Protecting watershed’s animals and plants helps water quality
Who should get credit for clean, pure water in our rivers, streams and underground aquifers? Much of the thanks should go to natural ecosystems, especially forests and wetlands that absorb and filter rainwater.
These forests and wetlands – as well as their native plants and animals – provide valuable “ecosystem services” in the upper Raritan River basin and beyond.
This spring, Raritan Headwaters Association (RHA) will launch three long term initiatives to monitor and protect aquatic biodiversity: documenting vernal pools, surveying salamanders in local streams, and assessing connectivity of our streams and wetlands. All three initiatives were piloted last spring and summer.
This summer, 300 city children attending the Greater Newark LifeCamp in Pottersville will have the opportunity to discover and learn in nature’s outdoor classroom, thanks to a Bogs 2% for Outdoor Education Grant to Raritan Headwaters Association (RHA).
Raritan Headwaters, based in Bedminster, received $5,000 to support its environmental education program, which offers young campers from Newark hands-on lessons along the rural Lamington River. Now in its fifth year, the six-week program introduces children to natural ecosystems, watersheds, the water cycle and environmental stewardship.
Variety of environmental activities planned from April 12-28
Celebrate Earth Week with Raritan Headwaters Association (RHA) this April by cleaning up local streams, planting trees, kayaking on the Raritan River, enjoying yoga outdoors, taking a guided bird walk and learning how to build a rain barrel for your home.
“Earth Week is more like Earth Month for us,” said Cindy Ehrenclou, executive director of the Bedminster-based watershed watchdog. “We have lots of great outdoor activities planned, and we invite local residents to join us.”
Open kayak paddles and guided river trips offered
There’s no better way to appreciate the beauty and wildlife of the upper Raritan River than from a kayak.
The public is invited to join local watershed watchdog Raritan Headwaters Association (RHA) on a series of nine Sunday paddle adventures this spring, summer and fall.
“We’ll have open paddle sessions, which are great for beginners, and our annual Raritan River Sojourn, a series of longer guided trips for more experienced paddlers,” said Lauren Theis, education director for Raritan Headwaters.
They monitor streams for water quality, pick up trash and litter, plant trees, help out at summer nature camps, maintain trails, promote well testing, remove invasive plants, monitor bird nesting boxes and much more.
They’re volunteers for Raritan Headwaters Association (RHA), and a dozen of these good citizens were honored as outstanding volunteers of the year at RHA’s annual membership meeting on Feb. 22.
“We truly could not do the great work we’re accomplishing without the help of our dedicated volunteers,” said Cindy Ehrenclou, executive director. “We’re so grateful to each one of them and thank them from the bottom of our hearts.”
The woodcock is a robin-sized, stocky bird with short legs, neck and a long bill, colored in shades of brown, tan and black. It is found summering east from the Mississippi River basin to southern Canada. When the ground is frozen, northern-most woodcock migrate south and winter in the Gulf States.
Woodcock probe into soft, wet soil for earthworms and grubs with their long bills. Their large, dark eyes are set high and far aft on its head, allowing them to see almost entirely backwards, keeping alert for predators while feeding. The ears are positioned in front of the eyes, perhaps to hear faint earthworm sounds underfoot. All these peculiar adaptations have earned the woodcock an assortment of names befitting its oddities including, “timberdoodle,” “bog sucker,” “mud bat” and “big eyes.”
Partnering with Rutgers, Baykeeper and others in regional studies
We all know that discarded plastic bottles, cups, shopping bags, drinking straws, soda can rings and other items are harmful to the environment and marine ecosystems. That’s why thousands of New Jerseyans volunteer each year to clean up trash – much of it plastic – from river and stream banks and beaches.
But it’s not just the plastics you can see and pick up that are harmful. Microplastics – particles so small they’re nearly invisible – are emerging as a new contaminant of concern to marine wildlife and even human health.
But study also highlights problem areas that need improvement
How clean are the waters of the streams that flow through your town and neighborhood? Can you safely wade, swim, fish and paddle in them?
What about the underground aquifers that supply drinking water to 80 percent of local residents? Is it safe to drink the water coming from your well?
These are questions that Raritan Headwaters, a Bedminster-based nonprofit, has been investigating and reporting to the public for almost 60 years through its stream monitoring and well testing programs.
Raritan Headwaters (RHA), our local conservation organization is holding its annual member meeting from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 22, at the Oldwick Firehouse. Interested members of the public are invited to learn about watershed protection and the health of their water supplies.
Raritan Headwaters’ Policy Director Bill Kibler will discuss how the election of Governor Phil Murphy will impact New Jersey’s environment, and staff members from the science and education departments will provide updates on their work. The evening will also include RHA’s annual Volunteers of the Year awards ceremony.
The cost is $40 per person, and includes drinks and a buffet dinner catered by The Food Architects. To register, go to www.raritanheadwaters.org or call 908-234-1852 x 320.
The past few weeks have been incredibly busy, as we started a new year at midnight on January 1st, finished up the legislative year very late on January 8th, and swore in a new governor at noon on January 16th. As we look forward to 2018, here are updates on some important issues.
We won an historic victory for clean water on January 8, when the New Jersey Legislature invalidated a Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) rule that would have allowed significantly more development on critically sensitive lands in the Highlands. RHA’s science-based advocacy played a key role in this campaign to protect clean water. Read about it here.
In late July 2017, Eastern Concrete Materials, Inc. discharged sludge from their quarry in Glen Gardner into the Spruce Run, destroying critical habitat and threatening the drinking water supply for 1.5 million people. The sludge impacted about 1.7 miles of the creek and traveled as far as the Spruce Run Reservoir. After several months, the clean-up effort (paid for by Eastern Concrete) wrapped-up in December. DEP is reportedly close to finalizing a settlement with Eastern Concrete which will include a fine for polluting Spruce Run, a supplemental environmental project to improve conditions in the creek, and a natural resources damages assessment. Read about it here.
Large ice floes on the South Branch of the Raritan River breached part of the Cole’s Mill Dam in Califon two weeks ago. RHA has reached out to the dam owner and is coordinating with DEP to address the possibility of removing the dam as part of a larger effort to restore the South Branch. Read about it here.