Quarterly Reporter March 2013

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

Next Meeting and Presentation – Wednesday, March 13, 2013, 6:30 p.m.
George Luciano Center, Cumberland County College

Heron“Kevin Karlson Presents Visions: Earth’s Elements in Bird and Nature Photography”

Everyone has visions, and some of these have the power to transform our lives. This visual and musical program contains an exciting collection of bird and nature images that reflect the personal visions of nature by eleven contributing photographers as perceived through the camera lens. These images are themed to the elements of the planet: earth, fire, air and water, and include some of the finest action and behavioral photographs available. The unique theme and musical interludes in this program will capture your fancy and take you on a riveting visual ride through the world of birds and nature. Kevin describes the program as a pure celebration!

May Meeting and Presentation – Wednesday, May 8th, 2013, 6:30 p.m.
George Luciano Center, Cumberland County College

Tiger Talk with Kim Korth of NJDEP

In 2011, NJ Division of Fish & Wildlife launched a pilot program to head-start eastern tiger salamanders at select locations in Cape May County. At 7 to 8.25 inches in length, the eastern tiger salamander is the largest found in New Jersey. This species has a high mortality rate at the egg and hatching stage which, coupled with generally small reproductive adult populations and biennial breeding, causes significant limitations to population growth. These natural factors become exacerbated when habitat loss, degradation, and altered hydroperiods, as a result of changing climate patterns, add additional constraints to populations. Kim Korth, Principal Zoologist for the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife Endangered and Nongame Species Program, will share her experience and insights on this fascinating creature.

The 2013 Chili Bowl was a great success! We overcame the biggest hurdle, which was making sure our chilis were prepared in a certified kitchen. Turns out, the chefs had a lot of fun on the Saturday before the Bowl in the kitchen at the Parish of All Saints. The staff there bent over backwards for us, and we are deeply grateful. Big thanks also to Greg Honachefsky for serving as our certified food handler, and keeping us in line with the Health Department’s requirements. With most of the chilis prepared in advance, it was relatively smooth sailing into the day of the event.

It takes a village to pull this event off, and we are enormously grateful to everyone who pitches in. From donating, processing, packing, loading and arranging the auction items, to preparing appetizers and desserts, to room setup and breakdown, to working in the kitchen, and managing the logistics of both the silent and the live auctions, there are simply too many people to thank here. However, one person really does stand out in the crowd, and that is Suzanne Olah, who handles the reservations, inputs the auction items into our auction software, adeptly processes all the bids in short order at the event, and does so with a calmness and graciousness that is simply unmatched. She even made the fabulous jewelry display. It’s true, she’s got some great help looking over her shoulder during the craziness on the night of the event, but we simply couldn’t do it without Suzanne.

And congratulations to our 2013 Chili Bowl winners, Judy Nelson, Dee Shiell and Wendy Walker for their hard work on chili-making day and the night of the event, Tommy Talalaj, for bringing his youth and strength to many events, and especially the break-down at the Chili Bowl, Roger Asselta for making chili and always bringing a crowd of friends to the event, and Tim Russell for his terrific help, flexibility and sense of humor in the room set-up, break-down and many a 50/50 raffle!

We are also grateful to our planning team – a very talented group, indeed – which is exploring a new date and a new venue for next year. Stay tuned for more information on that.

Chili Bowl winners

And, Introducing the 2013 Pig Roast with the
International Shorebird Scientist Team
and Ah Why Knot Awards

This year, on May 18th, all members and volunteers are invited to attend the annual Pig Roast and Pot Luck with the shorebird team, where we will also present our Ah Why Knot Awards for the year. This is always a great party at the Galetto residence, and we wanted to open it to everyone! Please RSVP to Lillian and let us know if you would like to bring an appetizer, side dish or dessert. Additional entrees, especially vegetarian options, are also especially coveted. Folks are welcome to arrive starting at 2:00 pm for a paddle or some time outdoors, and volunteers are also welcome to arrive at 2:00 pm to help with set-up. Dinner will take place around 5 pm. Please also let Lillian know if you can help with set-up and/or clean-up.

