Restoring valuable wildlife habitat in northern new jersey
By MacKenzie Hall, Private Lands Biologist
A row of trees wait to be planted. © MacKenzie Hall
Last week, a park in Hillsborough Township got a makeover. Following “a shave and a haircut,” more than seven acres of fallow farmland were planted with 1,500 native trees and shrubs.
This afforestation is the latest partnership between Hillsborough and the Conserve Wildlife Foundation to improve wildlife habitat on township-owned lands. The park (on Wertsville Road between Montgomery & Long Hill Rds) sits on the northern edge of the Sourland Mountains, which hold significant values to forest wildlife, migratory songbirds, human residents and recreationists. Our project will extend this forest cover and all of its benefits.
Elliot Hodge helps out on planting day. © MacKenzie Hall
We selected 25 different native tree & shrub species with a variety of things in mind…for example:
- Red, white, black, and chestnut oaks will produce acorns, a great food source for many animals;
- White pines grow densely to shelter wildlife in winter;
- Hackberry and sassafras are larval food sources for certain types of butterflies;
- Tulip poplars grow quickly and are loved by bees;
- Shagbark hickories are important bat roosts in summer;
- Elderberry, bayberry, and dogwoods produce fruit to fuel migrating songbirds as well as animals who winter here.
Volunteer John Muth settles a young white pine into its new home. © MacKenzie Hall
While the trees are in the ground, this project is still “in progress.” The next step is to install temporary fencing to protect the saplings from deer browse. We’ll also have to fight the invasive plants - like autumn olive and multiflora rose - that grew so heartily at the site before. And lastly, we still have 150 trees and shrubs to plant at the neighboring Otto’s Farm Park. Please contact me (908-782-4614 x 104) if you want to help!
A huge “THANKS!” goes out to Conservation Resources, Inc. for funding a large part of this restoration, to the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s NJ Partners for Fish and Wildlife program for donating 1,000 of the trees and shrubs, to the D&R Greenway Land Trust nursery and Pinelands Nursery for their beautiful plant products, to Hillsborough Township for investing in their local wildlife, and to the 20 volunteers who helped with the tree planting.