CU Reporter May/June/July 2007

Updates from Citizens United to Protect the Maurice River and Its Tributaries, Inc.

Meeting July 11, 2007* – 6:30 p.m.
(Our normal schedule is the second Wednesday of odd-numbered months)
Millville Public Library, Gant Room

By Lorraine Kiefer of Triple Oaks Nursery Gardening with Natives Naturally

Lorraine KieferLorraine is the author of a new book called Best Garden Plants for New Jersey. This handy garden plant guide picks the varieties best suited to New Jersey growing and is of special benefit to new gardeners or more experienced gardeners who are new to the Garden State. Lorraine’s presentations are always a real crowd pleaser so come early to find a seat! Lorraine will have copies of her book on hand for purchase.

World Series of Birding – This year some of our birding members, led by the enthusiasm of Captain Diane Jones, decided to raise dollars for CU by putting together a world-class team to enter the World Series of Birding. Our team’s name is CU Birding Cumberland County and our mascot is the osprey; thus, the team members’ moniker is the “Fish Hawks.” The team’s name comes from the CU-sponsored County birding guide that was updated and improved a few years ago. The other team members were Pam Higginbotham, Karen Johnson, Clay Sutton, Katharine Patterson, and Janet Crawford.

Katherine Patterson smiles for a photo with the team vanThis was an opportunity to share with others the wonders of our local wildlife and to stress that our natural areas not only provide clean water and air, but a host of wonders for the public to enjoy, be it wildlife watching, hiking, canoeing, kayaking or simply a nice view. Our team fared extremely well, identifying 151 species in less than the allowed 24 hours. This resulted in our taking 2nd place in the Limited Geographic Area category. We lost by a beak to Essex County’s 115 species. Had we written down the barn owl nest as this year’s rules permitted (since the owl’s nest had already been scouted) we would have won. That was a new rule that we could have used (but then, who knows what other rules we may have accidentally broken, although I don’t think we did!). At any rate we certainly confirmed that Cumberland County is chock full of birds and is a great place for visitors and residents to enjoy the wonders of nature. A portion of these proceeds has gone toward species preservation – in particular the plight of NJ/DE Bayshore shorebirds.

World Series Team at East Pt. Light HouseCU Hosts the Shorebird Scientists – In addition to some proceeds from the World Series of Birding (see above), our members made donations toward hosting the Shorebird Scientists. For the past 10 years the scientists who visit our coastline have represented New Zealand, Australia, United Kingdom, Chile, Argentina, Canada, Mexico, Japan, and naturally the United States. The Delaware Bay’s shores are a critical stopover area for six species of migrating birds. In late May the birds’ arrival coincides with the spawning of horseshoe crabs, a world-renowned natural phenomenon. Famished birds from the Southern Hemisphere feast upon crab eggs, enabling them to refuel and continue their journey to Arctic breeding grounds. Since 1991, a severe decline in the horseshoe crab population has accompanied a decline in shorebird numbers – so much so that one species, the red knot, is projected to be extinct by the year 2010 – unless conservation measures thwart this dire prediction. The Division of Fish and Wildlife and the non-profit Conserve Wildlife have invested considerable resources in studying the birds here in NJ as well as in Delaware, Chile and the Arctic.

CU members and scientists on Bear Swamp WalkIt turns out that the scientists who follow the birds also pack an appetite, and in order to do their round-the-clock monitoring a little local hospitality was in order. Citizens United determined to help the scientists see a little more of our region and to make sure they didn’t go hungry. The Natural Lands Trust escorted CU members and foreign visitors into Bear Swamp, where CU Associate Director Renée Scagnelli shared her knowledge of plants, Dale Schweitzer his knowledge of moths and butterflies, Tony Klock his birding talents and NLT lands manager Steve Eisenhauer told the story of the primeval forest. Over 35 people attended this event, with four different countries represented. CU President Jane Galetto hosted the visitors at the Army Airfield Museum’s Airshow. There Australian Clive Minton, PhD., saw warbirds that he had watched in actual use as a child in his native UK. And a young Mexican scientist saw jet fighters which heretofore were simply viewed via Hollywood films and documentaries. Other trips for members of the team were Wheaton Arts and Cultural Center, to try their hand at glass making, and a botanist-led trip in the Pinelands Reserve.

