Did you know?
Habitat loss is the greatest single problem that effects population declines of rare wildlife.
Hillsborough Parks Get a Biodiversity Boost
Hillsborough Township falls within one of New Jersey’s most unbroken agricultural blocks – important both to local heritage and to the many rare grassland bird species (like the vesper sparrow and the meadowlark) whose lives are delicately dependent on farming. The Sourland Mountains also sweep northward into Hillsborough, with great significance to forest wildlife, migrating songbirds, human residents and recreationists. To help make the most of these open spaces and deep-dark places, Conserve Wildlife Foundation has worked with Hillsborough to design wildlife habitat projects and find grants to fund them.
Planting a Forest
One example is a tree planting (“afforestation”) that now covers more than seven acres at Hillsborough’s Farm Park on Wertsville Road. This Open Space park is mostly comprised of young woods that sprung up as farm fields were abandoned. A 2-acre and a 5-acre field remained open, although the 5-acre field had gone fallow several years ago and was filling in with exotic shrubs like autumn olive and multiflora rose.
Because of the park’s proximity to the Sourlands and its low value as farmland, a forest restoration made the most sense here. Conservation Resources Inc. provided a $20,000 grant on behalf of the Raritan-Piedmont Wildlife Habitat Partnership to pay for plant materials, temporary deer fencing, and coordination. The US Fish and Wildlife Service kicked in another 1,000 trees toward the future forest.
In November 2010, with the help of Hillsborough’s Parks & Recreation staff and a number of volunteers. we planted over 1,500 native trees & shrubs and erected fencing to protect the saplings from deer browse.
We used 23 different plant species with many purposes in mind...including:
- Oaks to produce acorns, a great food source for many animals;
- White pines to grow densely for winter wildlife shelter;
- Hackberry and sassafras to host the larvae of certain butterflies;
- Shagbark hickories to provide roosting space for bats in summer;
- Elderberry, bayberry, and dogwoods to fuel migrating songbirds as well as animals who spend their winters here.
Bringing Diversity Back
Another project is ongoing at Otto’s Farm Park, just down the road from the tree planting site. Otto’s Farm Park is a popular walking, jogging, and cross-country bicycling park that had overgrown with a slew of invasive plants like multiflora rose, tree-of-heaven, honeysuckles, autumn olive, and mile-a-minute weed.
In 2008, CWF helped the Township win a $25,000 Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) grant from the USDA to gradually reclaim areas of the property for native plants and wildlife. The bulk of the project cost was in clearing some 20+ acres of mature woody invasive plants, and in establishing an assortment of native plantings (trees, shrubs, grasses, wildflowers) in their place. Another 10 acres were more simply brush-hogged to maintain grasses and wildflowers.
The mixed habitats that result will provide shelter, breeding cover, and food for a range of species, including grassland and scrub-shrub songbirds, pollinators, reptiles and amphibians, and other land animals. Periodic mowing, hand-cutting, and spot-herbicide treatment will need to be done to keep this site in good shape.
We were very happy with the plants and seeds that we purchased for these projects. In addition to the US Fish and Wildlife Service nurseries, we bought plant materials from these quality vendors:
- Pinelands Nursery in Columbus, NJ
- D&R Greenway Land Trust Nursery in Princeton, NJ
- Go Native Tree Farms in Lancaster, PA
- Ernst Conservation Seeds in Meadville, PA
Find Related Info: Habitat Restoration
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