Up-Coming Events for Members and Friends

Wild About Cumberland! On March 19th and 20th, 2013 CU Maurice River is partnering with the Bayshore Center at Bivalve (aka Bayshore Discovery Project) and The Nature Conservancy to give Cumberland County 4th graders a great day of indoor and outdoor education. This program replaces and augments the programs previously known as Raptor Discovery Days and Eagle Fest Education Days. Teachers, students and chaperones will be treated to a half day outdoors on nearby trails with CU leaders/volunteers, and a half day indoors at the Bivalve Center with sessions that emphasize “sense of place” and environmental education focused on our local habitats and the species they might encounter. Many thanks to all the volunteers who have already committed to this wonderful event. We could still use a handful more, so please email Lillian, 856-305-3238 if you are interested and willing!

Waltman Park Birding and Botany Walks and Tuesdays on the Fly. Our Saturday walks continue on the third Saturday of the month at 9:30 am into the summer on the following dates, March 16th, April 20th, May 18th, June 15th and July 15th. Free and open to the public, and a great way to get a friend involved in CU Maurice River.

Our Tuesday walks will be “On the Fly,” meaning that the walk leader, usually Jane, may decide to take the group to another nearby wildlife viewing area. Meet at Waltman Park at 9:00 am and be ready for adventure! There will be no walk on March 19th due to Wild About Cumberland, and the future Tuesday dates are April 23rd, May 21st, June 18th, July 23rd.

On Saturday, March 16th, our walk coincides with the Dash for the Trash, a state-wide community clean-up day being coordinated by our local Watershed Ambassador, Gillian Schwert. Arrive at Waltman Park at 9:00 am for a brief orientation, and then plan to pick up some trash while you’re on the Birding and Botany Walk! If you have any questions about the Dash for the Trash, or want to join the clean up please contact Gillian at 856-825-3700 x 127 or email watershed17@ccia-net.com.

Rain Barrel Workshop – Saturday, April 6th. CU is partnering with the Rutgers Cooperative Extension to conduct a Rain Barrel Workshop on Saturday, April 6th, from 9:00 am to 11:00 am at the 4H Center on Morton Ave in Rosenhayn. Space is limited to 20 participants and the cost is $40, which includes instruction and materials for building one rain barrel. Contact Viola at Rutgers Cooperative Extension to register, 856-451-2800 ext. 4, and checks should be made payable to Extension Services Program Account. If this event fills up quickly, like a rain barrel should, we will try to schedule another.

Celebrate Earth Day with a Free Showing of CRASH: A Tale of Two Species at the Levoy Theatre and Dinner at Winfield’s. On Monday, April 22nd at 6 p.m. Earth Day itself, CU Maurice River is sponsoring a free showing of CRASH at the Levoy Theatre. CRASH is a PBS/Nature program that documents the relationship of the horseshoe crab and Red Knot and the decline of the Knot due to over-harvesting of the crabs. The footage of the tiny horseshoe crabs still in their eggs, and the amazing vistas at the far corners of the earth will be even more impressive on the big screen. It features Larry Niles and Mandy Dey, two of CU’s 2012 Red Knot Award winners, who will be attending and available for a Q&A session following the one-hour film. Winfield’s will be open that night (usually closed on Mondays) so grab some friends for the free movie in the lovely Levoy, and then dinner at Winfield’s. Dinner reservations are necessary by Monday, April 15th cureservation@gmail.com, email Suzanne Olah or phone her at 856-327-5118.

World Series of Birding

The CU Fish Hawks will be back in action in the World Series of Birding on Saturday, May 11th. This was an extremely successful fundraiser for CU Maurice River last year, so please consider a donation to the team. Last year, the team scored 150 species in nearly 24 hours of hard birding. This year, we’ll go for more! You can support the team in one of three ways: 1) take a gamble and make a pledge per species, 2) send any flat dollar amount, and/or 3) help us find sponsors for the team! A new CU t-shirt design is underway for those who contribute $100 or more. Contact Lillian with your pledge per species, or click here to visit the donation page of our website to send a flat pledge for the team. Go Fish Hawks! Go Fish Hawks!

News Flash! In the time since the newsletter was sent off for mailing, the CU Fish Hawks team has been finalized! Please support returning members Clay Sutton, Karen Johnson and Tony Klock, and welcome aboard CU Trustee, Laurie Pettigrew! Laurie is new to the Fish Hawks, but she’s a veteran of the World Series of Birding. What a fantastic team! Cheer them on with your pledges, which will directly support CU’s ongoing Raptor and Waterbird Studies, now in their 26th year. This research effort is more important than ever in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and increasing attention to climate change, sea level rise and salt water intrusion in the watershed.

