Stewardship Blog

Please Support the NJ Audubon Stewardship Department Fight'n Femelschlagers

With only a few days to go till the big day on May 9, 2015 we are reaching out to you wondering if you would consider making a small pledge/donation to fund our Department’s work by supporting our NJ Audubon Stewardship Department’s 2015 World Series of Birding team.  You can make your donation/pledge on line at:   


stewardship deptThe World Series of Birding is an important fundraiser for the NJ Audubon Stewardship Department, raising funds vital to support our Department’s conservation work on behalf of declining wildlife species and habitat in NJ.  Please note that your pledge/donation to our team goes directly to funding our Department’s work here at NJ Audubon, specifically for habitat restoration in NJ such as: the quail reintroduction project in the Pinelands, sustainable forestry projects through the state, native grassland restoration projects, bog turtle projects, vegetation management projects for early successional species, invasive species control projects, the S.A.V.E.™ program and working with NJ farmers to create and restore habitat that also benefits the agricultural community.  On behalf of the New Jersey Audubon Stewardship Department, we thank you for the chance to present this opportunity for your consideration and please know that every little bit helps!!logos

Thank you so much for supporting our work!!


Yours in Conservation,

The NJ Audubon Stewardship Department Fight'n Femelschlagers

P.S.    So what is a Femelschlager?  “Femelschlag”, is a German term for a forest management practice that is designed to emulate natural disturbance patterns and encourage tree species diversity in multiple-age classes, thereby enhancing ecosystem services and complexity.  (A lot of our sustainable forestry work for various rare species involves this management practice here in NJ)

NJ Audubon Initiates Large Scale Riparian Restorations in Highlands Region

Great Blue Heron on Musconetcong(PARKE)The Highlands region of New Jersey provides drinking water for 5.4 million New Jersey residents, and while many forests and freshwater systems in this watershed are in relatively good condition, substantial water quality impairments associated with non-point source pollution--such as increased nutrients, fecal coliform, and elevated water temperatures, do exist and could worsen over time.

Additionally not only are sub-watershed focal regions of the Highlands extremely important for drinkingLong-tal Sal Johnsonburg (PARKE) (2) water and fish species (including trout and diadromous fish), but they are habitat for numerous wildlife species including state listed species such as long-tail salamander, wood turtle, several dragonfly and freshwater mussel species that are dependent on high water quality for their survival. 

Beginning this past April, through a grant from the William Penn Foundation and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), NJ Audubon kicked off a series of large scale riparian restoration efforts associated with native vegetative plantings in two sub-watersheds of the Highlands, specifically the Lower Musconetcong and Lopatcong watersheds.

018Providing native plant materials at no cost to eligible landowners in the sub-watershed, the focus of the native plantings is to stabilize the stream banks, prevent soil erosion into the stream, provide shade to the water to address thermo pollution and increase stream ecosystem and processing capacity for habitat for wildlife. This was done using live-willow stakes and/or plantings of large caliber streamside shade vegetation buffers (ball/burlap native trees between 9-14 feet tall). All willow stakes were obtain from Ernst Conservation Seed and all native trees were obtained from Diaz Nursery, which is a local nursery in the region.

Additionally the project addresses nutrient removal via implementation of alternative technologies that are being used elsewhere in the U.S., specifically, phytoremediation. At some sites, vegetation cover using plants such as green bulrush, cattail and warm-season grasses were provide free of charge by NJ Audubon and were installed as part of phytoremediation measures. These particular plant species exhibit phosphorus removal on the order of 80%.

Although NJ Audubon was able to provide all plant materials to eligible landowners in the watershed for no cost to the landowner, landowners receiving the trees had to be able to plant all large caliber trees at their own expense.

Other plantings, such as live willow stakes installation and phytoremediation work, planting labor was provided free of charge by NJ Audubon staff, along withwillow stake planting at Hawk Pointe(Neff) volunteer help from other organizations such as Musconetcong Watershed Association, North Jersey Resource Conservation & Development and the NJ Youth Corps of Phillipsburg.

Over 2,500 willows stakes were planted in the region to address over 5,700 linear feet (1.07 miles) of Category One trout production water along the Musconetcong River and over 280 large native trees have been planted throughout the region along the banks of the main rivers corridors and their tributaries. Coming this May, over 30 acres of native warm season grass will be established by a local farmer at Merrill Creek Reservoir as part of NJ Audubon’s regional restoration efforts to help improve water quality and critical habitat in the Highlands.

NJ Audubon is looking to engage more landowners for enrollment into the various federal conservation cost share programs for forestry/agricultural Best Management Practices, as well as distribute more free native plant materials. However to be eligible to receive free pant materials properties must be located in the following sub-watersheds of the Highlands region (the Lower Musconetcong, Lopatcong and the Upper Paulins kill sub-watersheds) and must exhibit a degree of ecological impairment. For more information please contact NJA Stewardship Project Director, John Parke at john.parke@njaudubon.org

Photos by John Parke & Chris Neff

Ethos Farm Partners with N.J. Audubon and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to Restore Native Species and Make Humans and the Landscape Healthier

fritillary on bonesetStarting on Earth Day, Ethos Farm, believed to be the first farm in the nation which is home to a primary care medical practice will embark on a large-scale habitat restoration program. Forty acres of the 275-year-old preserved working farm are to be restored using native plants that will provide critical habitat for birds, pollinators and other native wildlife.

