Recently, Gracie & Harrigan was retained by DEP Division of Fish & WIldlife to accomplish a forest inventory and produce a Forest Stewardship Plan for the Weldon Brook Wildlife Management Area. This 1,500+ acre property is located in Sparta Township, Sussex County. We are proud to have been involved with a project that seeks to restore significant amounts of Golden-winged warbler habitat while also meeting other goals of the DEP's Wildlife Action Plan and other environmental laws, regulations, and policy.
The golden-winged warbler is currently listed as endangered by the State of New Jersey, being that only about 25 nesting pairs are left within the state. The federal government has been petitioned to list this species because its population has declined 2.3% per year for the last 40 years. Two reasons exist for this terrible decline: lack of habitat and hybridization with the blue-winged warbler.
How can a state with over 715,000 acres of State Forests, State Parks, Wildlife Management Areas, and Natural Lands Trust properties lack habitat? Golden-wings need early successional forests within forest-dominated landscapes at higher elevations (950’ and greater). This habitat is commonly created by practicing forestry under even-aged management, however the amount of cutting necessary has meant that this practice, and therefore this habitat type has been very unpopular for the past 40 years.
The state and federal governments have turned to Gracie & Harrigan for our expertise in creating the habitat necessary to bring these birds back from the brink. Working in cooperation with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Working Lands For Wildlife Program, Gracie & Harrigan approached some of its clients in the warbler’s critical area (the Kittattinny Ridge in Sussex and Warren counties and the northern Highlands in Sussex, Morris, and Passaic counties) regarding creating habitat on their properties. Gracie & Harrigan helped those clients submit grant applications to NRCS and the Common Waters Fund administered by the Pinchot Institute of Conservation. If these grants are awarded, over 378 acres of habitat will be created and would potentially triple the warbler’s population on forests owned by private landowners.
The Division of Fish and Wildlife has also retained Gracie & Harrigan to complete a Forest Stewardship Plan on the 1,550 acre Weldon Brook Wildlife Management Area. This state-owned property contains one of the largest populations of golden-wings left in New Jersey. Gracie & Harrigan has a history on this property, since it was mostly owned by two former clients who sold their properties in the 1990’s and 2000’s to Green Acres. We are proud to lend our expertise in forest planning to the Division for this worthy project.