Brewster Young and Barbara Ross
Washington Crossing Audubon has long been concerned about the vast mowed greenswards, barren detention basins, and manicured stream banks that dominate central New Jersey. The aesthetics are lost on us environmentalists who can only associate them with the insecticides, herbicides, fertilizers, and mower exhaust that pollute our water and air, and the depletion of precious natural resources-water and fuel oil-used to maintain them. We see a rapid decline in grassland species of birds-bobolinks, killdeer, meadow larks, Upland Sandpipers-their habitats replaced by mowed non-native monocultures that, conversely, encourage an overpopulation of Canada Geese, only happy out in the open where they can see potential predators. Corporations are the area's major stakeholders; if we could only make them discover the benefits and beauty of natural landscaping it would make a huge difference to the environment! But how can an all-volunteer organization like WCAS do this? We recruit environmental converts member by member, reach a few each month with slide talks, newsletter articles, and field trips, and sponsor programs that educate their kids, but our impact on New Jersey's major stakeholders is negligible. We considered bringing in a celebrity: maybe Julia Roberts or Bill Clinton could be convinced to eloquently address the disadvantages of lawns?
Last spring we sought the help of the Wildlife Habitat Council. Why WHC? It is qualified and professional, has credibility with corporations, and actively seeks to build partnerships with conservation groups, industry organizations, and federal agencies. Projects encouraged range from planting of no-mow grass, riparian habitat improvement, wetland restoration, tree planting, wildlife management, and butterfly gardens, to visitor centers and nature trails. Their various complimentary programs include Wildlife at Work (employee green teams), Corporate Lands for Learning (education of schoolchildren), certification and accreditation, Waterways for Wildlife, brownfields remediation and land reclamation, and nest monitoring.
The resulting WHC-WCAS seminar for central New Jersey corporations was hosted by Bristol-Myers Squibb Company at its Hopewell Campus on June 12, 2001. Before an audience of over 40 Mike Hodge presented WHC's programs in an illustrated talk, followed by presentations by B-MS, Merck and Company, and Williams Gas Pipeline-Transco. These three corporations and Lucent Technologies generously sponsored the event. The evening before, WHC's Mike Hodge gave a very interesting and well-received talk on backyard habitats at a special June WCAS program meeting.
A preliminary assessment of the seminar's success indicates a win-win situation. Together, WHC and WCAS accomplished a major aim of raising the consciousness of corporations, planning officials, and environmental organizations in the area. Both sponsoring organizations and the WHC members who made presentations all gained positive name recognition and appreciation for what they are trying to do. We will all wait with satisfaction for the disappearance of those greenswards, both home and corporate.
WCAS is prepared to volunteer for corporations who solicit its help, designate at each an employee to be an Audubon point person, and do what it does best: make biological inventories, set up monitoring programs, train employee green teams, and help spread the word about the importance of natural habitats. And maybe some of those corporate types will join Audubon!
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