Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thank You!

It's been a busy few months since we last wrote.  We apologize for neglecting our blog with the Recorder Newspapers.  As you probably know, the Upper Raritan and South Branch Watershed Associations joined forces to become the Raritan Headwaters Association late this summer.  We've been very busy getting settled -- if you've ever merged a business (or a family, for that matter) you know that although there is much to celebrate, there is also much work to be done!

One of the many exciting things to emerge from our merger is a new web site,  The site is fairly basic at this stage of the game, but it is taking shape nicely and over the next several months we will be expanding it greatly so that it can serve as a source for all types of information about water and natural resource conservation in this region.  One component that we have just initiated is a blog -- that's right, our new web site includes a blog of our very own!

We are indebted to our friends at the Recorder Newspapers for their community spirit and helpfulness to both citizens and organizations in the part of New Jersey.  They have long helped us connect with one another through their printed and on-line versions of community-based newspapers.  We thank them for hosting our blog during the last few years.  While we won't have a direct presence here any more, you can have no doubt that we'll continue to work with the good people at the Recorder Newspapers to make sure readers know about the good things we are doing across the watershed.  We invite you to visit our new web site and read our new blog there:

Monday, August 15, 2011

Summer Fun for Dogs and Their Humans

Schooner and Dory always enjoy
their visits to Fairview Farm!
The hot, muggy days of August can sap the energy and enthusiasm of everyone, including man's best friend.  During the new event that will be offered by the Upper Raritan Watershed Association (URWA) this weekend, dogs and their human companions will participate in a variety of special activities guaranteed to cure the daze brought on by summer’s haze!

Dog Days of Summer at Fairview Farm
Saturday, August 20th, 9:00 a.m. to Noon
Fairview Farm Wildlife Preserve, 2121 Larger Cross Road, Bedminster
Register by calling Susan Brookman at (908 )234-1852, ext. 20

Dog owners from across the region frequently bring their pets to Fairview Farm to walk them and let them enjoy off-leash time.   The site, which is where URWA is headquartered, is a 170-acre former dairy farm that was donated to URWA in the 1970's.  The Dog Days of Summer event is being held to offer an exciting new activity to the dog lovers who are already familiar with the site, and we hope that the event will introduce Fairview Farm and URWA to dogs and their human companions who do not currently walk at our preserve.  The event will be more than simply a social event for dogs – we'll help participants learn more about river- and watershed-friendly practices so they can become better environmental stewards.  URWA is the environmental watchdog of the region, and we want to create a large contingency of civilian watershed watchdogs to help us in our work! 

After arriving at Fairview Farm and checking in, dogs and their owners will take a walk on the Waggin' Trail.  This path will feature a series of posted questions about canine outdoor etiquette and conservation practices. Each dog whose human correctly answers the questions will be designated an official Upper Raritan Watershed Watchdog and will receive a unique Watershed Watchdog bandana.  Participants who fall short will spend some time in a Dog-Gone Summer School (URWA’s Nature Classroom) where they will be able to learn the correct answers and achieve the Watershed Watchdog distinction.  Other activities will offer participants the opportunity to make paw-print art, find their way through the Dog Daze Maze, try an agility course made with recycled materials, romp in an off-leash play field and clean up at a self-service Shampooch Station.

Registration is $20 per dog ($10 for each additional dog in the family).  Proceeds will support URWA's water conservation education & advocacy program.  Each dog must be accompanied by at least one adult human. Dogs should be current on vaccinations, well socialized and leash-trained.  URWA also asks that dog owners bring doggie bags so that your dog 'leaves no trace' at Fairview Farm.  For more information about the Dog Days event or to register, please contact Susan Brookman at (908) 234-1852, ext. 20 or via email at

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Reminding the Highlands Council that Its Job is to Protect Water!

URWA participated with a coalition of environmental groups who rallied outside the Highlands Council’s offices in Chester earlier this month to acknowledge the Seventh Anniversary of the passage of the Highlands Act, legislation that protects the land, natural resources and drinking water for 5.4 million New Jersey residents.

