Did you ever wonder why some trees and shrubs stay green all year? Or, conversely, why other trees shed their leaves before winter?
You might think deciduous trees lose their leaves because they’re trying to avoid freezing weather. But they’re actually coping with the drought conditions of winter.
According to Dr. Emile DeVito, New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s staff biologist, the best clue comes from tropical forests with extended dry seasons. When . . .
11/23/16 Volume XLIX, No. 46
In November, Arctic sea ice is usually on the rise. But extraordinarily warm temperatures in the polar region are having the opposite reaction.
According to the Washington Post, researchers in the Arctic report that as of last weekend Arctic sea ice was still shrinking, during a season when short daylight hours usually mean bitter cold and ice growth.
Why does this matter? Arctic sea ice acts as the Northern Hemisphere’s air conditioner, keeping vast parts of our planet . . .
Autumn leaves are dropping; starting an inevitable timeless recycling process that enriches the soil. You might think that once the leaves have all dropped, that forests begin to wind down for a long winter snooze.
But according to Dr. Emile DeVito, New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s staff biologist, critical ecological processes and fascinating animal behaviors begin in the fall and continue right through winter.
As Emile explains, falling leaves pile up . . .
11/10/16 Volume XLIX, No. 44
The birth of New Jersey’s environmental movement began with a news scoop.
On Dec. 3 1959, folks living near the Great Swamp in Morris County were stunned to see a front page Newark Evening News story revealing the Port Authority’s plan to build a new airport in the marshes, wetlands, meadows and woods of the Great Swamp.
Residents quickly mobilized to fight the “jetport.” One grassroots group quietly bought up private land in the swamp for . . .
11/3/16 Volume XLIX, No. 43
Donald and Beverley Jones were among Hunterdon County’s most ardent conservationists. If not for them, landmarks like the Prallsville Mills, Green Sergeant’s Covered Bridge and Locktown Stone Church might not be standing today. And lands along the picturesque Wickecheoke Creek wouldn’t be available for public enjoyment.
In memory of Donald and Beverley, hundreds of community members come together every November to hike the fields and forests of this special . . .
10/27/16 Volume XLIX, No. 42
Four years ago, Superstorm Sandy flooded and destroyed structures on much of New Jersey’s coastline. Sandy was a wake-up call to a state that had gone decades without destructive storms.
As New Jersey continues to recover from Sandy, many residents wonder what the future will bring, in light of the Earth’s changing climate and rising sea levels.
Two new reports from Rutgers University offer a sobering look at sea-level rise and an update on how coastal communities . . .
New Jersey may be the fourth smallest state, but what it lacks in size is made up in amazing diversity. From the rugged Highlands to sandy ocean beaches, and from the Pine Barrens to tidal marshes along the Delaware Bayshore, New Jerseyans are never far from a complete change of scenery!
And although we’re well known as an urban state – the most densely populated in the nation - a remarkable 42 percent of our land, about 2 million acres, is . . .
10/13/16 Volume XLIX, No. 40
Many of us head straight to New England for spectacular fall foliage.
But why not stay home, tour New Jersey’s forests and save time and gas? Some of the best places to hike and enjoy fall leaves are New Jersey’s natural areas.
New Jersey’s natural areas are specially-designated public lands that have high-quality habitat for rare plants and animals. Launched by the Natural Areas Act of 1961, the state’s system of natural areas was created to . . .
10/6/16 Volume XLIX, No. 39
When officials gather to announce a public project, it’s usually a new building, park or bridge.
But on Sept. 8, officials and community members came together to commemorate the de-construction of the obsolete 125-year-old Hughesville Dam on the Musconetcong River. U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Robert Martin were on hand to tour the project that will restore the 42-mile Musconetcong – a . . .
9/29/16 Volume XLIX, No. 38
Beachgoers in the Monmouth County town of Manasquan were thrilled in late August when a humpback whale appeared offshore. For two hours, it breached, spouted, slapped its fins on the water and waved them in the air.
Of course, the humpback wasn’t there for entertainment. It was simply having a long lunch, feeding on abundant small fish in the water.
Humpback whales are making a comeback. Fishermen in the New York Bight – the triangular corner of ocean between . . .
