Woodlands Committee Meeting Minutes

January 21, 2004

 

Attendees: Martha Dwyer-Bergman, Linda Spencer-Green, Phil Notestine, Patie Graham, Blair Wilson, Jerry Uhrig

The minutes from the previous meeting were reviewed. Jerry mentioned that the earthworm argument proposed in the Wall Street Journal article distributed at the December meeting because the ice cover during the last ice age was not necessarily as thick as it was in Minnesota where their earthworm expert was based. We are in the terminal moraine. Minnesota was deep inside the ice with a cover probably more than 3000 feet thick. So the extent of the earthwormproblem here and what we might do about it requires further study, as least on Jerry's part. We are clearly in a boundary region, at the edge of the Highlands, straddling the Ramapo fault, at the limit of the glaciers southern extent. This tends to complicate matters in general. On the other side of the earthworm issue, Phil noted that it is likely that a decline in the bird population would result in an excessive earthworm population. So we might have the same problem for different reasons. It is also known that two biologists in this area, Emile Devito and Rob Jennings, are generally concerned about earthworms. So we definitely have to take a position on it.

 

Information Sources

 

The Nature Conservancy website has a long list of technical publications as well as descriptions of their conservation methodology, Conservation by Design. Jerry will try tracking down some of the more applicable reports through the borough library.

 

Jerry passed around three books recently obtained from the Pocono Environmental Education Center (PEEC) bookstore:

1.      Winter Weed Finder, Miller and Amendolara, Nature Study Guild, Rochester, NY

2.      Winter Tree Finder, Watts and Watts, Nature Study Guild, Rochester, NY www.naturestudy.com

3.      Season of Promise, Wild Plants in Winter, Northeastern United States, Roberts, Ohio University Press, Athens, Ohio

 

The Nature Conservancy

 

As noted in the December meeting minutes, Mike Van Clef in the Skylands Office is our technical contact. Jerry and Mike had a long conversation about conservation and diversity. He recommended Lenny Wolgast at Rutgers as someone who is studying the recovery of damaged woodlands. Linda will contact Lenny. Mike said that it is very important that we put a process in place that can be understood and used by others as time passes since woodlands recovery can take years. We need to have a process that can be used to effectively track progress. At a high level, The Nature Conservancy Methodology, Conservation by Design, is suited for this. But at an implementation level we need to have a workable procedure for measuring the diversity and health of our woodlands. For this purpose, Mike suggested a sampling protocol that they have found useful in baselining conservation sites.

 

Conservation by Design is described at length on the Nature Conservancy website. At a very high level it is a pretty generic process for nearly any undertaking requiring planning and resources. They identify four stages that are executed sequentially and then repeated cyclically: Setting Priorities, Developing Strategies, Taking Action, and

Measuring Success. Each of these major stages are broken down into a number of tasks as follows:

 

1.      Setting Priorities

        Identifying Conservation Targets

        Gathering Information

        Setting Goals

        Assessing Viability

        Assembling Portfolios

2.      Developing Strategies

        Systems

        Stresses

        Sources

        Strategies

        Success

3.      Taking Action

        Buying and managing natural areas

        Negotiating agreements

        Offering training to partner organizations

        Educating people

        Working with resource-based industries

        Helping government agencies

4.      Measuring Success

        Evaluate key ecological factors

        Measure the level of threat

 

Refer to the website for further elaboration. The process needs to be tailored to fit any specific situation but overall it provides a checklist that encapsulates a great deal of experience in restoring and preserving natural areas.

 

The sampling protocol suggested by Mike Van Clef consists of the following. In its simplest form every 50 feet along a trail locate a point 10 feet off the trail. At this point center a 3-foot radius circle. Within this circle take an inventory. At a minimum, count invasives, herbs, ferns, shrubs, seedlings, and saplings. These sample areas provide a means of monitoring the health as diversity over time. Phil suggested that we probably want to have wooden stakes made to mark the center of the sampling circles. Martha suggested that GPS might be useful. Jerry followed up with a GPS expert of his acquaintance who agreed that GPS could be helpful in locating the stakes but it does not offer the accuracy to consistently locate 3-foot radius circles. GPS operation under a tree canopy might be a problem but we should try the idea out anyway. It is likely that we would want to tailor this procedure to suit our needs. Wilcox park probably does not need sampling every 50 feet along a trail. Fifty yards might be more appropriate and maybe not every trail. At the other extreme the sampling of borough lots probably requires a different means of locating the circles. We also discussed the possibility that we would want more information about particular species, quality of the duff, and fauna, for example. We need to design a data collection form that we can all use. And then we need to set up a database that we can use for analysis and queries.

 

Other Woodlands Issues

 

Lead

Experts at Picatinny Arsenal are concerned about lead contamination from munitions. They have a "green munitions" initiative which is searching for viable alternatives to lead. They also are conducting remediation studies to determine how best to identify and clean up environmental lead contamination due to munitions. Our primary concern on this point would be possible contamination in and around the old firing range adjacent to Crystal Lake. We hope to get some help from Picatinny/Rutgers on this issue.

 

Prior studies

Martha will contact Floyd Tompkins regarding the work that he did on the woodlands previously. Are there any photos or documentation of the condition of the woods. Where are the large trees located in Wilcox?

 

Hemlocks

Martha will also contact Valhalla Hemlock Glen research group to gather information on the condition of the hemlocks. Also check on Tillman's Ravine in Stokes State Forest. Montclair State University is believed to be studying both areas.

 

Birds

Jerry noted that there was a local birder, Tim Vogel, who has compiled data on the Tourne's bird population over the years. Carol and John Knapp of the Morris Highlands Audubon Society recommended this person. John also mentioned that Mr. Vogel is a good friend of Rick Radis, so this should lend some credence to his data. John also said that the Audubon Society sponsored a five-year study of bird populations throughout the state. Both Knapps participated. John will review his copy of the report and lend it to Jerry if it looks to be helpful.

 

Acreage Data

Gary Webb furnished us with copies of a spread sheet giving acreage for all the woodlands and borough lots throughout the town. Entries are color-coded to match the maps he gave us. We need this data to help us determine a viable deer population.

 

 

Deer

 

Culling

Phil reported that the culling has been successful with no problems from the public. There have been reports in the local newspapers with varying degrees of accuracy.

 

The deer culling information meeting was discussed, and the general impression was that it was well received. There was a very small group opposed to the culling.

 

Contraception

One woman spoke of her concern about the culling and indicated in follow-up email that a 6-year contraception shot was available. Martha was unaware of that and will look into it. Martha handed out the pamphets that she received from the Spayvat group, this is the 3-year shot.

 

 

Next meeting will be the third Wednesday in February (18), 2004. Check the Borough Calendar if in doubt.