Sourland Forest in Mercer County gets a boost from young environmentalists

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The Hopewell-based Sourland Conservancy has credited five budding conservationists with digging to help restore Sourland Forest to Central Jersey habitat.

Interns Will Bradford, Eve Cooke, Kelsy Geletej, Robert Lucas and Lillian Wurtz planted more than 1,000 trees in public parks and reserves in the Sourland area in September, and they are on track to plant more than 2. 000 this fall.

“I did this internship to finally have the opportunity to help give back in a way that I couldn’t do on my own,” said Geletej. “It’s an amazing feeling to give back to an environment like this.”

Wurtz agreed, noting, “I grew up in the Sourlands, and it means a lot to me to be able to make a difference in an area that I know so well.”

The mountainous region of Sourland, covering an area of ​​90 square miles, is home to 57 state-listed threatened and endangered plant and animal species. The New Jersey Forest Service has estimated that more than a million trees are dying in the Sourland Forest from an invasive insect, the emerald ash borer.

The Sourland Conservancy received a grant of $ 10,000 to purchase trees and shrubs for interns to plant in 2021.sourland.org

“The Sourlands have a higher proportion of ash in their forest than the rest of the state, so they envision a greater impact of the emerald ash borer than other forests in the state,” said Bill Zipse, supervisor. of the forest service.

The Sourland Conservancy received a grant of $ 10,000 from the American Tower to purchase trees and shrubs to “restore the understory, stabilize stream banks, start filling holes in the canopy of trees. trees and provide essential habitat for resident and migratory wildlife ”. Tree and shrub species planted include: red and white oak, tulip poplar, sugar maple, silver maple, red maple, hickory shagbark, smooth alder, dogwood , papaya, inkwell, winter holly, elderberry, chokeberry, black willow, black willow, American elderberry, highbush blueberry, arrowwood viburnum, boutonniere, bell tower tree, wreath, bog rose, hornbeam, nanny, spicebush and marshmallow viburnum.

Trees range in size from tubes to 2-gallon pots and are planted individually in tubes and wire cages, as well as in larger fenced areas up to half an acre. Single tubes will be used primarily in areas prone to flooding. Installing fences in historically wooded areas will allow trees, shrubs, grasses and flowers to fill without additional planting or risk of deer herbivory.

Conservation and partner staff and volunteers will monitor fenced areas to remove invasive vines and shrubs, such as honeysuckle and multi-flowered rosebush, which hamper the growth of native plants. Once the trees and shrubs have reached maturity, the tubes will be removed and reused in new planting sites.

Student volunteers, service learning students and paid interns from RVCC will advance and inform restoration efforts, measuring plantation success and collecting baseline data on the health of rivers and lanes. habitat of aquatic organisms in streams near planting sites and fenced sites.

More help is welcome. Registration is open for public planting events at Rock Mill Preserve in Skillman, October 13-15; Rainbow Hill Preserve in East Amwell, October 26-30; and Folusiak Preserve in Montgomery, November 11-13. COVID guidelines will be strictly followed. For more information or to register, visit sourland.org/events.

Since much of the area is privately owned, the conservation also encourages residents to “plant native plants” on their properties. For more information visit sourland.org.

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