Home Moorestown News STEM cites conservation updates at annual meeting

STEM cites conservation updates at annual meeting

Save the Environment of Moorestown (STEM) held its annual meeting at the Community House of Moorestown on April 17, with guest speaker Jason Howell, Public Lands Advocate for the Pinelands Preservation Alliance (PPA).

Howell’s talk – “Issues in New Jersey Pinelands Conservation” – followed a brief review of STEM’s 2023 activities, its financial position and a vote on its slate of directors and officers.

“We were awarded a nonprofit achievement award by the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions (ANJEC) for the field conversion project that we did at Swede Run Fields,” said STEM President Mark Pensiero.

STEM and the township partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through its Partners for Wildlife Program to convert the 75-acre fallow farm field at Swede Run into a native grass and pollinator field, according to the STEM website.

Planting of the field occurred in the fall of 2021 and spring 2022. The project is ongoing, with planning currently underway for wetlands enhancement on the site.

“The next phase of that project is to do some wetlands enhancement,” Pensiero explained “There are already some small vernal pools in there, but as far as the original plan, Fish and Wildlife is going to enhance those vernal pools and we’ll end up with about two-plus acres of vernal pools in there, which is pretty neat.”

Another STEM update Pensiero discussed was the installation of a Bluebird trail and Bluebird boxes at Swede Run.

“ … We put in 12 Bluebird boxes, and it was really a neat project, because (they) were built by young people from UrbanPromise in Camden,” Pensiero said. “ … They built the boxes. They’re beautiful (and) they’re made out of cedar. It was a really neat project.”

The Pinelands Preservation Alliance is the leading voice for protecting the natural and historic resources of the New Jersey Pinelands, according to the PPA website. Those resources include 800,000 acres of forest in one of the world’s most densely developed regions; the Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer, one of North America’s largest and healthiest aquifers; rare plants and animals under siege in other parts of their natural habitat; and a history embodied in the Pinelands’ ghost towns, historic villages, farms and people.

Howell, a New Jersey Volunteer Master Naturalist and Wilderness First Responder, joined the PPA in 2015. In addition to working as a public lands advocate and land steward, he creates film and video projects for the PPA. One such project, “Pinelands National Reserve – Wilderness Remains,” is a long-form, non-narrative film that documents the landscapes and ecology of the Pinelands.

“Right now, there is an effort underway to create a useful visitor map for Wharton State Forest,” Howell pointed out. “It’s actually never really been done. There was a very simple map that was produced in 1966 that – if you were already familiar (with the forest) – you could kind of know the way, but it wasn’t going to be very helpful for people that weren’t already very familiar.

“There is an effort to do that,” he added, “however there is also an opposition to that effort because there are certain incumbent interests that become established from the Pine Barrens being a neglected place in some ways.”

The public comment period for the proposed Wharton State Forest Visiting Vehicle Use Map closed on April 8. The state Department of Environmental Protection is in the process of reviewing the comments submitted. The next update is expected in the fall.

For more information, visit www.nj.gov/dep/parksandforests/wharton/.

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