Team Habitat: Field of Dreams
The program is very much a team effort with the Council partnering with various agencies and organizations during the planning and implementation phases of a project. The green left NavBar lists the fourteen partners, who help us by lending equipment, getting the word out, funding projects, and/or planning the proper wildlife habitat for the site. One group that merits special mention is the New Jersey Quail Project. Members of this group have reached out to numerous landowners in South Jersey in the hope of increasing quail populations.
NJ Quail Project member and Councilman Mike Kerbowski continued to be one of Team Habitat’s best salesmen. He was joined by fellow NJ Quail Project member Joe Matter. Together they logged over 400 volunteer hours and drove close to 3,000 miles in their own vehicles without compensation, reaching out to landowners in Salem and Cumberland Counties. Their efforts resulted in 7 work projects, with the NJ Quail project funding one of them. With Mike and Joe’s outreach, the Council is poised to install close to 200 acres of critical wildlife habitat in the next few years.
With this workload ahead of us, the Council last fall purchased a John Deere 5083E Limited, 83 horse power tractor. This $37,300 tractor will allow us to work more efficiently, with fewer breakdowns.
The NFWF grant’s biggest contribution to Team Habitat, though, is allowing us to pay contractors to plant habitats. Rick Parenteau, the Team Habitat manager, meets with all potential customers to provide cost estimates. He schedules the jobs and equipment along with operating and maintaining the equipment. Partners are happy to lend Rick the equipment as he usually returns it in better condition than when we got it. Rick also directs the volunteers.
In 2010, Team Habitat moved from farm fields to suburban areas. We partnered with Camden and Gloucester Soil Conservation Districts to plant a detention basin in Gloucester County to a mix of warm season grasses and wildflowers. This former 8 acre lawn grass area will be tall grasses (i.e. warm season grasses) and wildflowers that will be mowed just once a year. This will save the township money. In addition, we expect water quality leaving the basin to improve as the warm season grasses slow runoff down and have deeper roots This encourages more stormwater infiltration. The Soil Conservation Districts will also install a low berm here to retain more storm water in the basin. Likewise, this will improve water quality leaving the basin.