Sourland Stewards Phase Three: Stewardship Leaders Training Summary

October 2017 - April 2018

In a three-part course spanning 2017 and early 2018, participants immersed in the planning phase for a hands-on stewardship project at Baldpate Mountain. They learned ecological restoration fundamentals including site analysis, goal articulation, implementation, and monitoring. The program was taught by our Naturalist Advisor, Jared Rosenbaum of Wild Ridge Plants, and also featured Dr. Michael Van Clef, Director of Stewardship at Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space, and Jillian Stark, Land Steward for Mercer County Parks. The Sourland Conservancy offered this program to dedicated participants with the aim of developing a select group of experienced stewardship volunteers who can lead future projects in the Sourlands. The restoration area selected is a one-acre site along the ridge at Baldpate Mountain, with the rudiments of a healthy native plant and animal community but also some significant challenges, including imminent ash mortality due to Emerald Ash Borer, and widespread invasive plant species. During initial site assessment, an S2 plant species, Agastache nepetoides, was discovered in the proposed restoration area. Together with the presence of several bird species of concern, this amplified the need for restoration as well as for careful, deliberate approaches to any interventions. By the end of the second class, participants had performed a full site assessment and articulated the following goals. Goals 1. Restore holistically with the intention of uplifting overall ecological health and quality 2. Maintain or improve neotropical migrant bird habitat 3. Maintain or expand habitat for yellow giant hyssop 4. Use the restoration as an educational opportunity, and to model for similar restoration scenarios throughout our region The third class brought the realization that further monitoring was needed in order to meet goals. Monitoring allows us to quantify success and communicate lessons learned. It is integral to the use of the site as an educational opportunity, and also for adaptive management. It was decided that the following Monitoring Working Groups would operate in the growing season of 2018 prior to any direct site interventions. The class participants overwhelmingly agreed to continue their voluntary participation and formed the following groups. Monitoring Working Groups: Photo points. Taking photographs from pre-established points and angles. Fauna. Documenting breeding birds in the restoration area. Flora. Documenting the plant species in the restoration area, and at static plots as well, as well as documenting the extent of the yellow giant hyssop. Subjective and multimedia descriptions. Keeping a journal, drawing illustrations, maintaining a "sit spot", recording audio or video. Understory structure monitoring. Learning and using Mike Van Clef's "Forest Secchi" protocol, adapted for a one acre site, to assess native and non-native understory cover. Invasive species. Mapping the distribution, size, and extent of invasive species in the restoration area Ash decline. Counting and documenting ash trees in the restoration area, doing some research about the complex of ash maladies. We anticipate proceeding to direct interventions in fall and winter 2018 once indepth monitoring has been performed and the group reconvenes to prioritize restoration actions.