10/19/17 Volume XLVII, No. 42
Chances are, you haven’t heard much about the saltwater fish known as menhaden, or bunker. Recreational fishermen don’t catch them, you won’t find them on a menu, and you’re unlikely to see them on a poster or T-shirt.
But if you’ve ever seen an osprey flying overhead with a fish in its talons or a huge humpback whale breaching, you probably have the humble menhaden to thank!
Menhaden is what’s known as a “keystone” species, one . . .
If your community’s land and water were contaminated - and the polluter was fined for the damage – where do you think the money should go?
Should the funds be dedicated to protecting or restoring natural resources in the impacted area, or should they go into the general state budget, or fill some other program need? This question will be decided by New Jersey voters on Nov. 7.
In theory, here’s how New Jersey’s Natural Resource Damages fund . . .
The year was 2002, and New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s board of trustees faced a tough decision.
The owner of a nearly 10,000-acre cranberry farm in the Pine Barrens was getting out of the business. He wanted to know if NJ Conservation would buy his property for $12.5 million and turn it into a nature preserve.
The opportunity was incredible. The land was surrounded on almost all sides by public forest and parkland, and this 10,000 acres was referred to as both the . . .
9/28/17 Volume XLVII, No. 39
With two months to go, the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season has made history as one of the most active and destructive on record. Four major hurricanes - Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria - caused catastrophic impacts to the U.S. mainland and Caribbean islands, and there could be more. The warm ocean waters that spawn tropical cyclones won’t cool down for some time.
This cluster of hurricanes does not come as a surprise to climate scientists, who have predicted that man-made . . .
9/21/17 Volume XLVII, No. 38
The beautifully colored corn snake is endangered in New Jersey. It is a southern species, living at the northern limit of its range in the sandy pine forests of New Jersey’s Outer Coastal Plain, deep in the Pine Barrens.
This gorgeous snake, also called the red rat snake, established a population in the Pine Barrens after the last ice age. As glacial ice retreated and the climate began warming about 12,000 years ago, the sea level was much lower than today. Delaware Bay and the . . .
9/14/17 Volume XLVII, No. 37
If you drink Budweiser, you’re drinking water from New Jersey’s Highlands!
A rugged, mostly forested 1,250-square-mile region stretching diagonally across northern New Jersey, the Highlands supplies drinking water to about 6.2 million people, or more than 70 percent of the state’s population. That includes residents of Newark, Jersey City and Paterson, the state’s three largest cities, as well as parts of 16 of New Jersey’s 21 counties.
Thanks to . . .
Thirty years ago, the King of Morocco made headlines when he bought the Natirar estate in Peapack-Gladstone, now a Somerset County park. King Hassan II may not have known, but there’s an ancient connection between his homeland and the Highlands region of New Jersey where Natirar (“Raritan” spelled backwards) is located.
Hundreds of millions of years ago, when the Earth had a single supercontinent called Pangaea, the eastern part of North America and western Africa . . .
The Earth is about 3.8 billion years old, and has experienced five great extinctions of plants and animals. The last took place about 65 million years ago, when a giant asteroid slammed into Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula.
In the words of biologist and author Edward O. Wilson, the asteroid impact “rang the planet like a bell,” causing volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, acid rain and a tsunami that raced across the globe. Soot in the atmosphere blocked sunlight and brought . . .
When you turn on the lights, you’re probably not thinking about where your energy comes from. But the source of our energy has huge impacts on the health of New Jersey’s families, environment, communities and economy.
What are the choices? Will we continue to increase our dependence on fossil fuels? Oil and gas have been cheap and plentiful for many years but they can and do pollute our air and water, threaten human health, and generate emissions leading to climate . . .
8/17/17 Volume XLVII, No. 33
In 10 years, most of New Jersey’s 24 million ash trees in forests - and countless others in neighborhoods, parks and backyards - will be dead.
“It’s dire,” says John Sacco, New Jersey’s State Forester.
New Jersey’s State Forester oversees everything from forest fires, state forests, local tree programs, education programs and forest stewardship to natural areas, forest diseases and rare plants. Now John Sacco has a new challenge.
An . . .
