Monday, November 23, 2009

Habitats and Partnerships

The NJFO’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife program recently wrote an article for the New Jersey League of Municipalities Magazine that highlights how the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can interact with municipalities across the State that want to create wildlife habitat.

Many of the 6,500 acres of wetlands, 3,000 miles of grasslands and other uplands, and 50 miles of riparian and in-stream habitat the Partners for Fish and Wildlife program has restored since it’s New Jersey inception in 1991 have come from partnerships with municipalities.

A good example of a successful partnership is Partners for Fish and Wildlife's "Partnership Project with NJ Audubon and Verizon" which won the Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award in 2007. That was a partnership of the USFWS's NJ Field Office’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife program, Verizon and the New Jersey Audubon Society.

The Verizon Center, located a mile upstream of the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, is restoring 18 acres of uplands and 7 acres of riparian habitat. Verizon has also publicized the merits of voluntary corporate land stewardship.

Specific enhancements at the site include the removal and control of invasive vegetation; native grass and wildflower plantings; and the installation of a vernal pool, nest boxes and turtle nesting areas. These enhancements are currently providing suitable habitats for a variety of wildlife, including numerous bird and herptile species.

Verizon restored 25 acres on its property that are home to various grassland, riparian and wetland habitats. They planted over 500 native trees and shrubs on the site and plan to plant another 500 in 2008. They installed more than 10 acres of native grasses and wildflowers and removed invasive non-native vegetation on the land. They have implemented a delayed mowing schedule to promote wildlife breeding and have instituted a policy of zero chemical application on the restoration areas.

In addition they installed sand pits for turtle nesting areas, a vernal pool for amphibian breeding, installed numerous bird nesting boxes and outlined a monitoring and Stewardship Plan to track future progress on the site. A Stewardship Plan considers all aspects of resource management and documents management decisions and practices designed to maintain the land in a productive and healthy condition for present and future owners. It specifies actions that will increase the environmental and economic values of the land and the region.

The benefits extend beyond habitat restoration. The site extends along more than 3,700 feet of the Passaic River. In addition to improving water quality in the river the restored area in less than a mile upstream from a New Jersey Natural Heritage Priority Site known as the "Great Swamp Macrosite", an important area for the breeding of several threatened and endangered wetland species.

Restoring this habitat is part of Verizon's national commitment to green energy practices that include pursuing aggressive network equipment and building energy-reduction initiatives; utilizing alternative energy sources in the network, buildings and vehicle fleet; and promoting the company's technology as an alternative to travel, among other efforts.

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