Hiker climbs in log at Bear SwampFeeding the scientists was been a group undertaking. They had sloppy joes, vegetarian chili, chicken, eggs from local free-range hens, US grade filet, fish, cake, cookies, lots of BBQ specials, and strawberries galore. This year local restaurateur/chef Harry Whitelam of Port of Call provided a delicious meal of his famous lasagna, and Winfield’s of Millville stepped up to the plate as well.

The three week stint culminated in a Thanksgiving style dinner. We had a ball getting to know our foreign visitors better. Our members helped band the birds, toured our forests, and cooked with great dedication. They even treated the gang to a sail aboard the Bayshore Discovery Project’s AJ Meerwald- NJ’s Tallship. On board, CU treasurer Tony Klock led a birding tour and recorded a record 52 different species! This year over 30 members participated in some fashion. Next year even more CU volunteers will want to get involved.

Rutgers New Faculty Tours the River -Every other year the new Faculty members at Rutgers tour NJ to gain a better understanding of the places their students come from. For a number of years Rutgers has asked CU to host the tour aboard the Bodacious. The professors really seemed to enjoy their visit and the interpretation of the resources.

CU Staff Attends Conservation Meeting on Shorebirds – Jane Morton Galetto attended a meeting of the shorebird scientists where they discussed conservation strategies in South, Central and North America for shorebirds.

CU Presents at Stony Brook Millstone Watershed Conference – On June 11, CU shared what they have accomplished with grant funding from Geraldine Dodge via The Watershed Institute. We also gained a lot of information about the activities of other watershed organizations.

Planning Workshops -The trustees and officers are continuing their workshops, planning the path for CU’s future. We have been discussing long-term goals and job descriptions for staff and volunteers alike.

CampfireOur second Maurice River Historical Recollections Campfire was held on April 26 at Parvin State Park. Dave & Sue Fenili, Tom McKee, Joseph & Kristen Scagnelli, and Katie Wiseley helped gather firewood and Dave kept the fire flaming throughout the evening. Paul Taylor, Parvin’s naturalist, was on hand to add to the events, helping flesh out the history of the park. Renée Scagnelli and Tom McKee kept the pace lively with plenty of music, and Joseph Scagnelli was very helpful as our “lighting man”. Renée’s daughter Kristen and her friend Katie were our bakers extraordinaire for the evening.

May’s “Frog Slog” was a big hit with kids and adults of all ages. Approximately 30 people attended, including a number of boy scouts. We heard and saw approximately a half dozen different types of frogs, which CU member Fred Akers and Renée Scagnelli assisted in identifying, including Pine Barrens tree frogs, northern gray tree frogs, spring peepers, and green frogs.

photo of rigged Bevin SkiffWood School students sail in Bevin Skiff on Union LakeRD Wood School in Millville has undertaken the building of two bigger vessels than the Bevan skiffs which the students assembled in the past. In conjunction with the National Park Service we had a press event unveiling the donation of a check for $4,000 toward this worthy project.

Bay Days – Bay Days have once again come and gone. CU participated in the kids’ Scavenger Hunt this year, put up a booth, offered CU’s Paint a Landscape Activity, sponsored river boat tours, and gave river boat interpretive tours aboard the boat.

Tony Klock competes in oyster shucking contestBay Days were great fun this year-we watched fellow CU Treasurer Tony Klock perched on the dunking tank to raise funds for the Port Norris Fire Hall (CU President Jane dunked him on the first pitch). Tony insists that it was a lucky shot; Jane knows better! Being a real glutton for punishment, Tony also competed in the annual oyster shucking contest, against the pros. CU President Jane Galetto put forth a gallant effort in the amateur, contest failing to open even half a dozen bivalves, but nevertheless she had lots of fun trying (Tony entered that one too). As a matter of fact, Tony is rumored to have dressed in a jellyfish hat for the kids’ activities.

Our thanks to all of our members who manned CU’s booth: Joanne Murphine, Mary Lou Barbose, Sue and Dave Fenili, Donna and Rob Dailey, and Ed Pio. Tricia Dufford, the Swifts, and this year’s Connie Jost scholar Max Diehl proctored the Paint a Landscape, both Saturday and Sunday! Renée Scagnelli gave river boat tours.

Down Jersey Teacher’s Workshop – Renée Scagnelli presented a Down Jersey curriculum teacher’s workshop at Haleyville School. The teachers, who are working in conjunction with Haskins Laboratories on an oyster project with their classes, were excited by the curriculum and intend to incorporate lessons into their classes.