8/10/17 Volume XLVII, No. 32
From the highest point in the Pine Barrens - the fire tower on Apple Pie Hill in Wharton State Forest - the region stretches out like an unbroken sea of green. Pine-covered plains extend nearly as far as the eye can see, with the distant skylines of Philadelphia and Atlantic City visible on clear days.
The Pinelands National Reserve covers over a million acres, including 800,000 acres of forest and 60,000 acres of farmland. Its forests are home to many rare animals and dozens . . .
8/3/17 Volume XLVII, No. 31
Sensationalism is all too common in today’s media, and nature’s extremes are always popular. The more shocking the headline, the more clicks and shares a story gets.
Take the story, “11 things lurking in New Jersey's forests that can kill you,” recently posted online.
Yikes! If you want to scare people out of the woods and onto their couches, that’s how to do it!
The good news is you don’t have to lock yourself inside, because New . . .
7/27/17 Volume XLVII, No. 30
The renowned Appalachian Trail, the world’s longest hiking-only footpath, stretches 2,200 miles from Maine to Georgia, including 72 miles through northern New Jersey.
Did you know that the Appalachian Trail has an urban equivalent for pedestrians and bicyclists?
It’s called the East Coast Greenway and it extends 3,000 miles from northern Maine to the Florida Keys, including nearly 100 miles in New Jersey.
Right now, about a third of the East Coast Greenway . . .
7/20/17 Volume XLVII, No. 29
A red-shouldered hawk soars above ridges and valleys. A showy lady’s slipper orchid blooms deep in the forest. A bog turtle suns itself on a log. A bobcat hunts at twilight. Pine Barrens tree frogs croak throughout the woods on a warm night. An osprey swoops into the sea and emerges with a fish.
These nature sights and sounds in this state we’re in are as diverse as they are beautiful.
Thanks to a temperate climate and varied geography – everything . . .
Summer is in full swing at the Jersey shore. Over the next couple of months and into the fall, millions of visitors will head “down the shore” for the beaches, fishing, boating and ecotourism activities like whale and dolphin watching.
It’s hard to imagine New Jersey without its thriving shore tourism economy - dependent on a healthy ocean and a clean coastline stretching from Sandy Hook to Cape May. The same goes for its commercial fishing industry, which supplies . . .
This time of year, it’s common to see kids digging in the sand with colorful plastic buckets, shovels and sifters. They can be found all over New Jersey’s ocean and bay beaches.
But one lucky group will be digging in landlocked Mantua Township in Gloucester County, far from the sea. Instead of building sand castles, these kids will be excavating fossilized shark teeth, sponges, shells, fish bones and more.
They’re camping at the Jean and Ric Edelman . . .
6/29/17 Volume XLVII, No. 26
Bobcats are New Jersey’s only native wildcat. But they’re not wild about people! Just ask Tyler Christensen, a photographer and wildlife researcher who has spent years stalking bobcats, considered endangered in New Jersey.
“I’ve never seen a bobcat in person here in New Jersey,” says Tyler. “They’re so secretive, they avoid people like the plague. You can study these cats your whole life and not see one.” It doesn’t help . . .
6/22/17 Volume XLVII, No. 25
New Jersey’s almost 9 million residents make this state we’re in denser than India or Japan! And the population is projected to grow to 10.2 to 10.4 million by 2040. Will we have enough water for our residents, farmers, businesses, industries – and the environment – now and in the future?
That question is front and center following the release of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s draft 2017-2022 update of the New Jersey Statewide . . .
6/15/17 Volume XLVII, No. 24
New Jersey’s Piedmont – a gently rolling landscape south and east of the Highlands – includes many of this state we’re in’s most populous counties and cities. You may not know it, but there’s a piece of fascinating geologic history right beneath your feet!
Take a journey with Dr. Emile DeVito, New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s staff biologist, into New Jersey’s geologic past, long before humans walked the Earth:
“When . . .
6/8/17 Volume XLVII, No. 23
The Trump administration’s proposal to cut funding for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will directly impact federal safeguards for clean water, air and natural resources in this state we’re in. The proposal would roll back decades of progress in protecting public health and environmental quality.
Here in New Jersey, we too are debating the impact of cuts to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection proposed by Governor Christie’s administration. . . .