A key speaker at the rally was Senator Bob Smith, co-sponsor of the Act and chairman of the Senate Environment and Energy Committee who said “The Highlands Act is as relevant today as it was seven years ago…the Highlands Council, its staff and participating municipalities have come a long way towards balancing the goals of resource protection and planning for sustainable growth and development. I applaud them for what they have achieved and for their continuing efforts to protect the water supply that so many of us depend upon.”

Members of the environmental coalition took the opportunity to speak about their fear that Governor Christie is strategically weakening the protections of the Highlands water supply by verbally undermining the Regional Master Plan and making appointments to the Council that represent anti-Highlands sentiments.

URWA staff attended the rally to remind the Council that we are watching the conformance process and looking to them to stay focused on meeting the Highlands Act’s goal of protecting New Jersey’s clean drinking water.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Kudos to the DEP!

There don’t seem to be too many people with good things to say about governmental entities these days.  Taxes are high while the services they are meant to fund seem to be shrinking, thus fueling a great deal of taxpayer discontent.  While we ourselves often take issue with decisions that are made by elected and appointed officials, we are pleased to have good reason to salute the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection for a step that its staffers recently took!

The Department has long offered interested parties the opportunity to review permit applications and other types of documents that are pertinent to its decision-making process.  Until a short time ago, all that information was sent out to people who requested it in hard copy format.  To our constant frustration, the Department did not utilize any type of system to select what it sent to whom – if you were on the list to receive copies of materials related to permit applications, you received information for every application under review in the State.  Even though we were really only interested in pending action in our region, we were routinely sent materials related to developments all across the state.  That used up tremendous amounts of taxpayer resources, both in terms of labor (staff time to copy, bind and mail the materials) and money (to purchase/lease and maintain the copy machines, purchase the paper upon copies were made and postage fees), not to mention the natural resources that were used to make the paper, transport the raw and finished products to the end users and ultimately, to dispose of them.  Several weeks ago, the DEP quietly made the switch to sending out electronic copies of these documents to interested parties. 

While there are obviously still expenses related to the distribution of this information, the expense to taxpayers and our natural systems is undeniably smaller.  The time it takes a staff member to distribute electronic documents pales in comparison to the time it takes to get hard copies ready for mailing, even if those documents must first be scanned.  Much of our review of the materials can be done without printing out the documents, and when we do feel the need to print something, we have the option to print just the pages of particular interest.  When we are not interested in a document that we are sent, we simply delete it from our computer files.

So, we send out a sincere pat on the back to the staff of the DEP for finally taking this step to reduce expenses while actually improving the service it provides to taxpayers!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Tick Alert!

Photo courtesy of the National Park Service
A tick's friends - by David L. Harrison

a tick has


Who hasn't' gone for a walk these past few weeks - with or without your trusty canine companion - and returned home only to execute a complete and thorough inspection on self and four legged friend? And I do mean thorough - armpits, behind the knees, neck, head, ears and stomach - and that's just the dog! And who does not know someone who has contracted Lyme disease?

If you find an embedded tick, it should be removed using the following procedure:
1. Use a tick removal tool to remove the tick.
2. Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible using tweezers.
3. Remove the tick with a steady pull away from the skin. Do not yank or twist the tick which may break off its mouth parts. If you have broken off their mouth parts under your skin, consult your physician.
4. Take precaution not to crush or puncture the body of the tick. Do not get any fluids from the tick on you (if you do, wash with rubbing alcohol and then soap and water immediately.)
5. After removing the tick, cleanse your skin with rubbing alcohol and then wash with soap and water immediately.

