Forrest Gump claimed life is like a box of chocolates, and a healthy forest is like a layer cake.
At the bottom of the cake is the “understory” layer, with seedlings, saplings, woody shrubs and other plants. Next up is the “mid-story,” with taller young trees and larger shrubs. The “canopy,” with the oldest, largest trees is the top layer of the cake!
What happens to a cake if the lower layer is pulled out? It collapses. And, ecologically, . . .
2/8/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 6
In 1968, biologists were working to unravel the mystery of the other-worldly sounds made by humpback whales. What did they mean?
Looking for help, biologist Roger Payne came to New Jersey to visit Scott McVay, who years earlier had researched dolphin communications. Scott knew how to use a sound spectrograph, a machine that turns sounds into visual graphs, and Payne brought him new recordings of humpback whales.
Scott and his mathematician wife, Hella, converted the . . .
2/2/18 RELEASE: Feb.2, 2018 - Volume XLVIII, No. 5
What will New Jersey be like in 30 years?
If bold recommendations from Governor Murphy’s Environment and Energy Transition Team become reality, this state we’re in will be cleaner and greener along with more urban parks and protected wildlife habitats. Talk about a breath of fresh air!
The year 2050 figures prominently in a report just released by the governor’s Environment and Energy Transition Advisory Committee. First, 2050 is the year when New Jersey is . . .
There’s been lots in the news lately about proposed new natural gas pipelines. And you've probably noticed serious opposition from landowners, environmental groups and elected officials.
That’s because New Jersey has found itself dead center in the face of a new type of sprawl. Right now, our little state has 1,520 miles of existing natural gas pipelines with enough capacity to supply New Jerseyans even in the coldest weather. But if we don’t change . . .
1/18/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 3
Got cabin fever? If you’re already stir-crazy from spending too much time indoors this winter, it’s time to get out and hike, cross-country ski or even snowshoe!
New Jersey’s parks and forests are lovely in winter, especially with a fresh coating of white fluff. Without leaves on the trees, you can enjoy views that are hidden in other seasons, and fresh snow will reveal animal tracks. All without ticks, chiggers, mosquitos or crowds!
A brisk winter hike is a . . .
Forty years ago this week, then-Governor Brendan Byrne stood before the New Jersey Legislature to champion a cause that would win him no political points: the preservation of the Pine Barrens.
“It’s a politically unpopular issue – trees don’t vote,” he said in his State of the State address on Jan. 10, 1978. However, Governor Byrne added, he would not be “dissuaded by the pressures to develop the . . .
On READ MORE
12/28/17 Volume XLVII, No. 52
This article is the final installment of a three-part series, "It's Elemental: Air, Water and Earth in the State We're In."
New Jersey’s got a state bird (Eastern goldfinch), state tree (red oak), state flower (violet), state animal (horse) and even a state dinosaur (Hadrosaurus foulkii). Did you know it also has a state soil?
It’s called “Downer,” but it’s really more of an upper! It’s the most common soil type in New Jersey, . . .
This article is the second installment of a three-part series, "It's Elemental: Air, Water and Earth in the State We're In."
Much is over-hyped lately, but there’s no exaggerating the importance of abundant clean water. Quite simply, it’s critical to our health, environment and economy.
12/15/17 This article is the first installment of a three-part series "It's Elemental: Air, Water and Earth in the State We're In"
As recent wildfires burned out of control in California, air quality suffered greatly. Air Quality Index readings showed “unhealthy” levels in many places, and were comparable to air quality in China’s most polluted cities.
For the most part, however, dangerously polluted air is rare in the United States.
But that wasn’t always the case. In the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s, large cities and surrounding metropolitan areas – including . . .
12/7/17 Volume XLVII, No. 49
Amid the glittering high rises along New Jersey’s “Gold Coast,” there’s an immense green oasis. It’s a place for the public to walk, play, relax and enjoy spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline, Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island - all at no charge.
It’s Liberty State Park in Jersey City, located along the Hudson River waterfront, home to some of New Jersey’s most valuable real estate.