6/1/17 Volume XLVII, No. 22
Remember 2013, when much of New Jersey was abuzz with cicadas? The large red-eyed insects were everywhere, their chorus filled the air, and they left piles of translucent shells beneath big, old trees.
Well, they’re back – four years early!
Scientists at a May 21 “Bioblitz” at the Mount Rose Preserve in Hopewell Township – an event held to inventory the preserve’s species - were amazed to find cicadas among the insect life. The next brood . . .
5/25/17 Volume XLVII, No. 21
“And what is so rare as a day in June? Then, if ever, come perfect days.” So begins James Russell Lowell’s poem extolling the beauty and restorative powers of nature during this magical month when spring blossoms into summer, with the longest days of the year.
June also happens to be New Jersey’s inaugural Open Space Month! These long “perfect days” are perfect for discovering the rich variety of lands our state has permanently preserved.
Ho . . .
5/18/17 Volume XLVII, No. 20
“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.”
Take John Muir’s advice from over 100 years ago! There’s nothing like a trail walk to awaken your senses to the wonders of nature and create feelings of serenity and well-being.
If Muir were alive today, the naturalist and author would surely be amazed at the number and variety of trails, especially in New Jersey! Today’s trails range from short loops in neighborhood . . .
5/11/17 Volume XLVII, No. 19
Americans appear to have a mixed relationship with the outdoors. On one hand, most people say that nature is one of their most enjoyable interests. But on the other, they don’t spend much time outdoors.
The gap between interest in nature and the amount of time actually spent in natural settings is explored in a fascinating new study, “The Nature of Americans.”
The study’s authors surveyed nearly 12,000 adults and children to identify barriers that keep . . .
5/5/17 Volume XLVII, No. 18
Most New Jerseyans are thrilled with newly-preserved open space in their town. It can mean great new places to hike, bike, picnic, play and enjoy nature. Preserved lands also bring priceless environmental benefits like protecting clean air and water, soaking up flood waters, and helping to stabilize the tax base by requiring little in services like schools and police.
When open space is acquired for preservation, it usually becomes “tax exempt” and is taken off the . . .
4/27/17 Volume XLVII, No. 17
Ever wonder how New Jersey towns like Marlton and Marlboro got their names? Look no further than “marl,” a soil also known as greensand.
Marl deposits date to the time when the southeastern half of this state we’re in was the sea floor, and greensand was deposited in coastal bays and freshwater river mouths. The marl contains fossils of ancient shelled invertebrates and freshwater and marine forms of every vertebrate group – fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, . . .
4/20/17 Volume XLVII, No. 16
If you were a frog or salamander, where would you lay your eggs? In a pond filled with fish that feast on eggs and larvae, or a pond without fish?
If amphibians had the ability to choose, undoubtedly they would pick fish-free ponds where the odds of their offspring surviving are better.
It seems as though they’ve made the choice. Several species of frogs and salamanders breed exclusively in fishless ponds - known as vernal pools, intermittent ponds, ephemeral ponds or . . .
4/13/17 Volume XLVII, No. 15
It’s a gorgeous day, you’ve arrived at your favorite park and are looking forward to a hike, some bird-watching, photography and soaking in the sights and sounds of nature. You’ve gone a short distance when you come across – yikes! - a pile of construction debris, an old refrigerator, bags of trash and other junk.
This scene is encountered by New Jersey outdoor lovers all too often. But it’s one that the state is working to combat through a beefed-up . . .
4/6/17 Volume XLVII, No. 14
For most of the past 50 years, New Jersey led the nation in preserving land and protecting clean water, clean air and wildlife.
Decade after decade, New Jersey voters came out strongly in favor of land preservation and environmental protections.
These critical issues are not partisan. Party politics have nothing to do with our need for clean water, clean air, parks, wildlife preserves, and farms for a fresh food supply.
Although New Jersey has often gone above and . . .
3/30/17 Volume XLVII, No. 13
Fresh New Jersey produce won’t be available for another month or so, but farmers are getting ready for the season by planting early crops, buying equipment and supplies, and starting summer plants.
A growing number of Garden State farmers are also ringing up sales in advance of the harvest season. They’re selling “shares” of their future bounty through a Community Supported Agriculture arrangement, or CSA for short.