The annual Frog Slog with Fred Akers, a.k.a. “Watershed Fred” will take place on Friday, May 17th from 7:30 pm to 9:00 pm at the corner of Mays Landing Road and Union Road, Vineland, also known as Bennett’s Mill. Discover the secret life of frogs on this night excursion. Learn to identify frogs by their breeding songs and more. Come with a flashlight and be prepared for wet, frog-sloggy conditions – knee high mud boots or higher preferred. Free and open to all ages. KIDS LOVE THIS EVENT! Touch tanks available! Please register in advance with Lillian, 856-305-3238 or email Lillian.

And, celebrate Memorial Day with a sail on the A.J. Meerwald. CU Maurice River helps fill the boat on this special day, and our members receive a discount on the cost of the ticket. Call the Bayshore Center at Bivalve to make your reservations, 856-785-2060.

Volunteer Opportunities – ‘Tis the Season!

Bill Sheridan, boat builder extraordinaire, is leading efforts to make Peace Canoes at Downe Township School and Bridgeton Public School. The project in Bridgeton begins on Tuesday, March 17th at 3:00 pm. Contact Bill directly at 856-327-1513 if you can volunteer.

If you’re a Swamp Pink volunteer, or if you want to become one, Adopt-a-Swamp Pink training will take place on Saturday, April 27th from 10:00 am until noon. This exquisite, nationally rare species of orchid has its stronghold in our region. Our volunteers hope to maintain healthy populations by monitoring its presence and recording any threats. We do this project under the umbrella of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Join Dennis Hamlin and Wendy Walsh of USFWS at 10 a.m. at Shaw’s Mill Pond in order to learn survey techniques. New volunteers welcomed! Please let Lillian know if you plan to attend.

BandingThe shorebirds are already arriving and the international shorebird team will soon follow in early May. Our generous shorebird team chefs should email Jane or call her at 609-774-5853 at their earliest convenience to let her know if they are willing and able to make a meal, dessert, supplement side dishes or make deliveries to the team. Folks who would like to offer some type of cultural experience to our international visitors are welcome to let Jane know of that, too.

The Eco-Fair at Wheaton Arts takes place on Saturday, May 4th from 10 am to 5 pm. This well-attended event is a lot of fun for volunteers, and it is where we help the kids make bird feeders with pinecones rolled in peanut butter and birdseed. Four volunteers are needed for each morning and afternoon shift, including picking up materials from the CU shed in the morning and bringing them back in the afternoon. Or, make a day of it! Contact Lillian if you are able to volunteer.

This year, CU Maurice River will join numerous sponsors including USFWS, Friends of Cape May and Forsythe NWRs, Manomet, Middle Township and Stone Harbor in The Wetlands Institute’s first ever Spring Shorebird and Horseshoe Crab Festival taking place Friday, May 17th through Sunday, May 19th. Volunteers are needed to provide interpretation on the shorebird/horseshoe crab phenomenon at platforms that will be placed at the end of Cook’s Beach Road, and on shorebird walks on Stone Harbor Point. This is a busy weekend for CU Maurice River, but hopefully we can divide and conquer! Please let Lillian know if you can volunteer. Encourage friends and family to attend the festival! Tickets for any and all events during the weekend cost $15 for adults and $10 for children (non-members of The Wetlands Institute). Some of the proceeds will benefit our friends at the Delaware Bay International Shorebird Project.

Bay Day and Barn Day are once again back-to-back on June 1st and June 2nd. At Bay Day at the Bayshore Center at Bivalve, volunteers are needed to man an informational table as well as to help the kids Paint-a-Landscape. We had a bustling location for the painting last year, and volunteers had a lot of fun all the way around. The event occurs from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, with pick-up of materials from the CU shed required at about 8:15 am, and breakdown taking place with our needs for the following day in mind. Please let Lillian know if you would like a morning or afternoon shift.

Barn Day starts at 12:00 noon on Sunday and runs until 5:00 pm. Join us under the CU tent as Ed Pio does some carving, or under the trees where we set up our Paint-a-Landscape. This is a lovely event in a beautiful setting, with live music in the background, topped by the Barn’s always friendly ambiance. Please let Lillian know if you can volunteer for all or part of this afternoon event.

Are You Missing Something?
If you normally renew your membership in the first half of the calendar year, you are probably wondering about the whereabouts of your annual appeal letter. Its absence is because we are making a shift in our membership renewal strategy. All members will receive an appeal at the same time in early July, which is the beginning of our fiscal year, and the initial appeal will be followed by timely reminders. We believe this approach will be more efficient and cost-effective.

