For those who don’t know New Jersey, “Garden State” might seem like an odd nickname. After all, this state we’re in is the nation’s most densely populated and is projected to be the first to be completely built out.
But with its highly fertile soils and farming history, agriculture continues to thrive. People have to eat … and more and more New Jerseyans want fresh, locally-grown foods, including organic and specialty items.
“New . . .
12/5/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 49
Visit the Pine Barrens in summer and hear a chorus of Pine Barrens tree frogs, watch northern pine snakes bask in the sun, spot red-headed woodpeckers in the trees or watch bald eagles flying over rivers and reservoirs.
Visit the Highlands and look for bog turtles sunning in marshes, red-shouldered hawks soaring above forested hills, and monarch butterflies. You may even see Acadian hairstreak and Arogos skipper butterflies in wildflower meadows. If you’re especially lucky, you . . .
11/28/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 48
“Forests are the ‘lungs’ of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people. The forests are also needed for mitigating extreme climatic fluctuations, holding the soil on the slopes, retaining the moisture in the ground, and controlling the equable flow of water in our streams.”
-Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1935
Our 32nd president was way ahead of the times when he eloquently described the value of forests to . . .
11/21/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 47
The holiday season’s here and it’s time for a tree. Do you go for a real tree or a fake?
You may think that an artificial tree is the more environmentally responsible choice - after all, it spares a real tree and is reusable. But a New Jersey-grown tree is the greenest choice, and it supports Garden State agriculture and jobs!
Evergreen trees grown on Christmas tree farms are crops, planted for the sole purpose of being harvested during the holiday . . .
11/14/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 46
In recent years, New Jersey’s vineyards and craft breweries have surged in popularity, with new brands popping up all over the Garden State.
And hard cider is coming back as the next trend in locally-produced beverages.
Made from tart apples and sometimes compared to champagne, hard cider has a long history in New Jersey. The state’s cider industry began during colonial times and prospered for over 300 years. Long before Newark became the “Brick City,” . . .
If you live in rural or suburban New Jersey, chances are you’ve seen flocks of enormous dark birds foraging and hanging out in fields, backyards and along roadsides. And you’ve likely heard their telltale gobble or caught a glimpse of a male spreading its tail into a giant fan.
They’re wild turkeys, and their numbers today are a result of a great conservation success story in this state we’re in! Over the course of our state’s history, they’ve been . . .
11/1/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 44
The last time the fish known as American shad was seen in the Millstone River, James Polk was president and the Civil War had yet to be fought.
Until now. With the removal of an old, obsolete dam in Manville, Somerset County, American shad are successfully spawning in the lower section of the Millstone, a Raritan River tributary.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection just announced that juvenile shad were found in the Millstone River about 4.5 miles upstream . . .
A landmark report just released by the world’s leading climate scientists had sobering news for New Jersey, a state with hundreds of miles of coastline along the Atlantic Ocean and Delaware Bay.
The consequences of global warming – including sea level rise and weather extremes like droughts, floods, heat waves and wildfires – are coming much faster than previously anticipated.
The report, issued by The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, warned . . .
10/18/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 42
The New Jersey Natural Lands Trust has 30,000 great reasons to celebrate its 50th anniversary!
That’s how many acres were preserved since the Trust was created by the state Legislature in 1968. The Trust is an independent agency with a mission to preserve land in its natural state for public enjoyment and the protection of habitat for rare plants and animals.
“Our lands are probably some of the best biodiversity hotspots in the state,” said . . .
Of all the creatures on Earth, bats may be the most misunderstood. They’re largely unseen - sleeping during the day and flying at night – and they have an undeserved reputation as spooky and dangerous.
But according to Merlin Tuttle, nothing could be further from the truth. Merlin is considered the father of modern bat conservation and founder of a Texas-based nonprofit that works globally to protect the world's bats.
“We fear most . . .
10/4/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 40
An epidemic is sweeping across the globe, and it’s causing a myriad of health problems, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, falls, and poor mental health.
