Biodiversity Efforts Help Protect New Jersey WildlifeProtected & endangered species in JCP&L’s service area are thriving due to conservation efforts
In the sky and in the sea, New Jersey’s wildlife is thriving. But that wasn’t always the case.
Take the osprey, for instance. The raptors’ declining population in the 1960s and 70s led to their inclusion on the New Jersey Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife’s endangered species list in 1974.
Fortunately, the species has rebounded, reaching historical numbers of 500 nests in 2013 and now totaling at least 733 nesting pairs. However, increased development and deforestation has introduced another danger: power lines.
With fewer trees to set up as homes, an increase in nests atop power poles along the Jersey Shore has spurred Jersey Central Power & Light (JCP&L) to take action to keep the birds safe.
Protecting Nesting Birds: JCP&L crews routinely monitor for nests on and near electrical equipment. When identified, crews use drones to assess whether the nests are active with eggs rather than sending workers up to inspect and potentially disrupt the birds.
Following strict protocols and specifications developed by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), nests are relocated away from power lines to specially built and JCP&L-installed nesting platforms. Diverters and other custom measures, such as fiberglass crossarms, are then placed on the power pole to prevent future rebuilding, further protecting ospreys and their eggs.
When nests can’t safely be moved, protective equipment such as insulated line covers are installed to mitigate any hazards to the nests or power lines.
Since 2016, JCP&L has safely relocated approximately 20 osprey nests, most of which have successfully produced osprey over several seasons. One nest was occupied by a Great Horned Owl that successfully produced at least one owlet.
This year alone, JCP&L crews are monitoring more than 60 nesting sites, including 30 active nests with the remainder of the sites showing intermittent activity this season.
Merrill Creek Home to Wildlife: In northern New Jersey, JCP&L plays a key role in the survival of New Jersey’s state freshwater fish, the brook trout – the Garden State’s only native trout species. Merrill Creek, designated by the New Jersey DEP as a “wild trout stream,” is considered to have exceptional water quality for trout production.
The creek flows into and out of the Merrill Creek Reservoir, a 650-acre artificial lake owned and maintained by JCP&L, its sister company Met-Ed, and other partner utilities. The reservoir, home to 28 different species of fish, is the only site in the state to support both a lake trout population and a land-locked salmon fishery.
Active surveying, using trail cameras and infrared drones for wildlife and an army of volunteers for fish, birds and rare turtles, have tracked more than 380 species on the property, which also includes a 290-acre environmental preserve and more than 2,000 acres of forests and fields.
Documented wildlife at the Reservoir includes:
Nearly 10 species currently on the DEP’s list of “endangered species.”
Fourteen “threatened species” such as the barred owl, pictured below at Merrill Creek Reservoir.
Thirty-eight species designated by the state as “species of concern.”
First-ever sighting of a fisher on the property. These carnivores were once hunted for their fur and, until 2006, had not been seen in the state for nearly 100 years.
“The ability to implement conservation work through the support of Merrill Creek Reservoir’s owners, including JCP&L, is key to ensuring resilient, diversified and properly functioning habitats that ultimately provide critical needs for wildlife species health and life-cycle requirements,” said John Parke, Environmental Specialist at Merrill Creek Reservoir. “This important work helps maintain, and in some cases increase, biodiversity aspects of the reservoir.”
MEDIA CONTACT: Chris Hoenig, (609) 350-8599