But for the second time in two years, Liberty . . .
With a new governor taking office in January, New Jersey has a great opportunity to regain its national environmental leadership role.
On the campaign trail, Governor-elect Murphy pledged strong support for the environment, a “green economy” boosted by clean energy jobs, and a renewed emphasis on climate change.
The time to act is now. The . . .
11/22/17 Volume XLVII, No. 47
As Americans, we have the right to free speech, the right to practice our religion of choice, and the right to peaceably assemble.
These rights are in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and we’re entitled to them - period.
But what if we had the same constitutional right to pure water, clean air and a healthy environment?
That’s the premise of a new book by Delaware Riverkeeper Maya K. van Rossum, “The Green Amendment: Securing our Right . . .
11/16/17 Volume XLVII, No. 46
If you’re like most people, you probably don’t pay much attention to where your water comes from or where it goes. But, according to the Jersey Water Works collaborative, you should!
Jersey Water Works was founded in 2015 to raise awareness of the state’s aging water infrastructure - the essential systems that deliver drinking water, remove and treat sewage, and take stormwater off of our streets. Jersey Water Works is also finding innovative solutions to modernize . . .
11/9/17 Volume XLVII, No. 45
Do you remember watching The Land before Time, wondering if Littlefoot and his cadre of dinosaur friends would succeed in their arduous trek to find the Great Valley? Would they reach the bountiful forests, warm sun, and pristine rivers and wetlands in time to save themselves?
Littlefoot’s Great Valley may have been the immense fold in the Earth’s crust that runs from the Coosa Valley in Alabama northeast through New Jersey to the Champlain Valley in . . .
11/2/17 Volume XLVII, No. 44
As temperatures cool and daylight hours shorten, New Jersey’s non-migrating bats have gone into hibernation.
For the last decade, hibernation for New Jersey’s bats has been unusually precarious. A disease known as white-nose syndrome – caused by a fungus – has decimated many bat species by scarring their wings and disrupting hibernation patterns, causing them to wake and fly around when they should be sleeping. After depleting their energy reserves, the bats . . .
RELEASE: Oct. 26, 2017 – Volume XLVII, No. 43
The Daniels Preserve in Gloucester County is a forested oasis whose numerous vernal pools support breeding amphibians. The Hill & Dale Preserve in Tewksbury Township extends from the Rockaway Creek valley up the steep flank of Hell Mountain and provides stream protection and scenic views of the surrounding countryside. The Interboro property – part of the Candace Ashmun Preserve in the Forked River . . .
10/19/17 Volume XLVII, No. 42
Chances are, you haven’t heard much about the saltwater fish known as menhaden, or bunker. Recreational fishermen don’t catch them, you won’t find them on a menu, and you’re unlikely to see them on a poster or T-shirt.
But if you’ve ever seen an osprey flying overhead with a fish in its talons or a huge humpback whale breaching, you probably have the humble menhaden to thank!
Menhaden is what’s known as a “keystone” species, one . . .
If your community’s land and water were contaminated - and the polluter was fined for the damage – where do you think the money should go?
Should the funds be dedicated to protecting or restoring natural resources in the impacted area, or should they go into the general state budget, or fill some other program need? This question will be decided by New Jersey voters on Nov. 7.
In theory, here’s how New Jersey’s Natural Resource Damages fund . . .
The year was 2002, and New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s board of trustees faced a tough decision.
The owner of a nearly 10,000-acre cranberry farm in the Pine Barrens was getting out of the business. He wanted to know if NJ Conservation would buy his property for $12.5 million and turn it into a nature preserve.
The opportunity was incredible. The land was surrounded on almost all sides by public forest and parkland, and this 10,000 acres was referred to as both the . . .
9/28/17 Volume XLVII, No. 39
With two months to go, the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season has made history as one of the most active and destructive on record. Four major hurricanes - Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria - caused catastrophic impacts to the U.S. mainland and Caribbean islands, and there could be more. The warm ocean waters that spawn tropical cyclones won’t cool down for some time.
This cluster of hurricanes does not come as a surprise to climate scientists, who have predicted that man-made . . .