9/22/16 Volume XLIX, No. 37
You may be surprised to learn that two New Jerseyans started our state’s wine industry almost two decades before the American Revolution!
At the time, Great Britain was thirsting for good wine in the colonies, and London’s Royal Society of Arts offered a reward to any colonist who could produce wine of the same caliber as vintages from France.
Two New Jersey men, William Alexander and Edward Antill, took the challenge and were recognized by the Royal . . .
9/15/16 Volume XLIX, No. 36
With 130 miles of coastline, New Jersey residents know all about the joys of sunbathing at the beach. But how about “forest bathing”?
Yes, it’s real … and it can improve your health! And you don’t need to wear a bathing suit!
Forest bathing literally means soaking in the forest atmosphere. It originated nearly 35 years ago in Japan, where it’s known as “shinrin-yoku,” and it’s now catching on in the United . . .
9/8/16 Volume XLIX, No. 35
It sounds like a pitch from the game show “Let’s Make A Deal”: How about swapping 1.37 acres of prime public beachfront on the Atlantic Ocean for an antique carousel, a parking lot and 67 acres of inaccessible wetlands?
As crazy as it might sound, this deal-making is for real.
For possibly the first time in New Jersey history, a deal to trade away a public beach has been made between the state, a town and a private developer. That approval is now under . . .
Every cloud has a silver lining, including rain clouds. While rainy weather may keep us indoors when we’d rather be outside, it makes for excellent conditions to view New Jersey’s waterfalls. Cascades that are merely pretty in dry weather can quickly become spectacular after a good soaking.
A great time for a waterfall hike is a day or two after a heavy rainfall. Rain that has fallen on the ground takes some time to reach streams and rivers, so the sun may be out and . . .
RELEASE: Aug. 26, 2016 – Volume XLIX, No. 33
Where would you rather be? In a city full of parks and tree-lined streets? Or in a city of concrete and glass?
You probably don’t need a study to know. But many recent studies are proving what we already know: that green urban landscapes give a psychological boost, making us feel happier and more relaxed. Scientists also documented that urban street trees provide measurable physical . . .
8/18/16 Volume XLIX, No. 32
Like many residents along the Delaware Bayshore, Natalie and Don Fisch of Downe Township worried about the future of their community after Superstorm Sandy devastated New Jersey’s coastline.
They saw that street flooding was increasing during high tides, full moons and rainstorms, making it hard for residents to get in and out of their homes. They were concerned that the neighborhood’s water and sewer infrastructure would be compromised. Uncertainty about the future of . . .
8/11/16 Volume XLIX, No. 31
On a recent trip to Vermont, a friend noticed hundreds of birdhouses on trees surrounding a marsh. Although the birdhouses were pretty, they weren’t there for decoration: they were there to attract birds to keep the local mosquito population down.
Mosquitoes are on people’s minds this summer … especially since Zika-carrying mosquitoes were recently found in south Florida, prompting travel warnings.
Ever since the Zika virus was first reported, many folks . . .
This state we're in is confronting a new form of sprawl: the proliferation of new oil and gas pipeline proposals. And there’s no effective system in place to evaluate their cumulative impacts, or whether they are truly needed and in the public interest.
Despite this flawed and broken system, individual gas pipeline proposals are marching ahead throughout our state leaving the public shortchanged by a federal agency that should be protecting our citizens and communities . . .
7/28/16 Volume XLIX, No. 29
The Atlantic Ocean’s vastness is shared by many … especially along the heavily populated stretch of coast between New York and Virginia.
The ocean is used by container ships, cruise liners, commercial fishing boats and all types of recreational craft. The ocean floor’s sand is mined for beach replenishments, and crossed by miles of communications and electrical cables. Proposals for offshore energy generation, such as wind turbines and oil and gas drilling, are . . .
7/21/16 Volume XLIX, No. 28
For years, health and outdoor advocates have worried that computer games, tablets, smartphones and TVs have kept too many kids indoors and sedentary.
Those complaints flew out the window earlier this month when Pokemon Go, a mobile game app, became a worldwide sensation. For the first time, gamers can’t just sit indoors in front of a screen; Pokemon Go drives them off their couches and into the world – parks, public gardens, communities and neighborhoods . . .
