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The Sourland Conservancy, Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space and Mercer County Parks would like to thank our members and volunteers from Hopewell Boy Scout Troop 71, Montgomery High School Environmental Club and Hillsborough High School who worked to remove invasive shrubs and trees from Hopewell Borough Park last Saturday in conjunction with the American Woodcock Habitat Restoration Project.

Twenty-two volunteers of all ages spent three hours cutting, dragging and piling invasive autumn olive, callery pear and Toringo crabapple trees that have been taking over the park and crowding out native plants that support the local ecosystem.

Volunteers and staff from several Sourland region organizations including Bristol-Myers Squibb and the Center for FaithJustice have been working throughout summer to remove invasive species including garlic mustard, honeysuckle, autumn olive, callery pear, Toringo crabapple and multiflora rose.

The American Woodcock Habitat Restoration Project (AWHRP) is an innovative program developed by the Sourland Conservancy, Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space and Mercer County Parks.  The New Jersey Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partners in Fish and Wildlife program has provided technical expertise in shrubland restoration and will supply the project with 300 native shrubs and trees.  Funding for tools, supplies and additional plants was provided by a Franklin Parker Conservation Excellence Grant from the New Jersey Conservation Foundation awarded to Sourland Conservancy for its Sourland Stewards program in June of this year.

Deer fencing is usually the most expensive piece of any restoration, so the partners brainstormed inexpensive ways to protect the native plantings. They will implement the innovative approach of utilizing invasive plants as a visual and physical barrier to the deer. This approach will allow the partners to focus funds on plants, tools and other essential supplies, and frees them from finding/funding methods for the removal of the dead plants from the project area.

The project will continue in phases spread out over a few years.  In several growing seasons, the park should host some of the eastern seaboard’s more rare breeding birds as well as neo-tropical migratory species. In addition to the American Woodcock, many other birds will benefit from the restored habitat including chestnut-sided warbler, black and white warbler, American redstart, common yellowthroat, white throated sparrow (winter), dark-eyed junco (winter), eastern kingbird, eastern towhee, fox sparrow, yellow warbler, yellow-bellied flycatcher, prairie warbler, indigo bunting, chestnut-sided warbler, blue-winged warbler, field sparrow, yellow-breasted chat and more.

In total, conservationists have identified 65 mammals, birds and reptiles as Species of Greatest Conservation Need that rely on shrubland and young forest for their survival.  By creating and stewarding shrubland and young forest at Hopewell Borough Park, the AWHRP will help to conserve this special community of wildlife.

For the next phase of the project, volunteers will plant over 500 native plants, shrubs and trees on November 5th from 9am-12pm. If you, your family, troop, group or organization would like to volunteer to help with the planting, please register at http://tinyurl.com/plant11-5

For more information about the American Woodcock Habitat Restoration Project and upcoming events, visit Sourland.org and subscribe to Sourland Conservancy’s e-newsletter, follow Sourland Conservancy on Facebook or email lcleveland@sourland.org.

Donations to purchase additional plants may be sent to the Sourland Conservancy 83 Princeton Avenue Suite 1A, Hopewell, NJ  08525 (please note AWHRP on the memo line).

The American Woodcock Habitat Restoration Project in Hopewell Borough Park is sponsored by the Sourland Conservancy, Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space and Mercer County Parks.

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