Watershed Ambassadors work to Protect Pinelands
Americorps NJ Watershed Ambassadors play an important role in the on-going stewardship of the Pinelands.
By Jason Howell
The Americorps NJ Watershed Ambassadors play an important role in the on-going stewardship of NJ’s streams, rivers, lakes, and ponds. Organized by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, each Watershed Ambassador provides 1700 hours of service during a 10-month service term while receiving small stipends for living expenses and travel and an educational reward upon successful completion of their term. At PPA, we serve as the host organization for the Rancocas Watershed Ambassador by providing a workspace and helping to facilitate projects throughout the year. The Watershed Ambassadors play a critical role in monitoring stream health throughout the state as well as playing an important stewardship role in their watershed. Because the Pinelands extends over multiple watershed areas, we work closely with Ambassadors covering the Great Egg Harbor Watershed, the Mullica River Watershed, the Barnegat Bay Watershed, and more. They have acted as leads as well as support on multiple volunteer projects in the Pinelands including large-scale illegal dumping cleanups, habitat protection from off-road vehicles, and tree-plantings.
During these projects, PPA helps by providing logistical support and project fine-tuning and the Watershed Ambassadors work together on project design and planning as well as recruiting and managing of volunteers on site. The Pinelands Land Protectors, PPA’s volunteer stewardship initiative, have worked closely on many of the projects undertaken by Watershed Ambassadors this year. The most substantial project undertaken to date was the Candace Ashmun planting where volunteers planted over 1000 trees and shrubs alongside a pond degraded from off-road vehicle abuse. This preserve, owned and managed by the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, is a stronghold for many rare species and is under constant threat from off-road vehicles. We partnered with NJCF, the Nature Conservancy, and the Watershed Ambassadors to facilitate the planting to help restore the area’s ecological function as a breeding and foraging site for amphibians, birds, and other species. This project is part of a broader effort to “rewild” the Pinelands in preserved areas that have been degraded from human activity.
The preservation of land and water in the Pinelands is not a finished project, it is an on-going struggle to maintain and restore the natural places that have so far resisted development. That is why it is so important that we leverage all the resources available and partner with as many individuals and organizations as practical to further the cause. The Watershed Ambassadors have proven to be an important part of that partnership and we are lucky to work with such dedicated individuals on projects in the Pinelands. The continuation of the Watershed program could never be more important as development pressures increase in this densely populated state. Keeping track of stream health, keeping up with stewardship priorities, and developing the talent for environmental problem solving is a key function of the Watershed program. With the coming end to 2017-2018’s term, Americorps/NJDEP will soon be recruiting new Ambassadors for next year’s term beginning this coming September and it is important that highly motivated candidates are aware of the importance of this program.
To participate in our next partner project with the Ambassadors, please join us on the July 7th Cleanup in Chatsworth.
If you are interested in becoming an NJDEP Watershed Ambassador, see the position summary http://www.nj.gov/dep/wms/bears/docs/americorps_position_description.pdf
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