The epidemic is physical inactivity … in other words, a sedentary lifestyle. A new study by the World Health Organization found that 28 percent of adults globally – some 1.4 billion people – are at risk from lack of exercise.
Thankfully, this epidemic is not contagious and it’s curable! . . .
9/27/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 39
Governor Murphy has signed a new law that requires New Jersey to get half of its power from renewable energy by 2030, and he’s setting the bar even higher with a goal of achieving 100 percent clean energy by 2050, which should be defined to mean 100 percent renewable energy. Right now, renewable energy makes up about 15 percent of our power.
So how can we get from 15 percent to 50 percent to 100 percent?
New Jersey’s Energy Master Plan, currently undergoing an . . .
“Nothing is more priceless and more worthy of preservation than the rich array of animal life with which our country has been blessed. It is a many-faceted treasure, of value to scholars, scientists, and nature lovers alike, and it forms a vital part of the heritage we all share as Americans.”
These were the words of President Richard Nixon when he signed the landmark Endangered Species Act 45 years ago.
In 1973, the outlook was grim for many animals and . . .
9/13/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 37
Of all the creatures in the animal kingdom, insects are the least loved.
Anyone who’s been bitten by ticks, stung by bees, swarmed by mosquitos, bothered by flies or had ants crash their picnic – in other words, everyone – has, at some point, wondered if the world would be better without bugs.
But be careful of what you wish for! A world without bugs would be uninhabitable for most species.
Insects pollinate plants, including crops, control pests and . . .
9/6/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 36
If you are wondering whether fall will ever come, just take a look at the birds!
At the Jersey shore, you may have noticed tiny sandpipers known as sanderlings pecking and scurrying along the water’s edge. They just spent their summer breeding in the Canadian arctic. Some are now following New Jersey’s coastline on their way to South America, while others will stay at the Jersey coast all winter.
If you were at a Labor Day picnic, you may have spotted common . . .
New Jersey is home to about 2500 native plants, and over one-third are considered rare! Some have always been rare - like the Stalked Woolgrass - which was just re-discovered by NJDEP State Botanist David Snyder along the Delaware River in Sussex County after not having been seen in over 100 years.
Many others are rare due to lack of wildfires, habitat destruction, filling of wetlands, over-browsing by deer, or harm from invasive species or diseases. The last known population of the . . .
New Jersey’s wildflower meadows are spectacular this month!
“Meadows are beautiful, they’re vibrant and they host diverse wildlife,” said wildflower expert Tama Matsuoka Wong of Flemington, who has two meadows on her property. “The plants are changing all season … every two weeks you get new plants. I don’t think you can match nature. It’s really magical.”
One of the state’s newest science classrooms is uniquely suited for water testing and studying plankton under a microscope. But you’ll need a life vest!
This spring, the “Study Hull,” a 40-foot pontoon boat outfitted with a laboratory, was launched by the nonprofit Lake Hopatcong Foundation after years of planning. The custom-made floating classroom cruises up and down Lake Hopatcong, providing field trips for schoolchildren and summer ecological cruises for . . .
8/9/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 32
You’re looking up at the night sky when – whoosh! – a brilliant streak of light whizzes past so quickly you almost miss it. Some shooting stars contain ancient stardust, far older than our young solar system - tiny diamonds manufactured deep within an exploding star somewhere in our Milky Way galaxy over 10 billion years ago!
Everything on Earth except hydrogen atoms - essentially all of you and everything you have ever seen, breathed, or touched – came . . .
8/2/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 31
How many times have you bent down to check out a mushroom, only to be told, “Stop! It may be poisonous!”
New Jersey has several poisonous mushrooms … and it goes without saying that you shouldn’t eat anything growing in the wild (including plant leaves, roots and berries) unless you know what you’re doing.
But you don’t need to stay away from mushrooms! They’re beautiful to look at and fascinating to study and photograph, as . . .
During summer heat waves, you know your body will be hot and sluggish. But did you know that your brain is affected by the heat too?
Two new studies show how heat waves and temperature spikes – which are expected to become more frequent due to climate change – are impacting our lives in surprising ways.