Now, even though we didn’t want to hit some of you up twice in six months, this doesn’t mean you get to skip a year! You are welcome to make your donation at the usual time. Otherwise your July renewal will include a combined request for fiscal years 2013 and 2014. If you’re not sure about the timing of your last donation, please feel free to contact Lillian.

CU DuesAlso, if there’s an envelope included in your newsletter, that means our records indicate we have not received a renewal from you since 2011, or earlier. If you’ve gone green and do not get the newsletter via USPS then click here to pay online. We are about to mount a phone-drive, so save us a dime, and send a catch-up renewal now. Please know, we are aware that many of our members give in many ways, and generously contribute to our fundraisers. At the same time, regular memberships remain extremely important to us as a cornerstone of our budget. We are facing an almost certain decline in our National Park Service Partnership Wild and Scenic River funding, and are hopeful our members will continue to be generous in their annual donations.

Recent Events

Thank you to the volunteers who helped build Osprey platforms for the Conserve Wildlife Foundation on January 19th. Ben Wurst reported the gang made short work of it, and he will let us know when he needs help installing the platforms.

Volunteers construct osprey platforms

The Cumberland County Winter Eagle Festival was a lot of fun on Saturday, Feb 9th. Many thanks to the volunteers who manned our table, helped lead walks and provided enthusiasm and interpretation at the windy, chilly eagle viewing sites throughout the day. Although the event was somewhat lightly attended, perhaps due to the stormy weather the day before, the presentations were exceptional and a great time was had by all. Thank you to Leslie Ficcaglia for another year of leading the orchestration of the Eagle Fest.

25 Year Raptor and Waterbird SurveysClay Sutton made a fantastic presentation on the 25 Year Raptor and Waterbird Surveys on the Maurice River to over 250 attendees at the bi-annual Delaware Estuary Partnership Science and Environmental Summit on January 28th. The full report is summarized in a 16 page brochure, compiled by Clay and Lillian, with wonderful design work by CU member, Donna Vertolli. Copies of the brochure will be available at upcoming meetings, and we will seek further media coverage of this extraordinary effort. You can also view the brochure on our website.

Members of CU’s Board of Trustees have faithfully attended the workshops at the LaSalle Nonprofit Center’s Nonprofit Resilience Institute. Planning for Strategic Planning in January, and the Care and Feeding of Nonprofit Board members were both exceptional, and reminded attendees of the many things CU Maurice River does very well, while providing some insights into areas for improvement. The series is coming to a close in April, and we look forward to reflecting on what we have learned.

We had a terrific response to the on-line questionnaire developed by the senior class team from Rowan’s College of Communications and Creative Arts, Department of PR and Advertising. They are analyzing the results, performing additional research, and preparing to make a presentation to us on their findings on Wednesday, May 8th. We will report the results in the next newsletter.

CU Maurice River Advocacy Update

In 2008 the NJ Legislature enacted a moratorium on the harvest of horseshoe crabs. The crabs had been severely overharvested for use as bait for a number of years, which resulted in their numbers plummeting below the numbers necessary to sustain the shorebirds’ reliance on their eggs as a food source. Shorebirds stop over on the Delaware Bayshore during their northern migration from South America to their Artic nesting grounds. Unless horseshoe crab eggs are plentiful they are not able to bulk up sufficiently to reproduce or in some cases even to complete their journey. Many other measures were taken prior to an out and out moratorium, but all proved to be inadequate.

Senator Van Drew has drafted legislation to lift the moratorium. We have consulted with the scientific community and they have assured us that any lift of the moratorium is unjustifiable and premature. CU Executive Director Lillian Armstrong worked with the shorebird scientists and members of the South Jersey Bayshore Coalition on a sign-on letter that was reviewed and amended and ultimately sent to legislators who enacted the legislation as well as to our legislative representatives asking that the legislation to lift the ban not move forward. Further our members were notified via our email hotline to make calls to local legislators. And as of March 6th an online petition urging continued protection of the horseshoe crabs has a total of 3,000 signatures (thank you CU member Renee Brecht- former Associate Director). To which Van Drew is quoted in the Philadelphia Inquirer as saying, “the moratorium might be sexy and cool, but it just doesn’t make sense.” Well, we agree that horseshoe crabs are very cool, but beyond that we have a major difference of opinion. Stay tuned, and stay involved.

