Woodlands Committee Meeting Minutes

February 18, 2004


Attendees: Martha Dwyer-Bergman, Linda Spencer-Green, Phil Notestine, Jerry Uhrig


The minutes from the previous meeting were approved.


Forest Trilogy


We discussed the three NJAS articles dubbed the "Forest Trilogy" in their spring magazine. They provide a wealth of information about the current state of woodlands in New Jersey. Jerry had a question about the lead article, "A Tale of Two Forests." This article contrasts two forests, the one in and around the Scherman-Hoffman Sancuary and Muscanetcong Mountain thirty miles to the west. Scherman-Hoffman has been devestated, and Muscanetcong Mountain has been relatively untouched. The question is why? Phil suggested that there are likely to be agricultural lands near Muscanetcong Mountain so that deer would not browse the woodlands so heavily. (Jerry followed up on this question at the subsequent Franklin Township Workshop conducted by the Audubon Society. Experts at the workshop suggested contacting the author for his opinion.)

The second article in the trilogy, "The Ghost Forest," discusses the major factors affecting the health of our woodlands: fragmentation, deer overbrowsing, invasive species, and earthworms. It then goes on to mention a host of other factors, from Dutch elm disease and gypsy moths to acid rain and air pollution. This article also gives a useful list of references, two of which were discussed at the meeting. The third article, "The Field Marks of a Healthy Forest," provides a simple checklist of what to looks for in a healthy forest. They are given as five attributes: Large (>140 acres), Layered (dense understory), Lasting (not a stable climax), Native (no invasives), Niches (diversity). This article also shows a very good illustration of the effects of overbrowsing by comparing some fenced and unfenced areas at Scherman-Hoffman.


Two references that Jerry managed to track down were "The Once and Future Forest," a book by Leslie Jones Sauer of Andropogon Associates and "The Proceedings of the 2002 State of the Forest Symposium," available for download from the New Jersey Audubon Website. The Once and Future Forest, available at the New Jersey Audubon center at Scherman-Hoffman, was written as a guide to forest restoration strategies. Andropogon Associates is a group of forest restoration professionals known in this area for work with the Morris County Park System. If we decide that we need the services of such a group, they would be one to consider.


2002 State of the Forest Symposium


This symposium, held in October 2002, was co-sponsored by The Nature Conservancy, New Jersey Audubon, and the New Jersey Conservation Foundation. Papers were presented by many of the experts we have been quoting and contacting, Emile DeVito, Leslie Sauer, Susan Martka, Mike Van Clef, and a number of others. It is an excellent resource and required reading for all of us. We wondered about plans for future symposia.


Franklin Township Environmental Inventory


New Jersey Audubon is conducting Wildlife Biologist in Training workshops to train volunteers to help with a biodiversity inventory in Franklin Township. Linda, Martha, and Jerry plan to attend the workshop given on February 23 at Bunker Hill Environmental Center in Franklin Township.


Vernal Pond Survey


Vernal ponds are ponds which have no outlet and which contain water for only part of the year. Certain species are critically dependent on such habitat in the completion of their life cycle. NJDEP, Division of Fish and Wildlife, Endangered and Nongame Species Program is conducting an inventory of vernal ponds in New Jersey. A workshop to train volunteers is being held on March 13 at Lord Stirling Environmental Center in Somerset County. Phil and Jerry plan to attend along with Margaret Gossett of the Environmental Commission.


Herptile Survey


The other project being managed by the Endangered and Nongame Species Program is a herptile survey of the entire state. Herptiles are reptiles and amphibians, many not dependent on vernal ponds. The state has been subdivided into squares ten miles on a side. Volunteers take responsibility for surveying a square. A training workshop is scheduled for April 3 in Hackettstown. Jerry will attend. We had copies of the Herp Survey survey form. It is an example of the type of form that we might use. It was fairly detailed.


Woodlands Sampling Strategy


Survey Forms need to be designed for the data gathering for the woodlands study.  Jerry showed us a marking stake sample that is used for the naming of the flowers at the wildflower trail in the Tourne County Park. They are made by a volunteer and furnished to the wildflower trail free of charge. We could use similar markers to locate our sampling sites throughout our woodlands. GPS can be helpful in locating the sites in case the stakes are lost. By the March meeting each one of us should bring a roughly designed work sheet that can be used in the field to catalogue the site.  We will do the first data gathering as a group so that we will learn together and be able to ask questions.


Forest Fragmentation Study


Mike Van Clef of The Nature Conservancy, Skylands Office, sent us two maps. One shows Mountain Lakes core woodlands area giving acreage for each. The largest, in the Tourne, consists of 500 acres. This figure includes the county park. Such a habitat can support wood turtles and barred owls as well as resting and feeding of migratory birds. Breeding birds requiring smaller areas could be found within such habitat as well other woodland throughout the town. Birds such as the Cerulean warblers, which require extensive woodlands (>2500 acres), would not be found here. Mike said that our efforts to reduce the deer population should help to restore essential vertical structure in our woodlands. The second map shows the results of TNC's forest fragmentation analysis for northern New Jersey. It also depicts portfolio sites (sites with greatest biodiversity).




On Thursday morning following the meeting, Martha received a phone call from the Stokes State Forest regarding the Tillman's Ravine.  Paul Stern (973-948-3820) reported

that the condition of the Hemlocks are in slow decline and in poor condition. However, last year's (2002-3) harsh winter conditions did kill a large population of the woolly adelgid.  He did give the name of the State Dept. of Agriculture person who is studying the aldegid infestation of the Hemlocks, Wayne Martin, Northern Regional Forester 973-827-1325.  Martha will be contacting him this coming month.




Phil updated us on the culling of the deer.  Between 63 and 66 adults have been culled to date. As for the sites, feedings have halted; the reasons are not clear. It could be that the deer have "learned" or it could be other factors.  There will be no culling this week (2/18/04).




To begin to educate the community about the Woodlands committee, Martha and Linda suggested that we use the opportunity of the annual Garden Club's plant sale to have information regarding invasive plants and the damage that they do to the Woodlands.   Jerry mentioned that Lynn is a member of the Rockaway Valley Garden Club and that their organization is doing this already.  They have a number of posters etc. that we would have to ask permission to borrow, Jerry said that he would speak to Lynn Uhrig.  Phil also suggested that we start using the Town's website to pass on our information to the community.  Contact Andy Bulfer for website assistance.


Previous Studies


Martha reported back on the Woodlands work that was done in March 1995 by the Woodlands Management Task Force. (This is an addendum to the meeting.) Mr. Jack Shuart of the New Jersey Department of Forestry led the Task Force in two walk-throughs where he provided his input on the conditions of the large tracts and building lots and identified opportunities for improvements. Gary Webb was asked about any additional information regarding this work. He mentioned that a John Linson did work in the town in 1995 and that he presented data regarding the inventories of the woodlands. Although, Martha looked though all the files that Gary provided her, she was unable to locate the inventories.  Gary will continue to search for it.


Bird Surveys


We are gathering data on birds that we can using as indicators of the health of our woodlands. NJ Audubon recently completed a five-year survey of nesting birds. John Knapp of Denville, president of Morris Highlands Audubon, agreed to furnish us the relevant results of the study.  The Mountain Lakes part of the survey was done by someone from Boonton whose name we do not have at the moment.  Jerry is still looking for Tim Vogel, a local birder who has records specifically for the Tourne. He is a member of the Urner Ornithological Club, an indication that he is well-regarded in the birding community. So his records should be reliable.