CU Reporter April/May 2011

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

May 11, 2011 – 6:30 p.m.
(Our normal schedule is the second Wednesday of odd-numbered months)
George Luciano Center, Cumberland County College

Presentation By
David Golden
Restoring Habitat for Amphibians in New Jersey:
Case Study on the Eastern Tiger Salamander

Principle Zoologist New Jersey Endangered and Nongame Species Program
Department of Fish and Wildlife, DEP
(The presentation follows meeting approximately 7 p.m.)

Tiger SalamanderThere are 32 species of amphibians in New Jersey, six of which are listed as either state-threatened or state-endangered.  These “listed species” receive special protections through the Department of Environmental Protection’s existing land-use regulations, and ENSP actively manages habitat for these rare amphibians.  The state-endangered eastern tiger salamander has an extremely limited distribution within the state and is North America’s largest terrestrial salamander, reaching lengths as much as 12 inches in NJ.  In fact the Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources claims it is the world’s largest land-dwelling salamander. Threatened by habitat loss, roads, illegal collection and changes in vernal pool hydrology (ground water/water table fluctuations), this species is New Jersey’s rarest amphibian.  The presentation will provide background on the life history of this and other amphibian species, and will outline the active management that the Division is currently undertaking to recover the state’s eastern tiger salamander population.

The NJ Endangered and Nongame Species Program’s (ENSP) mission is to actively conserve New Jersey’s biological diversity by maintaining and enhancing endangered, threatened and nongame wildlife populations within healthy, functioning ecosystems.

CU Updates

Red KnotMay is a BIG MONTH- With the shorebird scientists from around the world visiting our bayfront there is lots to do.  Already over 30 members have signed up to prepare meals for hungry researchers.  Before the month is out we have usually served 700+ meals and countless leftovers.

Here is some of what is planned.  We kick off the month with two hikes. Then on Monday, May 9th we have a Celebration of the 25 Anniversary of the first Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN).  CU and the Bayshore Discovery Project are working with the members of the South Jersey Bayshore Coalition and WHSRN / Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences in hosting the event.  Over 70 individuals key to the protection of the shorebird migration route are coming from around the world for a summit and celebration of this milestone.  We expect a total of 150-200 guests.  Our members are volunteering to make desserts and help with the logistics of the day.  If you would like to assist in some fashion please give Jane a call at 609-774-5853.

We have a pig roast, hike, birding sail on the AJ Meerwald, new members’ orientation, and a presentation on tiger salamanders followed up by the Annual Frog Slog, so check out the calendar for details.

The 8000 bands have been purchased for Allen Jackson’s purple martin banding quest.  May the Force be with him!  The Purple Martins have returned in splendor, and have begun to prepare their nesting sites.

Bring out the youth!  The Membership and Marketing Committee has met and continues to seek to get more young people involved.  The up-coming Frog Slog and campfires will be set up as more family-oriented events so think in terms of bringing ages 9-100 to more of our activities (okay, older or younger is fine, too).  We hope that our increased use of social media will further help us to be more accessible to younger members.

Facebook has continued to increase our presence, with 324 people now “liking” our page. Updates are regularly posted and upcoming events are now advertised with “event” pages as well as our standard webpage calendar, press releases, and Constant Contact emails. We have also just created a Twitter@CUMaurice account which can be used for multiple purposes, especially those that are mid-event, such as festivals, bird sightings during walks, etc. Now if we can just teach Jane to use them properly…..

March 2nd was the Swamp Pink Training for the annual surveys.  A nice turn-out of volunteers joined Associate Director Renee Brecht to learn the new protocols and survey techniques. Thank you, volunteers! Your efforts may help to conserve this species.

There has been a debrief meeting of the Eagle Festival.  Leslie Ficcaglia chairs and coordinates these meetings.  We are investigating if we have the collective resources and volunteer will to expand the event to two days.

By all accounts David Wheeler’s book signing was a nice event.  Special thanks to Bogart’s Bookstore for hosting the author of “Nature Adventures in the Garden State,” and special thanks also to Conserve Wildlife for partnering with us on this event.

Pete Dunne’s reading of his newest book, “Bayshore Summer,” at Winfield’s was a smashing success.  We had a super turn-out with over 50 people present.  Many selected to eat dinner there as well.  Numerous attendees suggested we should have a speaker at Winfield’s more often.  As usual, Pete was wonderfully engaging, and Winfield’s staff did a super job of making us all feel welcome.

