Over the last several decades, habitat loss and fragmentation have become considerable threats to ecosystems across the United States. New Jersey, which is the most densely populated state in the nation, with almost nine million residents spanning across 8,729 square miles, poses a particular challenge to the plant and animal species whose lives depend on open space. Largely due to development, which is of course has benefits, there continue to be negative - and often hidden - consequences.
The sound of falling trees echoes through what was once a landscape pulsing with chattering birds, scuttling animal paws, and flutering leaves. Bulldozers take the place of bobcats; humming chain saws replace woodpeckers. Gone are many towering oaks, hosts of sparrows, and habitats of innumerable wildlife species. They have long since fled, perhaps to the another haven of undisturbed land to find food and shelter and space. A cycle of life continues as that new community is burdened with its additional residents. Some species, less accustomed to the new habitat, may not thrive, instead dying off and lowering biodiversity. Instead of the open, contiguous acrerage many animals need, they encounter blocked passageways, diverted waterways, pavement and buildings instead of meadows with rich food sources, and noise their delicate systems cannot tolerate. What appears on the surface as a serene human habitat actually contains ecological disruption and distruction. Instead of a balanced array of bio-diverse locales, ecological calamity reigns in homogenious plots.
Fortunately, definitive steps are being taken towards protecting the flora and fauna whose existence is dependent of how we use the space on our planet. For example, wildlife corridors and animal bridges have gained popularity as a way for migratory creatures to move safely between two natural areas. On a national scale, thousands of preservation groups have conserved millions of often contiguous acres. Locally, the Tewksbury Land Trust has taken significant steps towards protecting habitats that millions of furry, slimy, rough or watery individuals call home.
By creating conservation properities in Tewksbury Township, not only are the plants and animals environs better protected, but human activities which take place out doors are also increasingly enabled. More open land means more enjoyable passive land use such as hiking, bking, fishing, swimming and nature education.
In the next several years, the Tewksbury Land Trust hopes to link Lance Preserve, Hill and Dale Preserve, Sullivan Preserve, and Whitman Preserve into a coniservation entity boasting over 235 acres. These properties serve as prime hiking and horseback riding locations with miles of groomed trails highlighted by spectacular views of Hunterdon County. Of these acquisitions, Sullivan Preserve features the most recently completed walking path that will eventually adjoin Palentine Road. The 27.2-acre parcel was purchased from a developer by Mr. Sullivan and thereafter used agriculturally. Immediately adjacent is Whitman Preserve, which was an equestrian facility before R.T. Whitman moved south and sold his property to the Land Trust in 2005.
These two protected areas provide a glimpse into what could become an expansive haven for an entire ecological community. Sheltered in the midst of towering oak, poplar, and ash trees are numerous natives who demand our help. Let a patch of daisies rub against your jeans and with an upward glance, admire the sparrow who streaks across your path. Take a walk between clumps of ferns while listening closely for the elusive bald eagle. And remember that while these properties are preserved for your enjoyment, they also serve as a habitat for plants and animals often ignored by the ingenuity of mankind.