Farm owner and board certified internist, Dr. Ron Weiss, is the founder of Ethos Health which joins sustainable agriculture practices and natural resource conservation to his primary care practice to create a healthcare environment optimized to reverse and prevent illness. The practice offers farm-based mindful living health programs and focuses on utilizing plant-based whole foods which according to Weiss, are the most powerful disease-modifying tools available to the medical practitioner.

Ethos Health’s patients and the farm’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) members will take part in the restoration efforts, that are supported jointly by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, New Jersey Audubon and the US Department of Agriculture. The restoration work underscores Dr. Weiss’ core belief that it is crucial to know where your food comes from, linking the food to the land. “This link creates better educational opportunities for the public to recognize how conservation efforts play into protecting the natural resources (like soil, water, wildlife) on a regional scale, as well as food systems and their impact on our heath and even the taste of our food,” said Weiss.

highbush blueberry flowers“What many people overlook or take for granted when they buy food, cook food, or even pick food from either their gardens in their own yard or in nature is what goes into having the plant produce,” said John Parke, Stewardship Project Director of NJ Audubon. “Food doesn't just show up, it is grown, thus you need good soil, you need clean water, you need places for it to grow, you need pollinators, you need soil microbes, you need wildlife, you need to keep invasive non-native vegetation in check,” added Parke. “But unless you perform conservation on the land and practice natural resource protection and steward these habitats, these essential building blocks of our food system break down and have a direct impact on food availability, as well as keeping ecological balance in the landscape. Sustainable management of natural resources is essential to make food systems sustainable and that’s what Dr. Weiss and Ethos Health are doing and NJ Audubon commends Ethos Heath for the efforts and commitment to the project!”

Ethos Health initiated the project in 2013 with the removal of acres of non-native invasive vegetationHighbush blueberry species such as multiflora rose, autumn olive and Japanese honeysuckle. Now these areas will be planted with native species such as elderberry, high-bush blueberry, willows, dogwoods, oaks, and others that will provide numerous ecological benefits to the landscape. “Restoring important natural ecosystems on the 342 acre farm’s forests, wetlands, former pastures and production fields, has a profound effect on our landscapes, our health, our wildlife and the communities where we live,” added Weiss. “And how we care for our landscape through conservation is the key to a meaningful, healthy, and enjoyable existence.”

The project is being partially funded through several federal agencies, specifically the USFWS Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, the USDA’s Environmental Quality Incentive Program and the USDA’ State Acres for Wildlife Program. New Jersey Audubon is providing technical assistance for the project, as well as their no-till seeding drill and some labor.

photos by John Parke

Wild Bobwhite Quail Return to the Pinelands

Pine island release -in this covey is the 4000 quail translocated by Tall Timbers(photo by John Parke)On April 1, 2015, beginning just after sunrise, we began releasing the first of 80 wild Northern Bobwhite quail into New Jersey’s Pinelands. Led by New Jersey Audubon and in partnership with the Pine Island Cranberry Company and the Haines Family, project co-collaborators Tall Timbers Research Station, the University of Delaware, Pine Creek Forestry, and the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife, we have truly begun the process of re-establishing Northern Bobwhite to the state!

The quail, all bearing radio collars, will be tracked by graduate students from the University of Delaware. With the first goal of just survival we ultimately will be looking for these birds to nest and successfully fledge young

In the coming days and weeks we will be sharing more photos and videos. For now the New Jersey Audubon Stewardship Department would like to share photos with you of this historic day in NJ Wildlife Conservation fantastic moment!

To all of the Project Supporters  - thank you so much for helping to make this project possible!!  To make a donation to the quail project please go to bobwhite.njaudubon.org

Press coverage of this historic day in NJ Wildlife Conservation can be found at: A Quail Comeback in the Barrens

holly Haines release 2015(bill Dalton)

quail with transmitterCecil-quail-parke (jean Lynch)last quail out of the box(Bill dalton)photos by Bill Dalton, Jean Lynch and John Parke

NJ Audubon Bi-annual Sanctuary Visits: Bartlett’s Branch

imageBartletts BranchJohn 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.

NJ Audubon Stewardship Department Wins Ecological Excellence Award

IMG_6746On 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 IMG_1227into 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.

UPDATEDNJAS-sign-VernalPool-MASTER-01-03-2013The 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.

Restoring Northern Bobwhite to New Jersey


CoveyFlush_withRadioTagsVisible_BudBostickNew 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 NJMaleNOBO_Singing_TallTimbersStaff 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 XICT0034years 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 make a donation to the quail project please go to bobwhite.njaudubon.org.   Photos courtesy of Tall Timbers Research Station and University of Delaware.

NJ Audubon Corporate Stewardship Council holds Annual Meeting at NJDEP

CorporateStewardshipProjectsAugust2014On 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 baltimore cherspot emerging from chrysalis (PARKE)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

New Jersey Audubon presented with Rutgers Gardens 2014 Distinguished Achievement in Horticulture Award

On September 11, 2014, New Jersey Audubon was presented with the Rutgers Gardens 2014 Distinguished Achievement Goodman, Stiles, Graboski and Crawford 2014 Rutgers Gala 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.

Dan and Barbara Todd Receive 2014 NJ Audubon Richard Kane Conservation Award

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.John Parke, Dan Todd, and Eric Stiles

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, pNorthern harrior in cut fieldroviding 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.

WSG at DardanDan 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!