On the Advocacy Front

In March the Millville City Commission accepted testimony for a proposed ordinance that would have made Asphalt Plants a restricted use in their Industrial Zone.  Thanks to the efforts of the Edgewood Acres and Holly Heights neighbors, the City Commission stepped back and voted the ordinance down.  Renee and other members did a great deal of research into the ramifications of the proposal, shared their findings with neighbors, and prepared packets for the Commission in advance of their meeting.  An anticipated/prospective asphalt plant applicant made a highly irregular presentation to the Commission, not on the ordinance but rather on their development plan and the wonders of their business.  If this isn’t making sense to you, it shouldn’t; in fact, it didn’t to us either.  And the insanity doesn’t stop there; our “snoop doggie dogs” found that certain highly-polished mailings distributed all around Millville, trashing the asphalt operation under consideration, appeared to have been produced by a competitor. And the promotion agency handling the work on their website talks about how much greener the asphalt industry is today.  Confused yet?  Sit down with a book on multiple personalities and then tackle this paragraph all over again.

The Commission’s vote means that any potential applications by asphalt companies would need to be submitted to the land use board for a variance, rather than being conditionally approved. So for now we will simply praise the Commission’s decision to vote NO, and accept the story as having a happy ending.

Additionally the Millville Planning Board held the line on the Union Lake tract ordinance, calling for a greater amount of open space than the largest property owner (WAWA) desired.  It is yet to be seen whether WAWA will challenge this decision.  CU and other members of the SJ Bayshore Coalition pushed for aspects of the specifics in this zone.  Thank you, Millville Planning Board and Kim Ayers.

Signing On- In many instances we as an organization sign on to letters that have been crafted by  other organizations to address issues of importance at both the State and National level.  At times we have a hand in crafting the letters.  Two issues that we are addressing that are particularly troubling and terribly over-simplified for this correspondence are as follows:

The DEP- Yes, that stands for Department of Environmental Protection. It is attempting to pass a rule that says their rules don’t need to be followed; if there is a conflict or a hardship an applicant can apply for a waiver.

On the Legislative Front- we get the double whammy – a companion bill, one might say. Assembly Bill 2486 proposes prohibiting the DEP from adopting new rules exceeding federal standards unless specifically authorized by State law or necessary to protect public health, safety, or welfare.  In addition, it further burdens the Department by requiring it to identify all existing agency rules containing standards or requirements exceeding those of the federal government without explicit authorization under State law.  In other words, NJ would lower their standards in instances where their environmental protection exceeds the Federal regulations. Because we are such a densely populated state with such a delicate ecosystem, often we need those stronger regulations to protect both habitat and public health, and our laws have reflected this for many years.

Board members Sue Fenili and Diane Amico are active members of the Vineland Environmental Commission.  Presently they are getting a lot of press coverage of their Arbor Day events.  Beyond that they have been handling many tree planting activities. The entire Fenili family is removing tree supports from developing trees that no longer need reinforcement.


Petway School in Vineland was treated to a multimedia presentation on the Maurice River Watershed.  Over 300 elementary school children had an energy-packed presentation by Renee Brecht.  Using today’s technology they had a virtual tour of the River and an animated explanation about watersheds.

New Jersey’s Governor’s Conference on Tourism– Jane Galetto was a panelist in a session on Ecotourism in which she talked about the economic impact of wildlife watching on the State’s economy.  She also discussed some ways to capitalize on the interest in natural resources and at the same time build an appreciation and stewardship for these resources.

Board Member Sue Fenili made a Monarch Butterfly presentation to the Millville Women’s Club.

Radio Broadcasts– Our radio spots have been airing on Quinn Broadcasting and are posted to our website as podcasts.  These short pieces feature our one and only Ethan Aronoff.  Each builds a greater knowledge of our natural world and our cultural heritage.

Membership Drive

Numerous volunteers worked two mornings on stuffing over 800 envelopes inviting folks to join Citizens United.  Tom McKee’s GIS abilities allowed us to target two audiences by geographic area: river property owners who were not already members, and residents in western Millville where staff and members worked hard to prevent passage of an asphalt plant ordinance that would have directly affected residents of that neighborhood. Thanks you to all that made this possible! Those involved were: Babs Bennett, Loretta King, Leslie Ficcaglia, Sue Olah, Marty Rief, Donna Bush, Pat and Gordon Moore, Ethan and Barbara Aronoff, Meredith Koenig, Sue Fenili, Kitty Finn, Kathleen Vincents, Sue Leopold, Mary Ann Russell, Betsy Waltman, Carol Bell and staff.

Join Me in Wishing Renee Well

I have put off writing this note, maybe because like the ostrich, if I pretended it wasn’t happening it wouldn’t. Okay, I’m in denial.

