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Conservation Organizations, Congressman Kim Celebrate $94,000 Grant for Atlantic White-Cedar

New federal funding opens door to improve water quality, wildlife habitat in the Delaware River Basin.

On September 13, 2020, the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed, New Jersey Audubon, and Congressman Andy Kim (NJ-03) gathered in Brendan Byrne State Forest to celebrate a new grant from the Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund, which was created from federal appropriations for the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program.

A total of $94,823 was received by New Jersey Audubon and with their matching funds of $95,179, about $190,000 will be leveraged to restore and manage the dwindling Atlantic white-cedar population in Burlington, Ocean, Cumberland, Salem, Atlantic, and Gloucester County.

“We’re thankful to our Congressional champions and thrilled to see that our advocacy for the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program continues to translate to on-the-ground dollars for restoration and conservation throughout the Delaware River Basin. Funded projects will contribute to long-term outcomes for equitable access to nature, resiliency, healthy habitat, and a thriving outdoor economy,” said Sandra Meola, Director, Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed. “The Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund’s most recent announcement of thirty-seven grants across four states total $8.1 million for projects. Grantees have committed nearly $22.1 million in match, for a total conservation impact of $30.2 million that will protect our land and water resources.”

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Atlantic white-cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides) wetlands are a globally rare plant community that has experienced a severe decline, falling from an estimated 115,00 acres to around 40,000 acres remaining in New Jersey. The overpopulation of white-tailed deer, occurrence of severe wildfires, land conversion for human uses, selective tree harvesting, and human induced changes in plant and forest communities have been the leading factors in this decline. Southern New Jersey has some of the largest remaining natural Atlantic white-cedar populations throughout its range on the Atlantic coast, though they continue to face threats. Restoration of Atlantic white-cedar will benefit waterways in the Maurice River and Rancocas Creek Watersheds, both part of the Delaware River Basin. These trees filter and purify water, stabilize stream banks, and store stormwater runoff.

“These funds are critical to preserving New Jersey’s waterways and wildlife, which are an essential part of our community,” stated Congressman Andy Kim (NJ-03). “Nearly half of New Jersey’s residents live within the Delaware River Basin, and by restoring Atlantic white-cedar we’re investing in cleaner drinking water for our families and a more sustainable environment for generations to come.”

New Jersey Audubon will work with private landowners to restore and conserve Southern New Jersey’s Atlantic-white cedar wetlands. Atlantic white-cedar wood is generally very durable and rot resistant, yet lightweight, aromatic, and evenly straight-grained. These characteristics make it a highly valuable material for siding, shingles, fencing, poles, channel markers, furniture, and hunting decoys. The work on private lands will complement the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s State Forest Service efforts to restore Atlantic-white cedar on public lands throughout southern New Jersey.

“We plan to utilize Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund dollars to restore and manage 100 acres of Atlantic white-cedar wetlands and associated uplands on private lands. Without proper management or restoration of existing and potential Atlantic white-cedar wetlands, decline will continue, and Atlantic white-cedar will eventually disappear,” added Kristen Meistrell, Stewardship Project Director – South, New Jersey Audubon.

Atlantic white-cedar wetlands also provide critical resources to several species of endangered and threatened wildlife. The caterpillar of the rare Hessel’s hairstreak (Callophrys hesseli) feeds exclusively on Atlantic white-cedar. The black-throated green warbler (Dendroica virens), another species of special concern, will also use these habitats almost exclusively for breeding in New Jersey. Atlantic white-cedar forests provide many other rare plant and animal species with valuable resources, including the Pine Barrens treefrog (Hyla andersonii), barred owl (Strix varia), and timber rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus).

The grant for New Jersey Audubon’s project was awarded through the Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund, a program administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

In total, 90 projects have been funded in the last three years that will improve 6,783 acres of forest habitat, treat polluted runoff using agricultural conservation practices on more than 4,596 acres, restore 141 acres of wetland habitat, and improve 3.5 miles of instream habitat in critical headwaters in the Delaware River Basin.

View the full 2020 grant slate online at http://bit.ly/dwcf2020.

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