9/21/17 Volume XLVII, No. 38
The beautifully colored corn snake is endangered in New Jersey. It is a southern species, living at the northern limit of its range in the sandy pine forests of New Jersey’s Outer Coastal Plain, deep in the Pine Barrens.
This gorgeous snake, also called the red rat snake, established a population in the Pine Barrens after the last ice age. As glacial ice retreated and the climate began warming about 12,000 years ago, the sea level was much lower than today. Delaware Bay and the . . .
9/14/17 Volume XLVII, No. 37
If you drink Budweiser, you’re drinking water from New Jersey’s Highlands!
A rugged, mostly forested 1,250-square-mile region stretching diagonally across northern New Jersey, the Highlands supplies drinking water to about 6.2 million people, or more than 70 percent of the state’s population. That includes residents of Newark, Jersey City and Paterson, the state’s three largest cities, as well as parts of 16 of New Jersey’s 21 counties.
Thanks to . . .
Thirty years ago, the King of Morocco made headlines when he bought the Natirar estate in Peapack-Gladstone, now a Somerset County park. King Hassan II may not have known, but there’s an ancient connection between his homeland and the Highlands region of New Jersey where Natirar (“Raritan” spelled backwards) is located.
Hundreds of millions of years ago, when the Earth had a single supercontinent called Pangaea, the eastern part of North America and western Africa . . .
The Earth is about 3.8 billion years old, and has experienced five great extinctions of plants and animals. The last took place about 65 million years ago, when a giant asteroid slammed into Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula.
In the words of biologist and author Edward O. Wilson, the asteroid impact “rang the planet like a bell,” causing volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, acid rain and a tsunami that raced across the globe. Soot in the atmosphere blocked sunlight and brought . . .
When you turn on the lights, you’re probably not thinking about where your energy comes from. But the source of our energy has huge impacts on the health of New Jersey’s families, environment, communities and economy.
What are the choices? Will we continue to increase our dependence on fossil fuels? Oil and gas have been cheap and plentiful for many years but they can and do pollute our air and water, threaten human health, and generate emissions leading to climate . . .
8/17/17 Volume XLVII, No. 33
In 10 years, most of New Jersey’s 24 million ash trees in forests - and countless others in neighborhoods, parks and backyards - will be dead.
“It’s dire,” says John Sacco, New Jersey’s State Forester.
New Jersey’s State Forester oversees everything from forest fires, state forests, local tree programs, education programs and forest stewardship to natural areas, forest diseases and rare plants. Now John Sacco has a new challenge.
An . . .
8/10/17 Volume XLVII, No. 32
From the highest point in the Pine Barrens - the fire tower on Apple Pie Hill in Wharton State Forest - the region stretches out like an unbroken sea of green. Pine-covered plains extend nearly as far as the eye can see, with the distant skylines of Philadelphia and Atlantic City visible on clear days.
The Pinelands National Reserve covers over a million acres, including 800,000 acres of forest and 60,000 acres of farmland. Its forests are home to many rare animals and dozens . . .
8/3/17 Volume XLVII, No. 31
Sensationalism is all too common in today’s media, and nature’s extremes are always popular. The more shocking the headline, the more clicks and shares a story gets.
Take the story, “11 things lurking in New Jersey's forests that can kill you,” recently posted online.
Yikes! If you want to scare people out of the woods and onto their couches, that’s how to do it!
The good news is you don’t have to lock yourself inside, because New . . .
7/27/17 Volume XLVII, No. 30
The renowned Appalachian Trail, the world’s longest hiking-only footpath, stretches 2,200 miles from Maine to Georgia, including 72 miles through northern New Jersey.
Did you know that the Appalachian Trail has an urban equivalent for pedestrians and bicyclists?
It’s called the East Coast Greenway and it extends 3,000 miles from northern Maine to the Florida Keys, including nearly 100 miles in New Jersey.
Right now, about a third of the East Coast Greenway . . .
