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Conservation IssuesGrassland Habitat
Pat Sziber

Grassland Habitat
Pat Sziber

Grasslands are New Jersey's most critically threatened habitat type. Surprised? With the exception of some coastal grassy meadows, most of our state's grasslands are hayfields and meadows-agricultural fields. And where do developers love to put their subdivisions? Agricultural fields. Adding to this obvious threat is the type of intensive agriculture that has replaced many traditional farms plus a sketchy understanding of the needs of grassland species and difficulty in documenting their presence. Then, perhaps, it should not be so surprising that the largest group of endangered birds in New Jersey are grassland species-41% of all state endangered birds.

On April 14, several WCAS members attended an all-day Grassland Habitat Symposium sponsored by New Jersey Audubon, Franklin Township and the NJ Endangered and Nongame Species Program. More than 165 people from the conservation community, the corporate world, public utilities and the DOT attended. We learned some amazing things about grasslands, the birds that inhabit them, and how to protect them. Speakers included experts on birds and their habitats, grassland habitat design and restoration, and funding opportunities.

The symposium was a revelation, not only for its content but also for the level and breadth of interest in grassland species. The body of scientific information on these birds, as well as documentation of their presence, is growing. We now have in our hands some excellent manuals on grassland habitat design, protection, and restoration and will be far more confident when speaking up on behalf of grassland birds. We now know who the experts are when we need a consultation. We also now know that there is a lot of money available, such as the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP), the NJ Landowner Incentive Program (NJLIP) and the Grassland Reserve Program to encourage farmers to plant native warm season grasses and mow after the nesting season.

We look forward to the opportunity to apply what we learned at this very instructive symposium and are grateful to the sponsors who provided it free to the public.

Did you know
  • That grasslands are indeed native to New Jersey?

  • That NJ was covered mostly by grasslands in the late Pleistocene?

  • That even after forestation, pockets of grassland were created by Native Americans, lightning and severe flood events?

  • That power line rights of way, airports and military reserves, if managed properly, can provide excellent grassland habitat?

  • That meadowlarks need about 100 acres to nest successfully?

  • That upland sandpipers and grassland sparrow species are the most severely impacted grassland birds?

  • That our native warm season grasses use water, sunlight and nutrients far more efficiently than the European cool season grasses most often planted for hay?



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Last revision: Friday, May 28, 2004 - 11:49:10 AM