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New Jersey Audubon and Mars Wrigley Partner in Water and Wildlife Conservation

John Parke of NJ Audubon shows NJ Youth Corps Members the Various Macroinvertebrates Hiding under on a Rock from the Stream and Explains How the Planting will Benefit Water Quality for those Organisms to Survive. Photo by Mike Muckle, NJ Youth Corps

With assistance from New Jersey Audubon, Mars Wrigley  recently enrolled into the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program to shape a better world by protecting water quality and improving wildlife habitat. The project will positively benefit the community by planting a pollinator meadow and buffer to support a sustainable and thriving community. Phase 1 of the project took place along the Bowers Brook where, with the help from the NJ Youth Corps of Phillipsburg, native trees and shrubs were planted.

For over a century Mars Wrigley has been committed to creating better moments in the communities where we make our products and sought to create a world that is more connected and caring,” said Kevin O’Malley, Hackettstown Site Director, Mars Wrigley US.  “Through our Mars’ Sustainable in a Generation Plan our goal is to be environmentally responsible and create positive societal impact. Mars Wrigley is proud to partner with NJ Audubon, NJ Youth Corps and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to take these positive steps to help bring sustainable improvements to our local community.”

NJ Youth Corps Students Planting With NJ Audubon at the Mars-Wrigley Facility to create a Native Vegetation Buffer to the stream. Photo by John Parke

The Mars Wrigley Hackettstown facility lies within the Musconetcong focal area of the Delaware River Watershed Initiative. Over the past seven years through the Initiative, NJ Audubon and other groups been responsible for helping private landowners, the agricultural community and local municipalities undertake various conservation projects on their lands as part of a local water quality and habitat improvement movement. For the initiative’s Highlands Region, Mars Wrigley is the first large corporate entity to take on this major restoration project leadership role.

This project’s primary focus is to create a more protective “buffer” zone to the Bower’s Brook, a tributary of the Musconetcong River, which flows through the Mars property. Currently the Brook is adjacent to a typical manicured lawn that offers little ecological value to the area. “Although a monoculture of short-rooted tuft grass may help with some soil erosion issues, it is still an ecological desert when it comes to providing habitat,” said John Parke, Stewardship Project Director of NJA. “By integrating native trees and shrubs in place of the lawn and installing native vegetation stream buffers, companies, like Mars, can have an immediate positive impact on natural resources in the region,” said Parke.

Buttonbush is One of the Native Plants Installed Along the Stream at the Facility. This Plant not only Helps with Soil Erosion Control, but is also a Critical Forage Plant for Pollinators and Other Wildlife. Photo by John Parke

The project is divided into two phases. Phase 1 was completed in early December when NJ Audubon and NJ Youth Corps planted native trees and shrubs provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Plants, supplied by the Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, included Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis), Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), Black Gum (Nyssa sylvatica) and American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) and were planted along the edge of the brook. These native plants will help with stream bank stabilization, reducing soil erosion, will provide shade to the stream, helping regulate thermal pollution (e.g., warm water is less capable of holding dissolved oxygen), and will also provide food for pollinators for years to come.  Sixteen-year-old Branden K. of the NJ Youth Corps who participated in the planting said, “This is the first time I’ve ever planted anything in my life.  It feels good to do this!

Phase 2 of the project is scheduled for Spring 2021 when portions of the manicured lawn will be converted to native plants. NJ Audubon will plant native warm season grasses. The grasses are beneficial because they are drought tolerant, no watering is necessary, they provide better stormwater runoff filtration because of their deep root system, they do not need fertilizer, and they also provide benefits to soil health and carbon sequestration. Research by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service National Sedimentation Laboratory has indicated native warm season grasses are very good filters during concentrated stormwater flows. In fact, a buffer of native warm-season grass three feet wide has been shown to filter the equivalent of a typical turf grass buffer that is twenty feet wide.

The area of converted lawn will also be planted with native wildflowers to provide pollinator habitat. By incorporating native wildflowers, such a common milkweed, foxglove beardtongue and others, the area will provide critical food and nesting habitat for native pollinators, such as bees and butterflies.

NJ Audubon is available to work with landowners to undertake similar projects and can help with enrollment into  conservation cost share programs supporting implementation of forest and farm Best Management Practices. For more information please contact NJ Audubon Stewardship Project Director – North, John Parke ([email protected]) or NJ Audubon Stewardship Project Director – South, Kristen Meistrell ([email protected]). For more information on Mars Inc.’s sustainability goals, please visit Mars.com/sustainability-plan.

New Jersey Audubon