Conservationists in New Jersey
Dan Mull, Resource Conservationist for the Woodstown Service Center, has been with NRCS for 10 years.
Dan provided the technical assistance for the largest Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) project completed in New Jersey. The grain farm is situated in the Delaware Bay Shore, an area globally important as stopover habitat for migratory wildlife, making the protection of resources here especially significant. Much of the property is surrounded by tidal marsh.
Dan Mull invested a lot of effort planning the project to ensure that both the requirements of the CREP program and the needs of the landowner were met. When the landowner approached NRCS, he was interested in utilizing CREP to install 30 foot filter strips on some of the 585 acres of cropland that he owns. As the planning progressed, the project grew to include 100 acres. Dan convinced the farmer that using native warm season grasses in the Filter Strips would create better wildlife habitat than traditional cool season grasses would. Riparian Forest Buffers were added to protect water quality and provide diversity in habitat in this environmentally sensitive area of Salem County.
The final conservation plan provided for implementing 65 acres of Riparian Buffers and 35 acres of Filter Strips. These conservation practices were installed on four tracts of land and 18 fields.
A project of this size and complexity took lots of time and patience, and Dan was up to the task. His time spent planning paid off in successful project implementation, conservation effect and landowner satisfaction.
Since he started with NRCS in 1981 when the agency was still the Soil Conservation Service, Tim Dunne has worked as a soil conservationist, a district conservationist, a biologist and State Resource Conservationist.
In the past three years, Tim has worked at the Negri-Nepote Native Grassland Preserve on Skillman Road in Franklin Township, Somerset County, New Jersey, with NRCS soil conservationists and a variety of partners on a wildlife habitat project.
The parcel had a history of being leased for soy bean production and had been sold to Franklin Township to be used for passive recreation and wildlife habitat. The Township approached NRCS for assistance in managing their new acquisition.
When he first visited the site in 2003, Tim reported that rills and gullies covered the slopes of an eroding field. Through the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP), two acres of wetlands were restored, and native grasses, wildflowers and wetland plants cover the parcel the today. Dozens of species of birds have been sited at the restored grasslands and wetlands at the preserve, including red-shouldered hawk, American kestrel, Northern harrier, American woodcock, green-winged teal and greater yellow-legs to the delight of local birders. The state threatened grasshopper sparrows were observed nesting at Negri-Nepote just one year after seeding the native grasses at the site.
Many partners have contributed to the success at this preserve. New Jersey Audubon has hosted a number of interpretive walks (open to the public) at the site, and these programs are scheduled to continue in the future. Township maintenance crews constructed the wetlands. Other groups in the township are building a handicapped-accessible trail to the wetland area. Local Boy Scouts built a wildlife observation blind. It is anticipated that with more open space being acquired, the township will seek assistance to responsibly manage and protect the resources we all value.
This project was featured on New Jersey Network News in a piece about native pollinators. New Jersey State Conservationist Tom Drewes and Biologist Tim Dunne were interviewed for the broadcast. With or without this “fifteen minutes of fame,” Tim says this project has been a source of great personal satisfaction for him. When he started with the Soil Conservation Service (NRCS) twenty-seven years ago, he wanted to help solve soil erosion problems and restore wildlife habitat and grasslands. Working with the various partners on this WHIP project on Skillman Road gave him the opportunity to do just that!
Tim Dunne retired from federal service in September 2012.