7/14/16 Volume XLIX, No. 27
The Garden State’s peach crop is the nation’s fourth largest, at over 60 million pounds, behind California, South Carolina and Georgia. Pretty impressive for this small state we’re in!
From mid-July through late September, New Jersey’s luscious peaches are in season. Peach parties and festivals abound across the state, allowing restauranteurs to try out new recipes, and amateur bakers to compete over the best pies and cobblers. Many farms offer . . .
In America we often take clean and plentiful water for granted. But clean drinking water is more and more in the news. Droughts are devastating water supplies out West and the crisis in Flint, Michigan has shed a spotlight on aging infrastructure, shortcuts and lack of investment that result in dangerous toxins in our kitchen tap water.
With such difficult and thorny issues threatening one of life’s basic necessities, it’s alarming that New Jersey . . .
New Jersey’s nickname “The Garden State” is well earned. This state we’re in is famous for all sorts of crops, from blueberries and cranberries to Jersey tomatoes. But you may not know that microbreweries are cropping up all over the state, producing a wide variety of new brews!
Since 2012, thanks to legislation that eased sales restrictions on beer, microbreweries are booming. Today there are 57 breweries or brewpubs – mostly small – 27 . . .
This July 4 commemorates the birth of our nation 240 years ago, and most folks will celebrate Independence Day with picnics, parades and fireworks.
I recently attended a family memorial at spectacular West Point and was struck by its convergence of natural beauty and our country’s revolutionary war history.
Revolutionary War historic sites are scattered throughout New Jersey, and many of them are inspiring and beautiful. They are great places to learn a bit . . .
It’s not often that New Jersey Legislators attempt to override a governor’s veto … but now should be one of those times.
Almost two years ago, New Jersey voters went to the polls and voted overwhelmingly in favor of a constitutional amendment to create a permanent, dedicated source of state funding to preserve open space, farmland and historic sites.
The dedicated revenue has been accumulating in state coffers ever since but, incredibly, not a dollar has . . .
6/9/16 Volume XLIX, No. 22
Blueberries are superstars of the fruit world. They’re delicious, healthy and versatile, and can be found in stores and restaurants everywhere. What’s more, they’re an ingredient in more than 4,000 products, from muffins to pet food to cosmetics.
And it all started in New Jersey!
The popularity of blueberries can be credited directly to Elizabeth Coleman White and Frederick V. Coville, who one century ago in the Pine Barrens succeeded in hybridizing wild . . .
6/2/16 Volume XLIX, No. 21
You may have heard the expression: No farmers, No food. How about: No bees, No food?
Bees, butterflies, wasps, beetles and many other native insects are essential for food production. Without pollen distribution and cross-fertilization by pollinators, much of our food supply would vanish.
The week of June 20-26 has been designated National Pollinator Week by the U.S Department of Agriculture and Department of the Interior. It’s a time to celebrate pollinators, and take . . .
5/26/16 Volume XLIX, No. 20
The first Saturday in June is National Trails Day, a great day to celebrate trails across America. On June 4, how about celebrating by hiking, biking, horseback riding, dog walking, birdwatching, geocaching or enjoying nature on a trail?
According to the American Hiking Society, the United States has some 200,000 miles of trails. The idea of celebrating these trails – and transforming them from a collection of local pathways to true interconnected networks - evolved in the late . . .
5/19/16 Volume XLIX, No. 19
They educate children, cure diseases, preserve land, protect animals, clean up the environment, help people in crisis, promote the arts, and much, much more. They’re New Jersey’s non-profits … and many of them are struggling.
A new report by New Jersey’s Center for Non-Profits shows that for many charitable organizations, revenues are not keeping pace with rising expenses and demand for services.
A survey of more than 300 New Jersey non-profits found . . .
5/12/16 Volume XLIX, No. 18
The best way to experience nature and the outdoors is in person … in parks, forests, meadows, mountains, rivers, oceans and far-away lands. But perhaps the next best way is through films.
Luckily, movies live on forever in today’s world, no longer limited by brief runs at theaters. Just about every film ever made can be found online, only a click or two away.
So whether you like long-distance hiking, fishing in pristine trout streams, close encounters with . . .
5/5/16 Volume XLIX, No. 17
For more than 50 years, New Jerseyans have steadily and enthusiastically supported open space preservation. Every one of the 13 land preservation funding ballot questions since 1962 was approved by the voters, in good economic times and bad.