Kayak trip – co-sponsored by CU and Natural Lands Trust, on June 24. There were about a dozen participants, led by Steve Eisenhauer and Renée Scagnelli. The press covered this event. The group kayaked the Maurice River from Garden Road to West Side Park on Almond Road in Vineland. The trip also included a stop at Alliance Beach and seining there for fish.

Green Grant workshop – On June 26, Renée attended the Center for Nonprofit Management’s workshop “Program Evaluation: Bringing to Life What You Put in the Grant Request.”

Osprey banding is well underway. We have taken aboard some of our lucky auction winners for their banding experience. As of June 25 we have banded 38 chicks. We have observed many that are still too small to band. Sixty chicks is not looking likely but it was our very optimistic target.

Green Acres/ Garden State Preservation Trust Funding – A number of you have made calls to the Governor; on June 21 your efforts paid off. The Senate and Assembly approved the $200 million in stopgap funding that will keep the GSPT programs afloat for one year. The legislation passed the Senate 34-0 and the Assembly 77-3. New Jersey voters will be asked to approve the measure in November. Between now and then we will have to get the word out to approve the ballot question. We were looking for a “stable” source of funding and this measure falls short of that but it buys us time for a long-term solution. A special thanks is due to Assemblyman Doug Fisher who carried a lot of the weight of this issue in the wake of considerable resistance from the Governor’s office. Doug has also played a lead role in seeking funding for addressing dam and road repairs caused by recently flooding. Thanks, Doug.

Legislative praise is also due to Congressman Frank LoBiondo who recently put forth two different measures for the environment. One bill is a right-to-know act which requires sewage operators to monitor their systems and notify the public about hazardous sewage overflows that threaten people’s health. HR 2452 was introduced with the support of American Rivers. The second bill addresses polar bear trophy heads and hides. Current U.S. law does not allow the taking of polar bears in their Alaskan habitat, but the animals are legally taken in Canada and, under a law amended in 1994, American citizens are allowed to bring home polar bear trophies from Canada. This bill is especially important given the shrinking of the polar bears’ ice habitat due to global warming.

Global Warming Bill Passes – On June 23, the NJ Legislature passed a global warming bill that requires a mandatory reduction of the state’s global warming pollution to below 1990 levels by 2020 and 80 percent below current levels by 2050. This legislation will make New Jersey a national leader by requiring a mandatory 2050 limit on global warming pollution.

MART Application – CU submitted a request that the DEP Bureau of Operating Permits grant a public hearing regarding the Mid-Atlantic Recycling Technologies (MART) application for a significant modification to an Air Pollution permit. CU staff attended a meeting regarding the preservation of a Cohansey River property. For many years CU has sought to see significant NJ/DE Bayshore properties preserved. Hopefully more details will be available in the near future.

Some membership accolades: Jackie Greenwell Sandro was given an Encore Award from the South Jersey Cultural and Heritage Alliance.

Ryan Dailey and Katie Aronoff each received Congressional Awards. Ryan just completed his gold medal and is one of only a few hundred students in the country to have done so. Katie earned her bronze and we wish her well in earning a Silver and Gold… go, Katie! The Congressional Awards are given to students in grades 9 to 12 who have completed rigorous long-term goal requirements in volunteerism, physical fitness, and expedition components.

Christine Raabe, our Education Director and compiler of the Down Jersey: Celebrating Our Sense of Place Teacher’s Curriculum, received the 2006 ANJEE (Alliance for NJ Environmental Education) Award for Outstanding Educator of the Year. This was presented to Christine in February and we neglected to tell you about it then. The award is given annually to a skillful and talented environmental educator for an outstanding contribution to developing and implementing programs that enhance the understanding of environmental education throughout NJ. Way to go, Christine!

Larry Merighi was honored by Hendricks House for his contributions to the local community. His efforts for CU were referenced as well as his multitude of contributions to Wheaton Arts and Cultural Center. CU President Jane Galetto and her husband Peter saluted Larry’s wonderful accomplishments to the attendees of a dinner in his honor.

Steve Eisenhauer, of Natural Lands Trust, has generously offered our membership the opportunity to attend a number of canoe and kayak trips at no charge throughout this year. Please see the calendar below for more information. Our thanks to NLT for this opportunity, as well as for the Bear Swamp hikes. Registration is limited to first come, first served.

CU on the River!