In a typical CSA, consumers pay . . .
3/23/17 Volume XLVII, No. 12
In case you didn’t notice, New Jersey’s weather in the last couple of months has been upside-down. Most of February was weirdly spring-like – in fact, the warmest February on record in the state – while March has behaved more like a typical February.
Get used to it. Greater variability in weather may be the most immediate impact of climate change on New Jersey, according to State Climatologist David Robinson.
Robinson, the keynote speaker at the . . .
3/16/17 Volume XLVII, No. 11
Not long ago, bald eagles and ospreys were a rare sight in this state we’re in. But they’re back – in a big way!
Two new state reports just delivered the excellent news that bald eagle and osprey populations have reached record highs in New Jersey and are expected to continue their remarkable recovery!
According to the Endangered and Nongame Species Program of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, surveys conducted in 2016 documented 172 . . .
3/9/17 Volume XLVII, No. 10
Pillars of smoke could be seen reaching high into the sky from this week’s Pine Barrens fire, which burned about 1,000 acres of the Franklin Parker Preserve in Burlington County.
The blaze was not an accident, the result of a lightning strike, a cigarette tossed from a car window or a campfire gone awry. Rather, it was a “controlled burn,” or prescribed burn, performed under exacting conditions of temperature, humidity and wind by the New Jersey Forest Fire Service, . . .
3/2/17 Volume XLVII, No. 9
What would it be like to walk on the ocean floor? You may be surprised to learn that about half of New Jersey was once the bottom of the sea!
Dr. Emile DeVito, New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s staff biologist, explained that at the end of the Cretaceous period 65 million years ago, when the Earth’s climate was much warmer, the Atlantic Ocean covered most of what today we call the Outer Coastal Plain.
New Jersey’s “high points” today - Mount . . .
2/24/17 Volume XLVII, No. 8
It’s easy to see the pros of energy efficiency. A well-insulated building with high efficiency heating and cooling, state-of-the-art appliances, efficient lighting and “smart” controls can slash energy use and save lots of money. At the same time, it boosts public health by reducing air pollution.
Energy efficiency also saves land by reducing “energy sprawl” – the enormous amount of land needed for extracting, harvesting, processing and . . .
2/16/17 Volume XLVII, No. 7
Been to New Jersey’s Pine Barrens? If not, here are some great reasons to explore this incredible area this March.
The Pine Barrens are hiding in plain sight: a sparsely-populated region of 1.1 million acres within the nation’s most densely populated state. Millions of drivers skirt its eastern edge each year as they travel the Garden State Parkway through Ocean, Burlington, Atlantic and Cape May counties to shore destinations.
How about heading west instead of . . .
What do you see when you look at a tree?
Perhaps you notice its age and wonder what events occurred in its lifetime. Maybe you think about the nesting birds it harbors or what value it would bring as lumber. You might admire the elegance of its branches and feel inspired by its beauty.
But did you ever think of a tree as a social being with the capacity to communicate with – and help – other trees?
Peter Wohlleben, author of the new . . .
2/2/17 Volume XLVII, No. 5
The fictional character Forrest Gump famously remarked that “life is like a box of chocolates” … you never know what you’ll get.
New Jersey is more like a slice of layer cake. This state we’re in is composed of five distinct bands running diagonally across the state - natural regions formed by geological events millions of years ago.
In the state’s far northwestern corner is the top “layer” of our cake, the steep Ridge & . . .
1/26/17 Volume XLVII, No. 4
One of New Jersey’s most iconic landmarks – and a popular visitor attraction – is the Great Falls of Paterson, whose roaring waters are framed by an arched iron bridge and historic redbrick mills linked to founding father Alexander Hamilton.
So astonishment and dismay erupted in late 2015 when the city’s Planning Board approved a 156-unit apartment complex on a prominent ridge overlooking the falls and historic district. Why would a city trying to promote . . .
Daylight hours are on the increase. Since the winter solstice on December 21, each day the sun has climbed higher in the sky.
The additional daylight may seem imperceptible, as Dr. Emile DeVito, New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s staff biologist, points out: “Right after the solstice, it’s less than one minute each day. On February 1st, the sun is above the horizon 49 minutes longer than on New Year’s Day. Between February 1st . . .