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Earth Day in New Jersey

Earth Day in New Jersey

Celebration at Duke Farms 2010

Virginia blue bellsMorning fog gave way to sunny skies in Hillsborough, New Jersey, on Earth Day 2010 as representatives from Duke Farms and NRCS met with families of Duke Farms employees, local leaders and members of the press to highlight the conservation work being done at the farm.

Over 16,000 trees and shrubs are being planted on 90 acres and invasive vegetation is being removed from 23 acres along the Raritan River to improve the flood mitigation function of the area.

Funds made available through the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) made it possible for USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to offer the assistance Duke Farms applied for through the Emergency Watershed Protection Program.

NRCS State Conservationist Tom DrewesNRCS State Conservationist Tom Drewes noted that members of the Duke family started working on conservation planning with NRCS as early as 1952. He also commended the youth who were onsite participating in a clean-up project as part of the farm’s “Take your child to work” celebration, and encouraged them to develop their knowledge and interest in caring for the land.



Take Your Child to Work Day - trees planted in flood plain early morning view of trees planted at site fishing in Rartitan River
"Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

---Ancient Indian Proverb

Earth Day in MayEnvirothon participants at soils pit

In May, the "celebration" continues at the New Jersey Envirothon. The Natural Resources Conservation Service assists the New Jersey Association of Conservation Districts (NJACD) and other conservation partners in preparing for this day-long event.  This high school competition is growing in popularity with more New Jersey schools participating each year.

Environmental Benefits of Riparian Buffers

Trees and shrubs along streams provide shade to moderate temperature fluctuations in water. Many aquatic species such as invertebrates, fish, and amphibians cannot withstand dramatic water temperature swings that occur when direct sunlight hits a stream all day long. Water temperature in a stream with no forest riparian buffer can increase 12 degrees Fahrenheit on a sunny summer day. This severely degrades fish and wildlife habitat.

Trees and shrubs provide organic matter inputs such as leaves, twigs, woody debris to the stream ecosystem. These organic matter inputs are the “fuel” that runs the stream ecosystem. Organic matter is broken up into fine particles and eaten by invertebrates at the bottom of the complex food chains and food webs in a stream. Without these inputs the food chains are disrupted. This affects not only invertebrates but minnows, trout, great blue herons, ospreys, eagles, river otters and more. Tree and shrubs also provide physical in-stream habitat for aquatic species.

Riparian corridors are naturally rich in wildlife due to the abundance of nutrients, and invertebrates. This attracts insect eating birds in the spring. These bird species rely on forest habitat. The birds eat thousands of black flies and mosquitoes every day. Planting of trees and shrubs can help restore a wildlife corridor along a river. 

Riparian forest buffers help to filter surface runoff and subsurface waters that flow from upland areas towards the river. The deep roots, thick organic layer on the soil surface of forests, and diversity of trees, shrubs, grasses and forbs help with nutrient recycling and filtering of sediment and other pollutants that may enter nearby waterways.

Restoration of natural vegetation provides habitat for riparian wildlife. Many birds, reptiles, amphibians and small mammals use riparian corridors extensively. If the natural forest vegetation is missing these habitats are severely impaired.