We have all had the pleasure of working with Renee for over 5 years.  Renee started out on our board, so her service to CU has even been longer. In fact I think we were blessed to have had her on our team.  Now she will be leaving our ranks and is headed for Information Technology work at the Rescue Squad in Millville.  Her goal is to help the Squad and also to gain more marketable skills in that area.

Renee is a Renaissance woman for sure. She brought her interests in nature and culture to our organization.  Her creation of a Southern Jersey Plant Guide on our website is a much-utilized tool.  Her website skills prompted us to post often and at length, making our website Southern New Jersey’s, dare I say, most comprehensive information source on “Down Jersey.”  Her interest in music elevated our campfires to a new level of enjoyment.  In fact, campfires were started when she joined our ranks.

She has kept the community updated on our endeavors to the degree where folks either know who we are or they are simply wearing blinders.

Her giggles on the walks will echo in many of our members’ ears for a long time.  Even her love of mud has often been evidenced on her face after a kayak trip or when erecting an osprey platform.

She is a voracious researcher and recently the Millville neighborhoods of Holly Heights and Edgewood Acres saw the value of her abilities to dig deeper.

In fact Renee makes the Energizer Bunny look like a slacker.

I have had the pleasure of serving with someone who might even be more obsessed than I about our region.

The entire board has given our Nominating and Personnel Committee an enthusiastic nod of support to bring Renee back on the board after hearing that she would be “thrilled to serve as a Trustee again.”  She has repeatedly said that she wants to continue to be involved and uses an analogy that she can then be like a grandmother – someone who gets to be involved or go do other things at will.  Now I will need some training on that one! (and don’t tell her I said so, but she’ll need it, too!)

I’m as enthusiastic as ever about what the future brings for CU, but as far as this departure, a part of me says, “No, no! Don’t go!” and the other part of me says, “May only great things be on the horizon for our most masterful Renee.”

Best wishes Renee!

~   Sincerely,  Jane Morton Galetto, President Citizens United

(This note was sent via email to the membership on April 6, 2011)

Renee BrechtAfter this note was sent out, the Board of Trustees met and voted to have Renee return to our board, where she had served before her tenure as our Associate Director.  We are happy that she has graciously and enthusiastically accepted our invitation to rejoin us in that capacity.

Message from Renee Brecht

Two weeks ago I started a new IT position at the Millville Rescue Squad (IT, for you non-tech people, is Information Technology, i.e., computers.) Many of you know that I’ve been a hobbyist for a number of years, creating websites and games, classes on network security and various programming languages, etc. I’m loving the challenge and possibilities that it presents for me.

Last week I received an email from a fellow CU member and in response, I wrote, “CU soon!” That comment garnered a laugh from him, writing back with humor, “You just can’t let that CU go.”

He’s right. I just can’t let CU go. Although I’ve chosen to follow a different career path, CU is still in my heart. Each of you, the members with whom I’ve had the extraordinary privilege to work with, each of the causes I have had the opportunity to work with, each of my colleagues in the environmental world, are all a part of who I am.

Many of you have dedicated countless hours – and believe me, tracking some of your hours and dedication was happily time consuming—and I cannot but admire your commitment, your passion, and your generosity.

So I was thrilled when I was asked to serve CU in the capacity of a Board member. As CU moves forward, looking toward the future, I am pleased to be a part of that vision, and to continue to be a part of your lives as a fellow volunteer.  I am excited to say, “CU soon!” to the people who have shaped so much of the last six years of my life. 

~ Renee Brecht

Job Opening– We have circulated a job description for an Executive Director and hope to begin interviewing for the position in May.  If you need a copy of the job description please contact Jane at 609-774-5853.  The description was circulated to our email lists via our email hotline.

Membership Opportunities

Jane and Sue Fenili met with the YMCA staff in Vineland to discuss various out-of-door programs for youth.  We will be visiting the Y camp this summer to host interesting out-of-door activities.  This could be typical wildlife walks or music with outdoor finds.  If you are an available teacher (retired or on summer break- music, naturalists, biology, elementary etc.) and want to help out, please contact Sue Fenili at 856-691-7459.  We promise not to over-book your time!

We still need volunteers for the Eco Fair at Wheaton Arts.  The event runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Call Jane 609-774-5853.

Spring Walks are in full swing; check out the calendar.

All during May folks are helping out with things related to the Shorebird Research Team.  Mostly we are hosting meal and visitation-oriented preparations.  Some members get involved in the collection of scientific data.  If you like to cook or collect data you may contact Jane at 609-774-5853.  May 9th remains a day where we can use many hands.