As you may recall, we also were very involved in the preparation of a letter stating that the contamination at the Shield Alloy superfund site needed to be removed from the facility in Newfield. This letter was ultimately signed by our fellow South Jersey Coalition members. In this we were lockstep with our local and national legislators. The EPA, Nuclear Regulatory Commission and NJDEP have struggled to work out a conclusion that is acceptable to the host municipality and the court has ruled that they need to work to solve the problem. The court itself was confused by the situation. Therefore getting a clear understanding of what approach we might take is difficult, although all elected officials are in agreement that the site needs to be cleaned up rather than left in situ. So it appears that it is incumbent on the EPA to follow the directives of the court and seek a solution that does not simply put the ball in the DEP’s court. If you’re confused, you are not alone. Rest assured we will continue to advocate that the site be cleaned up and will likely reiterate that position with the parties to whom we wrote previously.

The Holly Farm remains a festering thorn. The court has continued to delay the conservation groups’ challenge/appeal of the Board of Public Utilities decision which allowed the utility company to transfer the land to a developer. The developer has been accepting fees that have allowed thousands of dirt bikes to have motorcross events all over the property. And most recently large clearcuts that alarmed some of our members were apparently undertaken for pine bark beetle control. We suspect these cuts might further enhance what is already described as in excess of 14 miles of off-road vehicle racing. However, replanting should be the anticipated outcome, unless a development is ultimately approved and moves forward, at which point one might ask why these steps were taken. The protection of this site remains beyond complex. We have sought the advice of counsel on this situation numerous times and will keep you abreast when appropriate as to what steps might be taken to see that the property’s wildlife values are not totally destroyed.

A number of our members have inquired about the expansion of the NJ Motorsports Park with the addition of an ATV track. We have reviewed the drawings at the Millville Planning office and they appear to be in compliance with our court agreement with the park and City of Millville. The drawings show the required sound wall, the specified length, and setbacks from the Wildlife Management Area and a Category 1 stream. So apparently what protective measures we agreed to are being followed. The specific designs of the sound wall are not yet part of the review process. Our leadership is bound by a legal agreement that we signed with the City and the Park, as are they. All parties seem to be making efforts to stay within those specifications. Members can access the agreement on our website.

Sandy damageA number of CU members as well as our staff have been attending meetings on the rising waters and storm damage that have taken place over the past months. In fact December 21, 2012 actually brought higher tides to our area than Hurricane Sandy. Although not nearly as well publicized as other locations, the NJ Delaware Bayshore was devastated by the hurricane and pelted by the 21st tides. Lillian and Jane took a tour of the Fortescue and Gandy’s Beach bayside areas and found the storm wreaked severe havoc, with many structures washed either half or entirely away. At Thompson’s Beach large pieces of rubble formerly intended to protect Heislerville were moved like marbles by a giant. We have been contacted by Maurice River Township officials to submit a letter bolstering the region’s need to achieve funding from the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program for maintenance of the mouth of the Maurice River. We have a number of overlapping concerns in this regard as do many of our bayside resident members. We hope to draft a letter that is in keeping with our mission and the best-known environmental and engineering practices that would protect the both the wetlands and the Heislerville Wildlife Management area impoundments. A number of the historic villages are in continual risk of flooding and this is most disconcerting. Additionally, a number of water-reliant businesses are in jeopardy, e.g.. marinas, shellfish processors, and even our sister organization’s waterfront at the Bayshore Center at Bivalve. If funding is ultimately achieved, we may not agree with all the expenditures but clearly it is unacceptable to allow the bayshore communities simply to erode into the Bay without the necessary efforts to save that which can be maintained.

Go Green and save us some green!
If you are still getting the print version of this newsletter as well as receiving it via email, we encourage you to opt for the green only emailed edition – which includes lots of color photos! If you are not on our email list, please send your email address to Lillian Armstrong and let us know if you would like to be removed from our USPS mailings. This applies only to newsletters; you will still receive special mailings and invitations. Please think of CU Maurice River in your year-end giving, or give the gift of membership to a friend. Membership is set at $20 for individuals and $30 for families. Mail your check to PO Box 474, Millville, NJ 08332 or pay online at here. And thanks to all those who give the equally important gift of your time. We couldn’t do all this without you! CU on the River!

CU on the River!