Woodlands Committee Meeting Minutes

April 21, 2004


Attendees: Jerry Uhrig, Linda Spencer-Green, Martha Dwyer-Bergman, Blair Schleicher-Wilson


The minutes from the previous meeting were approved.


Jerry said that he would be out of town for the next eleven days.




Book: Swampwalker's Journal, A Wetlands Year by David M. Carroll

This book was recommended by ENSP biologists at the workshop on vernal pools. To quote the Boston Globe, it "puts a face, or faces, on the creatures we are destroying, something much more effective than a blanket cry to 'save the wetlands.'" The book was written by a naturalist who has spent the past 50 years studying wetlands. He devotes a chapter to each of seven wetland types: vernal pool, marsh, swamp, shrub swamp, pond, floodplain, and bogs and fens. Mr. Carroll introduces all the wondrous denizens of the vernal pools: fairy shrimp, whose eggs can remain viable through a waterless decade or more; mole salamanders, whose longevity can exceed that of most dogs (20-25 years); wood frogs, whose skin becomes increasingly toxic as they mature; broad-winged hawks, who have learned to peel the skin off their prey before eating it; backswimmers, members of one of several aquatic insect families that can inflict painful, often long-lasting, fiery stings. These insects are the best reason not to wade barefoot and bare-legged into vernal pools.

Mr. Carroll also points out that once development starts in the vicinity of a vernal pool, it becomes very difficult to provide sufficient buffer space around the pool. Mole salamanders may need up to 500 feet.


Conversation with Mike van Clef of The Nature Conservancy (Linda, February 19, 2004)


Note: This report should have been in the March meeting minutes but it was overlooked.


I spoke with Mike Van Clef of the Nature Conservancy. He said that Lenny Wolgast is  retired wildlife management expert and would probably only be helpful insofar as designing hunts, getting hunters, etc.


Regarding forest recovery, Mike said he favors as natural a recovery as possible rather than running the risk of introducing new genotypes. Badly browsed forests need to have deer numbers close to 0 to make a comeback. Even deer numbers close to 3 per square mile may be too many. Twenty deer per square mile is too many. This is the situation in South Mountain, i.e. the recovery is poor, due to insufficient deer culling. He also suggested fencing if we can't cull herd back severely enough for natural regeneration. He said all layers of the forest WILL regenerate given time. One could help by planting but it is labor intensive, expensive, and runs the risk of introducing problems. For example, turning earth over may provide an "in" for invasive species such as garlic mustard.


Regarding earthworms, Mike believes that the Asiatic earthworms (the big ones) may change the nutrient composition of the soil but this is minimal considering the problem associated with the deer overbrowse. He suggested definitely leaving this issue until we have a handle on the major problems.





Wet Borough Lot


There are concerns about a wet borough lot between Melrose and Kenilworth. Questions are being raised about what, if anything, should be done about it. Linda and Phil are following the discussions of this issue at Environmental Commission meetings. After discussing the matter with the Environmental Commission chairman, it was agreed that the Woodlands Committee should take the lead on such matters. The Woodlands Committee needs to address issues such as this in our recommendations for management of Borough lots. Linda is viewing the issue from that angle. Phil is looking at some of the broader wetlands issues.


NRCS (Natural Resource Conservation Service) Visit (Jerry)


Tim Dunn and Jody Peligan visited the Borough on April 9 and walked through the areas cited in our grant application for invasives species control. Tim Dunn will write a report with recommendations on management of our woodlands.  We spent three hours walking Richard Wilcox and Halsey Frederick Parks.  Near the entrance to the multi-use trail back of the beach at Birchwood was the first of many patches of garlic mustard. The hill back of the beach seemed to have very few herbaceous plants of any kind. But further out Ogden Trail, closer to the boundary between Borough parkland and County Park, was one of the densest areas of invasive species in the Borough: privet, winged euonymous (spindletree), Japanese honeysuckle, Japanese barberry, garlic mustard, Asian bittersweet.  On the other side of Richard Wilcox Park, the sled run had large quantities of barberry and garlic mustard.  The trail at the end of Crystal Road had a solitary andromeda. Across town adjacent to the playing fields in Halsey Frederick Park there is a major problem with alanthus (tree of heaven). The subsoil is the remains of an old dump site. This is the type of soil where alanthus usually can out-compete other species since it can tolerate very poor soil. Control of invasive species requires patience and persistence since seeds can remain viable for 5-10 years. In case where the vegetation cannot be uprooted, the usual procedure is to cut the upper portion off at the ground during the spring or summer and then paint the stump with Round-Up during August-September, the  time interval when the energy is being sent down to the roots in preparation for winter. 


Several other observations were made during the tour with NRCS. (1) We might want to consider fencing an acre or two in Richard Wilcox Park so that we can experiment with restoration strategies without deer. Tim Dunn favors a more proactive approach to restoration than Mike van Clef does. If the situation is serious enough, he would favor importing specimens from outside this region to aid the restoration process. (2)The vernal pool adjacent to Birchwood has a healthy population of wood frogs, evidenced by their mid-day vocalizations. Wood frogs are an obligate species; i.e., they need the vernal pool to complete their life-cycle. (3)Further along the trail into the wood in the direction of the spring is a vernal pool that needs protection from trail erosion. An erosion barrier would fix the problem. (4)In Halsey Frederick Park, near the alanthus trees are some oaks that need attention. Erosion from the construction has overrun the erosion barrier and surrounded the oaks. Unless removed, this will kill the oaks.


Vernal pool field study


Jerry and Phil visited vernal pools accompanied by ENSP biologists. It was a very useful first-hand look at life in vernal pools at Kittatinny State Park and in Jefferson Township. Phil has since followed up with some studies of pools in the Borough.


Herptile Survey Workshop


Jerry attended an ENSP workshop on surveying for herptiles. His area of responsibility in the ENSP survey includes most of the Borough, actually half of the Boonton USGS quad and a small portion of the adjacent quad to the east. The workshop offered a good opportunity to practice herptile identification skills. Jerry missed a very obvious feature of a Northern Red Salamander and misidentified it. It showed that it is quite possible to miss the obvious, which in this case was black spots on the back of a red salamander. Martha asked about the water snakes commonly found in our lakes, especially Birchwood and Crystal. They are Northern Water Snakes. These non-venomous snakes can be found all over the state. They prefer quiet waters. Darker specimens are sometimes confused with the venomous Cottonmouth, but the latter are not found in New Jersey. Lighter specimens may superficially resemble the venomous Copperheads, which are found in New Jersey. But the shape of the head and the pattern on the back is very different. Aside from the Copperhead, the only other venomous snake found in New Jersey is the Timber Rattlesnake, which is on the State Endangered list.


Deer Report


Final count on the deer culling was 72 total, 56 does, 83 fetuses. The most productive site was at the chimney area of Richard Wilcox Park.


Shade Tree Report 


There is ivy on the trees on the street.  The Shade Tree Commission doesn’t address this issue.  Dead trees in the small lots-Shade Tree not interested in addressing this issue.  The question is what is the healthy level of dead trees in the woods?  Perhaps we should have John Linsey come and evaluate the ratio of the living trees to the dead trees.


Dead Tree Removal


Martha mentioned that she knows someone who is in the lumber business.  He might be interested in removing some of the dead trees.  She will get more information about this individual.




Linda and Martha will make a poster for the upcoming Garden Club Annual Plants sale to inform them about invasive plants and the work of the  Woodlands Committee.


Woodlands Walks


Sample sites to walk and learn.  We will pick 10 sites to do a survey. We will make our own markers since we have not yet heard from the County Park Commission.