In a new study by Harvard University, researchers found that extreme heat makes it harder to think! The study was published in the July 10 edition of . . .
7/19/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 29
What do Wharton State Forest in the Pine Barrens, Jesse Allen Park in Newark, Camden Waterfront Park, the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Island Beach State Park and Paterson’s Great Falls National Historic Park have in common?
These parks and natural areas – and many more throughout this state we’re in - have all benefited from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a 52-year-old federal program to create and improve public parks, recreation areas, beaches, . . .
7/12/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 27
In 1974, reptile researcher Robert Zappalorti captured a female bog turtle in a Sussex County swamp. In keeping with protocols, he marked the turtle by cutting tiny identifying notches on the edge of her shell. After snapping her photo – which became the cover of his guidebook – Zappalorti released the turtle back into the swamp.
More than 40 years later, in 2017, the same turtle was found by another researcher, Colin Osborn of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. . . .
Street flooding is not unusual in New Jersey’s coastal towns, especially during high tides, heavy rains, on-shore winds and full moons.
But coastal residents are noticing more frequent flooding than in past years. In some places, sea and bay waters spill over the roads at high tide, even on clear days with little wind.
New research shows that the sea level is rising at faster-than-anticipated speeds. This is due to both sea level rise and land slowly sinking (an . . .
In the musical “Little Shop of Horrors,” a mysterious Venus flytrap in a florist shop reveals its appetite for human flesh and blood.
Fortunately, there’s no real-life equivalent of Audrey, the diabolical, man-eating plant. But there are many carnivorous plants that trap and digest animal prey – mostly insects – and some of them are found in New Jersey!
This state we’re in has three groups of native carnivorous plants: pitcher plants, . . .
6/21/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 25
New Jersey may be the nation’s most densely populated state, but how many of its citizens know the Pine Barrens?
The Pine Barrens wilderness includes more than a million acres of pine forests, rivers and streams … with few roads, cars or developments. It’s a place with a unique plants and animals, fascinating history and culture, and it sits atop one of New Jersey’s biggest underground freshwater reserves.
It’s also highly accessible, located . . .
6/14/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 24
Have you seen unusual groups of joggers and runners breaking stride to pick up litter from the ground?
They’re “ploggers,” part of a fitness trend that migrated to the United States from Sweden. “Plogging” combines the Swedish term “plocka upp” - meaning to pick up - with jogging. Ploggers are an increasingly common sight in Scandinavia and Europe.
Here in the United States, plogging is now catching on among runners, joggers and . . .
6/7/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 23
For many New Jerseyans, it wouldn’t be summer without blueberries, peaches, tomatoes, and many varieties of melon and squash, all grown in this state we’re in.
And we have dozens of unfamiliar, native pollinating insects to thank!
The production of most fruits, seeds, and nuts requires insect pollinators, who transfer pollen from the male anthers of a flower to the female stigma residing within another flower of the same species. Without this cross-fertilization, . . .
5/31/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 22
How can you tell if an ecosystem is healthy? Take a look at the plants and animals living there.
In New Jersey – especially the southern counties - one sign of healthy forested wetlands and headwater streams is the presence of the evergreen lily known as swamp pink (Helonias bullata).
The plants produce a beautiful and unusual looking bloom, a grapefruit-sized cluster of tiny, bright pink flowers with blue anthers atop a long, slender stalk. They’re often . . .
5/24/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 21
A dozen years ago, wildlife experts were sure that the fisher – a member of the weasel family – was long gone from New Jersey.
But a biologist using a motion-triggered camera proved them wrong. Believing fishers were back, the late Charlie Kontos, an adjunct professor and Ph.D. candidate at Rutgers, set up a camera along a trail in Stokes State Forest in Sussex County.
The image captured by the “trail cam” in October 2006 clearly showed a fisher, its . . .
5/17/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 20
Look around and you’ll see plastic bags everywhere: tumbling along roads, washed up on beaches, caught in tree branches, and clogging rivers, streams and storm drains.