7/20/17 Volume XLVII, No. 29
A red-shouldered hawk soars above ridges and valleys. A showy lady’s slipper orchid blooms deep in the forest. A bog turtle suns itself on a log. A bobcat hunts at twilight. Pine Barrens tree frogs croak throughout the woods on a warm night. An osprey swoops into the sea and emerges with a fish.
These nature sights and sounds in this state we’re in are as diverse as they are beautiful.
Thanks to a temperate climate and varied geography – everything . . .
Summer is in full swing at the Jersey shore. Over the next couple of months and into the fall, millions of visitors will head “down the shore” for the beaches, fishing, boating and ecotourism activities like whale and dolphin watching.
It’s hard to imagine New Jersey without its thriving shore tourism economy - dependent on a healthy ocean and a clean coastline stretching from Sandy Hook to Cape May. The same goes for its commercial fishing industry, which supplies . . .
This time of year, it’s common to see kids digging in the sand with colorful plastic buckets, shovels and sifters. They can be found all over New Jersey’s ocean and bay beaches.
But one lucky group will be digging in landlocked Mantua Township in Gloucester County, far from the sea. Instead of building sand castles, these kids will be excavating fossilized shark teeth, sponges, shells, fish bones and more.
They’re camping at the Jean and Ric Edelman . . .
6/29/17 Volume XLVII, No. 26
Bobcats are New Jersey’s only native wildcat. But they’re not wild about people! Just ask Tyler Christensen, a photographer and wildlife researcher who has spent years stalking bobcats, considered endangered in New Jersey.
“I’ve never seen a bobcat in person here in New Jersey,” says Tyler. “They’re so secretive, they avoid people like the plague. You can study these cats your whole life and not see one.” It doesn’t help . . .
6/22/17 Volume XLVII, No. 25
New Jersey’s almost 9 million residents make this state we’re in denser than India or Japan! And the population is projected to grow to 10.2 to 10.4 million by 2040. Will we have enough water for our residents, farmers, businesses, industries – and the environment – now and in the future?
That question is front and center following the release of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s draft 2017-2022 update of the New Jersey Statewide . . .
6/15/17 Volume XLVII, No. 24
New Jersey’s Piedmont – a gently rolling landscape south and east of the Highlands – includes many of this state we’re in’s most populous counties and cities. You may not know it, but there’s a piece of fascinating geologic history right beneath your feet!
Take a journey with Dr. Emile DeVito, New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s staff biologist, into New Jersey’s geologic past, long before humans walked the Earth:
“When . . .
6/8/17 Volume XLVII, No. 23
The Trump administration’s proposal to cut funding for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will directly impact federal safeguards for clean water, air and natural resources in this state we’re in. The proposal would roll back decades of progress in protecting public health and environmental quality.
Here in New Jersey, we too are debating the impact of cuts to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection proposed by Governor Christie’s administration. . . .
6/1/17 Volume XLVII, No. 22
Remember 2013, when much of New Jersey was abuzz with cicadas? The large red-eyed insects were everywhere, their chorus filled the air, and they left piles of translucent shells beneath big, old trees.
Well, they’re back – four years early!
Scientists at a May 21 “Bioblitz” at the Mount Rose Preserve in Hopewell Township – an event held to inventory the preserve’s species - were amazed to find cicadas among the insect life. The next brood . . .
5/25/17 Volume XLVII, No. 21
“And what is so rare as a day in June? Then, if ever, come perfect days.” So begins James Russell Lowell’s poem extolling the beauty and restorative powers of nature during this magical month when spring blossoms into summer, with the longest days of the year.
June also happens to be New Jersey’s inaugural Open Space Month! These long “perfect days” are perfect for discovering the rich variety of lands our state has permanently preserved.
Ho . . .
5/18/17 Volume XLVII, No. 20
“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.”
Take John Muir’s advice from over 100 years ago! There’s nothing like a trail walk to awaken your senses to the wonders of nature and create feelings of serenity and well-being.
If Muir were alive today, the naturalist and author would surely be amazed at the number and variety of trails, especially in New Jersey! Today’s trails range from short loops in neighborhood . . .