile of old wire, 18 transformers and 40 utility poles left on site by the former owner, JCP&L provided this key improvement to the critical habitat at this 422-acre site that has been undergoing large scale restoration efforts over the last four years.

bobolinkIdentified as one of the most important in the region for protecting nesting populations of threatened and endangered grassland birds, the South Branch Wildlife Management Area has become a model site for how both wildlife and agriculture can coexist. Working with a local farmer, a unique partnership between the Hunterdon County Department of Parks and Recreation, the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife, and New Jersey Audubon was formed in 2006 with a goal of managing the site for grassland habitat and grassland dependent species. Consequently, portions of this site have since been transformed from scrubby invasive plant habitat to native grasses that provide critical habitat for a number of rare species including Bobolinks, Grasshopper Sparrows, CowbirdEastern Meadowlarks, and Savannah Sparrows.

"Grassland birds require large, open treeless areas of grass and sedge meadow. One issue at the South Branch WMA site was that the old utility wires and poles remaining on site were attracting Brown-headed Cowbirds." said John Parke, Stewardship Project Director for New Jersey Audubon. "Cowbirds were a big concern in that they are nest parasites, laying eggs in other birds’ nests for the hosts to raise as their own. The wires and poles at the South Branch WMA were used by cowbirds as vantage points to observe the activity of host birds and identify locations of the nests of these rare grassland species. Grassland birds typically require large contiguous areas of grassland with few trees or perch sites for species such as cowbirds and hawks. One of the keys to discouraging cowbird parasitism or controlling populations of Brown-headed Cowbirds, is to remove perch sites, especially within or surrounding the grassland habitat. This is exactly what JCP&L has done and it has improved the habitat value at the South Branch WMA immensely! Over the next several breeding seasons we expect to see many more grassland birds successfully raise young. New Jersey Audubon and the other partners involved in the project cannot thank JCP&L enough for this work and their commitment to help steward this habitat." added Parke.

kestrelA few utility poles were strategically left standing to allow for nest boxes to be attached to them. JCP&L assisted with the installation of the nest boxes specific for other grassland dependent birds that are also statebarnowl box jcpl listed species, specifically American Kestrel and Barn Owl. Both species are cavity nesters and require large expanses of open grassland to forage, which South Branch WMA provides.

“The South Branch Wildlife Management Area provides a much needed grassland habitat and is a model for how partnerships can help protect the environment,” said JCP&L President, Don Lynch. “Removing the poles, wires and transformers will help ensure that the birds have a natural habitat. We are proud to support the New Jersey Audubon Society’s Corporate Stewardship Council and its partners in their efforts in restoring the site and look forward to partnering in other projects.”

Tell Us What You See

You read on the Stewardship Blog, about looking at nature differently - now visit our sanctuaries and tell us what you see.  Post your photos to our Flickr page.  Report your bird observations in NJ eBird too.  Winter snows and upcoming spring growth offer excellent opportunities to see a wide variety of wildlife at New Jersey Audubon's wildlife sanctuaries.  Visitors such as yourself are critical to helping us record the various species found on site, from grey squirrels to bobcats, to mink such as the one here, found at our Wattles Stewardship Center on Januray 12, 2013.  Visit our sanctuaries page, pick a spot and take a hike.   This time of year animals can not only be identified by visual encounters, but by their tracks.  Here are some links to get you started. Click on each below and be routed to the site.  

NJ Audubon Sanctuaries   

NJ eBird 

Animal Track Identification

http://www.flickr.com/groups/njas/  

  Photo by John Parke

The question is not what you look at, but what you see.

I was recently asked by a colleague if I had any photos of birds that appear around feeders this time of year. She was working on a article about feeding the birds in winter.   As I surveyed through my photos I came upon a photo I had taken just the previous week of a bobcat that had just killed a cardinal. "Wow!", I thought to myself, remembering the made for TV moment I had witnessed when I took that photo... and then I thought about something. People forget just how important birds are to the food chain. We always talk about feeding the birds, but remember birds are food too and play an enormous role in the survival of other species.bobcatand cardinal

Setting the Stage - Predator and Prey

An arctic like wind swept across the snow covered fields that January day while hunting with a buddy off Old Mine Road in the Delaware Water Gap. The little thermometer dangling from my field jacket said 17°F, but it felt more like 40 below. Suddenly out of nowhere it appeared, a bobcat slowly sneaking through the little bluestem and cedar succession field. This was the first animal we had encountered all morning -there was nothing moving or flying in this bone-chilling cold. Then from about 20-yards away it saw us and froze in its tracks. It looked at us, just for a second, and then got down low and continued to stalk using the tan colored bluestem grass for cover. When it neared the thorny hedgerow it perked up its ears and pounced fast and hard disappearing behind a tuft of snow covered grass. When it looked up from the grass, flashes of red appeared flapping from its mouth! A male cardinal! The cat watched us there for a full minute, holding the cardinal tightly in its mouth, with almost an expression of relief and satisfaction. I quickly snapped off a few photos and then it turned and as stealthy as it came in, the predator slid off into the underbrush without a sound with its now lifeless prey.

To Be or to Be "Eaten", that is Question

I had previously sent this bobcat photo around to a few friends who I knew would appreciate what I had witnessed in the wild. Predator prey interaction captured by the camera, and a State Endangered bobcat too boot! They all agreed it was very cool to have seen a bobcat, bobcats are a beautiful animal and how lucky I was to be in the right place at the right time. These comments were consistent. But then, they would follow with a comment about the bird and its death. These comments varied in tone and content.

Some felt bad or sad for the bird, or asked why couldn't the bobcat have kill a mouse instead. Some were upset by the bobcat's actions of killing the bird. Some even said how they hated that it was a cardinal that was killed and could it have been some other "less showy bird" to fall to the bobcat. Others cheered the bobcat for finding food in 17 degree weather so it would live another day. While some wondered if it caught the cardinal for food for its young to help the next generation of this species survive through winter. The comments provided very different perspectives on a very natural process - the food chain, the very basis of existence.

Insight From a Friend

One of my friends who responded to my bobcat/cardinal photo email sent me the following:cardinal

"Up yonder I write a monthly poetry column featuring a seasonal poem by a Vermont writer ...check out: 'Red Removed' http://thenewsfrompoems.com/spring/ ...seeing your picture captures the exhilaration /triumph of the capture, not so much the tragedy of the pretty bird."

"That was a interesting response, very insightful," I thought. So I clicked the link and read the poem - "Red Removed'

Beautiful. Very apropos for what I witnessed that frozen day with the bobcat and the cardinal in the wilds of Warren County, NJ.

"That's the wonder of nature", I thought to myself after reflecting on the poem. "Life and death from different perspectives."

hawkBut it's those life and death moments in nature that define species roles in the existence of others. It also magnifies the importance of having quality habitat to provide those critical components to support the existence of a variety of species, ensuring the balance of life remains. A Greek proverb states, "Even a wolf will not stay -Where sounds no bleat to offer of prey."

I am proud to be a part of NJ Audubon because we are a conservation organization focusing our work to conserve the environment and restore critical habitat for the benefits of all NJ's wildlife. How we care for our landscape by stewarding our natural world and simultaneously seeking to engage more people in witnessing the wonders of nature is key to a meaningful, healthy, and enjoyable existence for all species.