Most recently, in 2014, voters took the unprecedented step of creating a permanent, stable source of preservation funding. Sixty-five percent voted “yes” on a constitutional amendment dedicating a portion of New Jersey’s . . .
4/28/16 Volume XLIX, No. 16
As you may have heard, an invasive insect known as the Emerald Ash Borer is wiping out ash trees, one of New Jersey’s most beautiful and common native trees.
There seems to be no stopping the spread of these tiny winged insects, whose larvae tunnel through tree bark and eat the tender wood inside. Robbed of water and nutrients, infected ash trees die within two to four years.
But there’s still hope for future generations.
That hope is contained in seed . . .
4/22/16 Volume XLIX, No. 15
The Garden State may be renowned for tomatoes, corn, peppers, blueberries and more, but in contrast many of its urban areas are “food deserts” nearly devoid of fresh produce.
Food deserts are defined as geographic areas – often inner cities - where affordable and nutritious food is hard to find, especially for those without cars. According to a 2009 U.S. Department of Agriculture study, some 23.5 million people across the country lack access to a supermarket within . . .
4/15/16 Volume XLIX, No. 14
Steve Krakauer of Basking Ridge is on a mission of the most enjoyable kind: Visiting all of America’s national parks, from Acadia to Zion.
“I’ve hit 41 of the 59 so far,” said Steve, an avid outdoorsman who loves hiking, biking, sailing and nature photography.
Steve’s quest began about five years ago, when he met a fellow traveler at Big Bend National Park in Texas whose goal was to fill a “passport” of visits to every national park. . . .
4/8/16 Volume XLIX, No. 13
Spring is here, and garden centers are filled with a mind-boggling array of flowers, shrubs and trees. You are already envisioning how great your yard and garden will look.
But before you choose your plants, do your homework to make sure they’re “Jersey- Friendly.”
You may not realize this, but many garden center plants have been introduced from other continents and can be extremely harmful to our state’s native plants.
These “alien . . .
4/1/16 Volume XLIX, No. 12
New Jersey is not only the nation’s most densely populated state, but likely the most diverse. Name any nationality or ethnic group, and chances are this state we’re in has an established community.
Density and diversity are two big reasons Ben Spinelli is optimistic about the future of farming in the Garden State.
“Our markets are like nowhere else in the world,” said Spinelli, a consultant on agricultural issues, at the New Jersey Land Conservation . . .
3/25/16 Volume XLIX, No. 11
Have you spotted a bald eagle lately? Seen a bobcat at the edge of the woods? Caught a glimpse of a peregrine falcon, bog turtle, corn snake, blue-spotted salamander or southern gray tree frog?
If you’ve seen these or dozens of other rare and endangered animals, the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program wants to know.
With warmer weather arriving and people spending more time outdoors, the state is asking . . .
3/17/16 Volume XLIX, No. 10
If the Garden State were to gather together its official plants and animals, what an incredible assemblage it would be!
Eastern goldfinches flitting in the branches of a red oak tree, violets growing beneath and honeybees buzzing about. Blueberry bushes laden with ripe fruit, horses galloping in fields, and brook trout swimming in a freshwater stream. Nearby in the ocean, knobbed whelks.
The black swallowtail butterfly is a welcome a new addition.
Thanks to recent . . .
3/11/16 Volume XLIX, No. 9
Stanley Bielen grew up in the 1960s and early ‘70s in the Tremley Point neighborhood of Linden.
It was, in his words, a “wasteland” of refineries, tank yards, chemical plants and swamps. Yet, it was also his home, his playground - the only place he knew. He developed a lasting love of swamps.
Now a Hunterdon County resident, Stan recently wrote an essay that eloquently captures a sense of place and time, while expressing optimism for the future. Here are . . .
3/4/16 Volume XLIX, No. 8
Who’s afraid of the great outdoors?
Quite a few folks, it turns out. According to Juan Martinez of the Children & Nature Network, urban dwellers, minorities and members of the millennial generation are among those who may find nature intimidating.
“Often times, the outdoors is perceived as something you have to have knowledge and experience to access,” Juan explains.
If people aren’t aware of parks and nature preserves near them, or . . .