Tick removal tools:
1. Tweezers: There are special tweezers to remove ticks that have a broad, flat set of jaws that closes automatically. You hold the tweezers with your thumb and forefinger and then you press on the end of the tweezers which will cause the jaws to open up. The next step is to clasp the tick completely between the jaws and turn the tweezers 2 or 3 times around. Only then can you gently pull the tick out of the skin.
2. Card: This is the one of the newest designs in tools to remove ticks. It looks like a credit card, but has grooves that come together in a point. These grooves need to be shoved underneath the tick. The last step is to shove the card further and that will automatically remove the tick. Another shape of this tool is the spoon. It works the same.
3. Freeze: This is another way to remove ticks that has recently been discovered. You have to have a tool called the Tickner to freeze the tick as follows: you spray a cold spray onto the tick by pressing the button twice which will make the tick freeze. Afterwards, you can easily remove the tick with the built-in tick remover.
4. Twister: This is the simplest and safest way to remove ticks from your skin. It is available in most pet shops and veterinary clinics. When you use this tool you have to put the tick between the V lift the hook very tightly and turn it. The tick is removed without leaving the mouthparts behind. The tick will remain on the twister so it won't fall on the ground.

Lyme disease, which is a tick-borne bacterial infection, has been reported in nearly every state in the United States, and is concentrated in the east coastal states, the north central states, and northern California. Additionally, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Wisconsin account for about 90% of all cases.  Lyme disease is the most common disease spread by ticks in the United States. More than 16,000 cases were reported by 45 states in 1996. However, because of considerable under-reporting and misdiagnosis, the actual number of cases is probably several times higher.

Ticks become infected with the Lyme disease bacterium by feeding on infected animals such as mice, chipmunks, and other wild rodents. Lyme disease is passed to humans and other animals when a tick infected with the bacterium bites the person or animal and stays attached long enough (usually more than 36 hours) to take a blood meal.

The tick that spreads Lyme disease has a 2-year life cycle and feeds once in each of its three life stages -- larvae, nymph, and adult. In the tick's larvae stage, it is tan, the size of a pinhead, and feeds on small animals like mice. During the nymph stage, the tick is the size of a poppy seed, beige or partially transparent, and feeds on larger animals such as cats, dogs, and humans. Adult ticks are black and/or reddish and feed on large mammals such as deer, dogs, and humans.

The early stage of Lyme disease is usually marked by one or more of these signs and symptoms:
• Tiredness
• Chills and fever
• Headache
• Muscle and/or joint pain
• Swollen lymph glands
• A characteristic skin rash, called erythema migrans

Early symptoms can develop within a week to a few weeks of the tick bite.  Other symptoms can appear weeks, months, or years later.  A myth regarding the skin rash is that Lyme disease victims always get a rash when in fact as few as 30% of all people bitten show obvious symptoms of the disease, including a rash. When a rash does appear it is a red circular patch about 2 inches in diameter that appears and expands around the site of the tick bite.  The center may clear as it enlarges, resulting in a "bulls-eye" appearance.  The rash may be warm, but it usually is not painful or itchy.

The three stages of Lyme disease are:
1. Initial symptoms include fever, fatigue, chills, headaches, stiff neck, muscle aches and pains and possibly a distinct rash.
2. Second stage symptoms occur weeks or months later and include severe headaches, encephalitis, paralysis of facial muscles, abnormal heartbeat, numbness, withdrawal, loss of confidence, lethargy, and other symptoms.
3. Third stage symptoms occur months or years later and include arthritis, fatigue and loss of memory. As the symptoms reach this stage of development the effects of Lyme disease is in most cases irreversible, and therefore early detection is critical for effective treatment.

You can reduce your risk by taking these precautions:
• During outdoor activities, wear long sleeves and long pants tucked into socks. Wear a hat, and tie hair back.
• Use insecticides to repel or kill ticks. Repellents containing the compound DEET can be used on exposed skin except for the face, but they do not kill ticks and are not 100% effective in discouraging ticks from biting. Products containing permethrin kill ticks, but they cannot be used on the skin -- only on clothing. And please remember - when using any of these chemicals, follow label directions carefully. Be especially cautious when using them on children.
• After outdoor activities, check yourself for ticks, and have a "buddy" check you, too. Check body areas where ticks are commonly found: behind the knees, between the fingers and toes, under the arms, in and behind the ears, and on the neck, hairline, and top of the head. Check places where clothing presses on the skin.
• Remove attached ticks promptly. Removing a tick before it has been attached for more than 24 hours greatly reduces the risk of infection. Do not try to remove ticks by squeezing them, coating them with petroleum jelly, or burning them with a match.

