Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Featured Partner: Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association

Joining the ranks of Mercer County Parks, the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association is our newest Featured Partner.

Bean's Wildflower Meadow
The Watershed works to keep our water clean, safe and healthy. FoHVOS works to preserve Hopewell Valley's character through open space and farmland preservation and by helping private land owners protect natural resources.

Since water is the lifeblood of our earth, our mission would be impossible if they were unsuccessful in theirs.

Just as we see much cross pollination in nature, so it goes for environmental non-profits. Recognizing the importance of a healthy ecosystem, supporters generously advocate for both land and water and we all thrive together.

For example, FoHVOS Trustee and Board Secretary, Chris Berry, serves as volunteer teacher-naturalist and provides support for The Watershed stewardship efforts.
Bean Family receives Watershed Award

Additionally, we were thrilled when The Watershed recognized The Bean Family as their "Resident of the Year" for their work initiated under our FoHVOS Private Land Stewardship Program.  The Beans further their efforts by attending The Watershed Institute's environmental education. 

The Watershed Executive Director Jim Waltman attended our Meet the Executive Director Open House and has graciously welcomed me into the fold.

We have also done several joint programs and they have engaged our stewardship director on their own stewardship plan. We are currently planning additional events to appeal to Hopewell Valley residents.

Finally, the Watershed hosts the FoHVOS monthly board meeting.  

Jimmy Waltman w/my son in their funny hats
Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed is a great Friend of Hopewell Valley Open Space. 

Speaking of Friends, I've included an old photo of Jim Waltman's son and mine. (They are in high school now.)

Just to complete the loop, Jim and I may need to don silly hats... or not...

Hats off to our featured partner -- The  Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

PennEast Pipeline: A habitat threat

Long Eared Owl at Baldpate Mountain - WCAS (Sharyn Magee)

The major component of the FoHVOS stewardship mission is protecting and restoring natural habitats.  A quick review of our stewardship staff and volunteers’ time indicate various types of activities that ultimately lead to protecting habitat. From invasive species management through forest and grassland restorations, our eye is always on stewarding an environment where flora and fauna will thrive.

With this mission in mind, we were disappointed to learn that the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) seemed to change their habitat requirements on the PennEast application.  Previously the NJDEP noted that PennEast’s draft Environmental Impact Statement lacked information on the pipeline’s impact on threatened and endangered flora and fauna and required that they conduct two years of wildlife surveys along portions of the proposed route.  Unfortunately, these conditions were not included in their latest feedback to PennEast.

Hooded warbler
We are aware that many groups opposing the PennEast pipeline were encouraged when the Army Corps of Engineers and the NJDEP ruled that PennEast’s application for its Clean Water Act permits were incomplete, missing significant required data.  Additionally, NJDEP ruled that PennEast’s application was made without having legal authority to enter all of the impacted properties along the proposed route since almost 70% of landowners in New Jersey have denied PennEast survey access.   PennEast was given 30 days to remedy those application deficiencies.
Kentucky warbler

We are less encouraged.  The NJDEP delay does not mitigate our habitat concerns. Environmental impact should be considered before PennEast’s applications are reviewed. 

The Mercer County Parks Commission has partnered with FoHVOS for over 10 years to properly steward the Ted Stiles Preserve at Baldpate Mountain. Our FoHVOS champion for whom the preserve was named, spent a decade protecting the mountain from improper development.  Now, Baldpate Mountain is under serious threat from the proposed pipeline, with PennEast proposing to expand the existing utility right-of-way by clear-cutting an additional 150+ feet of mature forest. 

Baldpate Mountain is not only amon Mercer County’s largest contiguous forests and wildlife habitats, but has also been designated as an Audubon Important Bird Area and is an important migratory stop and breeding area for Neotropical birds, many of which are ranked by the American Bird Conservancy as birds of conservation concern.  Hooded and Kentucky warblers are not found elsewhere in Hopewell - Baldpate harbors the only forest large enough for them.  The potential damage to these breeding birds cannot be mitigated by PennEast. 

Bald Eagle - US Fish & Wildlife
In our developing Forest Stewardship Plan, we’ve found that nearly 1,000 species of plants and animals can be found at Baldpate.  Of these species, there are over 30 rare species and another 75 species of high conservation value.  Plant species include the beautiful wild comfrey and yellow giant hyssop.  Rare long-eared owls (see top photo) have recently been discovered by Washington Crossing Audubon Society and Hopewell Township just documented an American bald eagle directly on the pipeline’s proposed path. 

Baldpate Mountain was preserved with taxpayer monies to permanently protect its sensitive ecosystem and the rare species that depend upon it.  In a mostly built out state, it’s simply not possible to replace the preserved lands like Baldpate that PennEast is proposing to degrade or destroy.

We encourage the NJDEP to restore its previous protections and survey requirements for threatened and endangered flora and fauna, before it reviews PennEast’s permit applications.