Are you looking for a fun, meaningful way to celebrate Earth Day? On Saturday, April 27, meet your friends and neighbors at Mercer County’s Howell Living History Farm for a community-planting to help restore the Sourland forest.
“Roots for Rivers” Native Tree Planting is an opportunity to help plant some of the 1,800 native trees and shrubs that will restore habitat and protect the clean water in the Sourlands. The program is made possible by the Sourland Conservancy, Mercer County Park Commission, and the AmeriCorps NJ Watershed Program.
No experience necessary – beginners welcome. Troops, groups, families and individuals of all ages are welcome, and no previous planting experience is necessary. Volunteers will park at the farm and ride a wagon to a field adjacent to Moores Creek. Members and staff will train and lead small groups to plant native trees and shrubs to prevent water pollution and provide critical wildlife habitat.
“It is always a pleasure for the Sourland Conservancy to partner with the Mercer County Park Commission and AmeriCorps Watershed Ambassadors. We are able to achieve great things in the Sourlands working alongside these highly skilled individuals,” said Caroline Katmann, Sourland Conservancy Executive Director. “We hope that many members of the community will join us on April 27 to help Save the Sourlands!”
“We have a full team of experts working with the Conservancy to plant an array of native trees and shrubs that will establish a diverse and resilient habitat,” said Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes.
County Naturalist Jennifer Rogers, Land Stewards Jillian Stark and Alex Rivera, along with Senior Planner Emily Blackman helped select plants that will thrive in the Sourlands and be able to withstand flooding from the creek. The crews will plant river birch, red maple, dogwood, bayberry, spicebush, winterberry holly, blueberry, witch hazel and more. “This is important work,” added County Executive Hughes. “This restoration project will improve water quality, mitigate flooding and provide quality habitat for native insects, fish, birds and other wildlife.”
“The Sourland region is home for many threatened and endangered plants and animals,” Rogers, the County Naturalist, explained. “Overpopulation of white-tailed deer poses a significant threat to forest health, and these species. Our volunteers will protect the plants with tubes and stakes until they are mature enough to withstand moderate deer browse. When removed, these tubes will be recycled.”
Throughout much of the state, floodplains have been deforested and left without trees. Native trees and shrubs planted along previously deforested stream banks and adjacent land (riparian area) help to protect and enhance water resources from land-use impacts in the watershed. Forested riparian buffers provide canopy cover to cool the water and regulate in-stream temperatures for aquatic macroinvertebrate and fish species, provide a root system to stabilize stream banks and filter out excess nutrients and pollutants from storm water runoff, provide extra storage for flood waters, and supply food and habitat for a variety of in-stream and riparian wildlife.
Fairfax Hutter, Central Delaware AmeriCorps NJ Watershed Ambassador, helped to develop the plant list for the project and will participate in project oversight.
“Sourland region streams provide headwaters for the Delaware, Raritan, and Millstone rivers, which in turn provide drinking water for millions. Forested riparian areas protect water quality by buffering streams from surrounding land uses and by reducing water temperature, stabilizing stream banks, filtering pollutants from runoff and providing habitat for stream life.”
The project partners are also planning an innovative stream monitoring program in the Sourland region in conjunction with the Watershed Institute. The program will help to track the effects of plantings such as this and the impacts such as pollution and overdevelopment.
The Sourland Conservancy’s Stewardship Committee Chairman, Chris Berry, said, “Our team is thrilled to have the opportunity to restore this critical area. Our volunteers have done great work on planting projects in the past. This will be our biggest one yet. We’re looking forward to meeting lots of people and planting a lot of trees and shrubs!”
Merrill Lynch/Bank of America, Educational Testing Service, NJDEP, and Mercer County employees will join Mercer County Community College Youthcorp students to plant at the site for three days during the week. The community effort will culminate in a celebration on Saturday.
The partners have planned several planting shifts to accommodate volunteers’ availability. Families, groups, Scout troops, and individuals are asked to register at www.tiny.cc/RootsForRivers. To learn more about the project, visit www.sourland.org/roots-for-river-reforestation or call (609) 309-5155.
The Roots for Rivers Reforestation Grant and Technical Assistance Program is funded by The Nature Conservancy in partnership with the Watershed Institute and Sustainable Jersey. This program is part of The Nature Conservancy’s ongoing efforts to plant 100,000 trees in New Jersey by 2020.