In 2017, volunteers for Clean Ocean Action collected more than 9,000 plastic bags during their spring and fall “Beach Sweeps” up and down the Jersey shore. In April, volunteers for Raritan Headwaters Association picked up 2,370 bags along the Raritan River and its tributaries.
These cleanup . . .
5/10/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 19
Bluebirds have been a symbol of happiness for thousands of years and across many cultures. With their brilliant blue plumage and flash of red on the breast, these year-round New Jersey residents are breathtaking.
But the last century hasn’t been the happiest time for these small thrushes, which historically nested in hollow tree cavities.
The Eastern bluebird was once common up and down the East Coast, especially in open habitat with little understory and sparse ground . . .
5/3/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 18
Along New Jersey State Highway 72 in New Lisbon, just around the bend from Brendan Byrne State Forest, is a publicly-accessible forest fire observation tower. The view is stunning: one can see the vast expanse of our Pine Barrens, a sea of green extending in every direction.
At first glance, the forests may all look alike. But look more closely and you'll begin to see a rich diversity of trees and plants, surprising for a place called barren.
Maintaining diverse forests and . . .
4/26/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 17
Clean energy like solar and wind got a huge boost last week with the passage of a new clean energy bill.
The clean energy bill was passed by the state Senate and Assembly in Trenton. Once Governor Phil Murphy signs it into law, this state we’re in will join New York and California in leading the nation in clean energy. The bill will also put New Jersey on the path to meet the Governor’s goal of 100 percent clean energy by 2050.
Today, New Jersey only gets 15 . . .
4/19/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 16
Grant Harris took a bold step last week when he preserved nearly 375 acres of grasslands surrounding his famous Cowtown Rodeo in Pilesgrove Township, the oldest weekly professional rodeo in the United States and the only one in New Jersey.
Preserving the land where his horses and cattle graze allows him to continue a five-generation family rodeo legacy while helping keep agriculture alive in Salem County. What many folks may not realize is that preserving these rolling green . . .
4/12/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 15
Step outside at night and gaze up at the sky. Do you see a dim orangey glow? If so, you’re experiencing the modern problem of light pollution.
Our multitude of outdoor lights – streetlights, home lighting, stores, illuminated signs and more – obscure the magnificent dome of constellations and planets that have inspired a sense of wonder since the earliest days of mankind.
Raising awareness about light pollution and promoting solutions is the goal of . . .
4/5/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 14
Imagine a 500-acre island oasis for birds and wildlife, and an urban nature education center, in the Delaware River between Camden and Philadelphia.
Fifteen years ago, an improbable alliance formed. Petty’s Island’s owner, the CITGO Petroleum Corporation, teamed up with environmentalists from across New Jersey and local urban residents to preserve the island.
The battle to preserve Petty’s Island is captured in “500 Acres of Controversy: Saving . . .
3/29/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 13
Do you have Japanese angelica, Siebold’s viburnum or trifolate orange in your yard? If so, they can spell trouble.
All three are invasive plants, meaning they’re alien to New Jersey and can spread widely. They’re not a food source for native wildlife, and they’ll aggressively crowd out native plants.
Japanese angelica, Siebold’s viburnum and trifolate orange are among several new invasive plants identified by the New Jersey Invasive Species . . .
3/22/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 12
In spite of another snowstorm on the first day of spring, it’s impossible to ignore that spring is here. And lots of snow-weary New Jerseyans will be heading outdoors to explore new places.
Where to go? You could visit state and national parks. But how about following a different path? Check out the county parks in this state we’re in!
County parks are the Garden State’s hidden treasures: uncrowded places known mostly to locals. Some are compact neighborhood . . .
3/15/18 Volume XLVIII, No. 11
There’s no “magic potion” to cure everything that ails us, but a nonprofit health group is touting the next best thing: walking.
Walk with a Doc, whose mission is to encourage physical activity and reverse the effects of sedentary lifestyles, says walking is the most effective way to improve the health of people of all ages.
Walking is low-impact and easy on the joints. It can be done anywhere. And, according to the American Heart Association, walking has . . .