Life Cycle
EGG: A tick’s life starts as a very small egg.
LARVA (infant): A larva (plural: larvae) only has six legs instead of eight (like a nymph or adult) and normally does not carry diseases yet but it may pick up diseases from its first host (white mice or other mammals) on which it feeds for about four days. After its first feeding, the larva sheds its skin to become a nymph.
NYMPH (immature tick): A nymph has eight legs and can pass on diseases (if it got infected as a larva). A nymph feeds from a mammal. This second meal will last about six days. If the nymph is not yet infected with a disease, it can now get one from the second host. The nymph will then shed its skin and become an adult.
ADULT (mature tick): The adult female tick looks different from the male – she is larger. The adult tick feeds and mates with other ticks on large animals during the fall or spring. Afterwards, the female lays her eggs and dies.

A tick can reproduce in two different ways:
1.  Argasidae:  the ticks mate off-host when the female is not eating. This can happen before or after engorgement, which is enlargement by feeding.
2.  Ixodidae: the ticks mate on-host when the female is eating. Afterwards the female will engorge and drop off the host. This is the most frequent form of reproduction
The female then oviposits her eggs on a safe spot (normally a moist area). When it is warm, the female lay her eggs one or two days after fertilization. When it is cold, she can wait for months until she oviposits. When she eventually oviposits, she has about 2,000 eggs. Depending on the weather, she lays her eggs all at once or at intervals. After the oviposition, the female leaves her eggs and dies. The eggs usually hatch within two weeks, but may also take a couple of months.

Testing Ticks
Large brown ticks that are commonly found on dogs and cattle do not carry the Lyme disease bacterium. If you remove a very small tick and want to have it tested for Lyme disease, place it in a sealed plastic storage bag with a cotton ball moistened with water. Contact your health-care provider and local health department or send your tick to New Jersey Laboratories, which has developed a new procedure that allows for the early detection of the Borrelia Burgdorferi bacteria that causes Lyme disease. Unlike other methods, this procedure identifies the bacteria in ticks in only a few days, which can make a huge difference in treating this life-threatening disease. Other clinical tests for diagnosing Lyme disease may take several weeks to months during which time the effects of the disease may become more difficult to treat. Place a label with your name and address on the ziplock bag and mail to:


The test costs $60 and checks should be made payable to New Jersey Laboratories. Results are mailed approximately ten days after receipt. Multiple ticks from the same person can be tested as a single test. Simply place multiple ticks in a single zip-locked bag and indicate that they were on one person. If the tick was exposed to alcohol or other antibiotic agents, the tick must be tested using a DNA type procedure. The DNA test cost is $175.

As we have all learned, protecting oneself from tick bites is a serious matter in the prevention of Lyme disease. So, the next time you are walking at URWA’s Fairview Farm Wildlife Preserve or someplace else, be sure to tuck in those trousers, roll up your socks, tie back your hair, don a hat and safely spray your clothes.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Proposed State Action Threatens the Environment

New Jersey's Department of Environmental
Protection is charged with protecting our
state's natural resources. 
Let's make sure it does its job!
 Our State Department of Environmental Protection wants to be allowed to waive environmental regulations that it believes stand in the way of economic development.  If that strikes you as an odd idea, you are in good company.  As we noted in April when we first wrote about the proposed "Waiver of Department Rules," the DEP is charged with protecting our environment, and that's exactly what we think it ought to be doing.

Although the DEP has stated that its proposed rule was developed "through extensive consultation and meetings with environmental advocates, local government officials and the business community," it seems that the concerns of environmental advocates were set aside when the regulators put their pens to paper.  Not a single environmental organization in our state has voiced support for this proposed rule.  URWA has joined in with the many groups that have, in fact, called on DEP Commissioner Bob Martin and Governor Chris Christie to withdraw it from consideration by the Legislature.