Lake AudreyBoat Building Project– Headed up by member Bill Sheridan with Dave Fenili and Frank Kammerer as first mates, this group produced two more vessels based on a Clyde Phillips design.  Port Norris School students in an after-school program built these Long Nights.  Other schools participating are the Downe Academy, Moore School in Upper Deerfield and RD Wood School in Millville. Parents of the students were also involved.  We have ordered sails from Bacon Sails in Annapolis, MD to put the final touch on the venture. We also supply the materials that enable the boats to be made.  But the greatest thanks go to those who give their time to the project. Thanks to all those who have worked on the boats and a special thanks to the Bayshore Discovery Project for giving them a home and making sure the boats continue to get used.  A launching of the boats will take place at Lake Audrey in Commercial Twp. on May 27th. If you would like to help at the unveiling, please contact Bill Sheridan at 856-265-5564.  He needs some folks to grill hot dogs and the like.

4th Annual CU Birding Sail Aboard the AJ Meerwald– For the past few years, between scientists and CU members, we have filled the AJ Meerwald on Memorial Day morning for a Birding Sail.  If you haven’t experienced this event, grab your binoculars and come join in the fun– Monday, May 30 – 8 a.m. till noon.  A number of CU’s birders normally help to point out various species. Hoisting the sails and enjoying an oyster simply adds to the fun. Reservations are required. Tickets generally sell for $40 and $35 for seniors, but the CU special is $30 for adults and seniors, while kids sail for $20.  Call the Bayshore Discovery Project to make reservations at 856-785-2060. To get your discount be sure to tell them you are a CU member.  Getting tickets on line will not give you the discount. CU on the River!

Many opportunities for involvement can be found on the calendar.


Meeting Dates for 2011

Second Wednesdays of the odd numbered months 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Cumberland County College, Luciano Center

FrogJanuary 12, 2011
March 9, 2011
May 11, 2011
July 13, 2011
September 14, 2011
November 9, 2011

May 3, 2011 9 a.m. Birding and Botany Breakfast Walk
May 3, 2011 9 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. Breakfast Nature Walk- Leaders Sue Fenili and Sue Leopold
May 7, 2011 9 a.m. Birding with Laurie Pettigrew, Matts Landing/Heislerville WMA
May 7, 2011 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Eco Fair Wheaton Arts
May 11, 2011 – Bimonthly Wednesday meeting, Cumberland County College, Luciano Center
Speaker- State Zoologist David Golden- Tiger Salamanders
May 13, 2011 5:30 p.m. – 7 p.m. New members’ orientation
May 13, 2011 7:30 p.m. Frog Slog– meet Bennett’s Mill
May 21, 2011 Pig Roast for Shorebird Research Team Hosts and Researchers
May 24, 2011 Galetto Presents at Audubon Spring Workshop
May 27, 2011 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Sail Boats Launched at Lake Audrey- BBQ
May 28, 2011 Thanksgiving Dinner for Shorebird Research Team Hosts and Researchers
May 30, 2011 8 a.m. Bayshore Discovery Project/CU Birding Sail- special discount for CU Members


June 7, 2011 Presentation, Seasons on the Maurice, Dallas Lore Sharp Nature Club
June 11, 2011 Bay Day
June 18, 2011 Nature Bike Trip, Bevan WMA, Meeting Shaws Mill Pond. 10 miles.
June 26, 2011 BYOB Paddle, location TBA
June 28, 2011 9 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. Breakfast Nature Walk
June 28, 2011 7 a.m.Birding and Botany Walk

July 4, 2011 12 – 5 Millville 4th of July Riverfest
July 5, 2011 9 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. Breakfast Nature Walk
July 5, 2011 7 a.m. Birding and Botany Walk
July 12, 2011 7 a.m. Birding and Botany Walk
July 12, 2011 9 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. Breakfast Nature Walk
July 13, 2011   – Bimonthly Wednesday meeting, Cumberland County College, Luciano Center
Speaker- Jamie Cromartie- Insects

July 23, 2011 10 a.m. Philadelphia Botanical Field Trip, Cape May County

August 6, 2011 BYOB Paddle, location TBA
August 12, 13 2011 Purple Martin festival

September 3, 2011 Lake Audrey Day
September 14, 2011  6:30 p.m. Bimonthly Wednesday meeting, Cumberland County College, Luciano Center
September 24, 2011 Cape May Point State Park Butterfly Walk September 27, 2011 9 a.m.Birding and Botany Breakfast Walk

October 4, 2011 9 a.m. Birding and Botany Walk
October 8,  2011 Recollections Campfire. Location TBA
October 11, 2011 9 a.m. Breakfast Walk
October 15, 2011 6:30 p.m. Ah Why Knot Awards Dinner

November 9, 2011  6:30 p.m. Annual meeting, Cumberland County College, Luciano Center

CU on the River!