Governor Christie's Executive Order No. 2 seeks to establish "Common Sense Principles" to govern New Jersey, and the DEP sites this as the impetus for the proposed waiver rule.  While we applaud the use of common sense in all matters of State governance, we think that it makes no sense to allow the DEP the discretion to waive its own rules regarding environmental regulations that protect our air, land and water. 

To read the proposed waiver rule, please visit  The public comment period for the proposal has closed, but your voice can still be heard.  Please join with us to ask the Governor and the DEP Commissioner to withdraw this proposal, and ask your Legislators to refrain from supporting it if the proposal comes before them.  The natural resources of the Garden State should be protected for the long-term benefit of all, not sacrificed for the short term benefit of some.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Have You Seen This Plant?

The landscape across our watershed has greened up nicely in recent weeks.  The hot, humid temperatures of the last few days and the rain that fell yesterday will undoubtedly lead many of us to spend some quality time outdoors as we pull the inevitable weeds that emerge in carefully planted gardens over the next week or so.  In addition to removing uninvited sproutlings from your planting beds when the temperatures slack off a bit toward the end of this week and you can work outdoors without fear of heat stroke, we'd like to ask that you consider replacing ornamental specimens that were planted in prior years before we realized that they would get out of hand in this region.  There are a number of plants that have been added to gardens by well-intentioned nature-lovers that have inadvertently escaped into the surrounding countryside and now threaten native plant and animal communities here.  Over the next few months we'll discuss some of them, sharing information about why they really don't belong in this region.  We'll try to stay away from the well-known culprits and focus on some of the species that you might be surprised to learn are harmful to local ecosystems.

Miscanthus sinensis
Miscanthus sinensis (aka Chinese silver grass) is a tall, clump-forming, perennial grass from Asia that has been planted in yards and gardens here in New Jersey for several decades.  It is well adapted to growing conditions here and forms effective visual screens around swimming pools and patios and adds striking form to gardens as a speciman planting.  Unfortunately, it has breached garden boundaries and is becoming widespread across our watershed.  You can now see it growing now along roadsides, forest edges and in meadows. 

The silver white
midrib is evident
Miscanthus sinensis spreads by both seed and rhizomes.  It can form large, impenetrable clumps that displace native plants, prevent successional growth of trees and shrubs, and prevent movement of wildlife.  In addition, it is highly flammable and poses a wildfire hazard during dry spells. 

Zebra cultivar
There are over 50 cultivars of Miscanthus sinensis, so identification is not always easy.  You may recognize it by some of its other common names:  Maiden Grass, Zebra Grass, Porcupine Grass, Eulalia, Silver Feather, Chinese Silver Grass, Eulalia Grass and Japanese Silver Grass.   Miscanthus sinensis grows as high as 10 feet and its leaves are typically about 3 feet long and an inch wide with a silver white midrib and sharp tips.  Silvery to pale pink fan-shaped flowers appear in the late summer through fall.

It will take some muscle power, patience and possibly an herbicide to remove Miscanthus sinensis. Its ability to reshoot from pieces of rhizome makes control difficult -- its entire underground rhizome system must be killed in order to prevent regrowth. If you just have one or two speciman plants, digging them up now before they become large as the growing season prgresses is a good option. You'll need to monitor the ground over the next year to dig out any resprouting plants that appear. If you have a screen or border that consists of Miscanthus sinensis, your best bet may be to use a foliar application in the late spring or fall -- lower rates are required in the fall since translocation to the rhizome is occurring at that time.

Andropogon geradi
Andropogon geradi (Big bluestem grass) is a wonderful native alternative that can replace Miscanthus sinensis in your landscape.  Your garden center should carry it -- let the manager know you'd like to purchase more native plants and see if the store will order some for you.

For more information about Miscanthus sinensis and efforts to eliminate it from our region, please visit, the web site of the New Jersey Invasive Species Strike Team.