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Threatened Species Protection

We have expanded our Sourland Forest Restoration Project to include a new Ecological Preservation Internship position! The Sourland Mountain Region is home to 57 threatened and endangered species. Our forest is undergoing significant changes, so we must take intentional steps now to protect and document the rare plant communities. A grant from the Northfield Bank Foundation generously funded this exciting project.

Read an interview with our current Forest Restoration Intern, Renee Galimba, to learn more about this initiative. This interview was originally published in the Sourland Journal, Spring 2024.

A Steward for the Sourland’s Rare Species
by Andrea Bonette

Renee Galimba checking on a deer exclosure to make sure it will protect the rare plants she found in one of the Sourland Mountain Preserves. Photo courtesy of Sofia Fuentes. 

Renee Galimba, a New Jersey native, came on board in 2023 as the Sourland Conservancy’s ecological preservation intern. Renee’s academic concentration was originally visual design, but with the Covid pandemic’s interruption, she found herself using her newfound free time to hone her knowledge of the forests, plants, mushrooms, and wildlife of New Jersey. This pause planted a seed of curiosity that bloomed into her great passion for ecology. Once Renee returned to Raritan Valley Community College, she shifted her academic focus to environmental science, which opened up a variety of opportunities that led her to join the Sourland Conservancy crew.

We asked Renee for her take on what makes the Sourland region unique and she responded,
“When people think of New Jersey the first thing that comes to mind is the population density and increasing industrialization. When I tell others about the Sourlands, they are surprised that such a large span of preserved forest still exists here! The Sourlands is also one of the largest contiguous forests within the Central New Jersey region and serves as a green corridor for wildlife between counties.”

In Renee’s position of ecological preservation, her role involves locating, protecting, and archiving rare plant species within the Sourlands. So, what is a rare plant anyway and why are they important? Renee explains, “A plant is considered rare based on its limited geographical range, low populations, and vulnerability to endangerment. New Jersey is home to around 800 rare species, and factors such as distribution and health are seasonally assessed. Rare species are significant as they serve as indicators of unique ecosystems, contribute to biodiversity, positively influence environmental stability, and are intrinsically valuable to New Jersey’s natural heritage.”

During this interview, Renee emphasizes the importance of bridging the increasing gap between humans and their relationship to the environment. She cites one of the most prosperous methods of conservation is cultivating environmental appreciation and awareness within all age ranges and backgrounds. The Sourland Conservancy is enriched by her enthusiasm for rare plant stewardship and outreach
How does rare plant protection work?

“It ultimately comes down to the species and its needs. Some rare plants can thrive in areas with mild disturbance, others may become a deer’s snack, and specific species may even be unethically harvested. Fencing helps with deer browsing and possible human interference. Invasive species maintenance also eliminates competition and gives rare species better conditions to re-seed and regenerate naturally.”

What species is your most exciting find to date?

Liatris spicata (purple blazing star) and Cuphea viscossisima (blue waxweed)! The day I found these I had planned a whole itinerary that would involve bushwhacking through undefined trails. After arriving at the location, I immediately spotted a small population of L. spicata in full bloom with a swallowtail butterfly hugging the flowers. After a short hike, I spotted vibrant purples sprinkled within a forest gap and identified it as C. viscossisima. Two species in one day!”

So, what would you say is the rarest plant in the Sourlands? And what should people do if they find a rare plant?

“I would consider Panex quinquefolius (American ginseng) and Aplectrum hyemale (Putty root orchid) to be some of the rarest plants in this region! If you find a rare plant, don’t disturb it, and take care to not trample on any surrounding populations. Photographing the species in its natural habitat is valuable to identify the species and can be utilized as a reference for future conservation actions. Check out the Natural Heritage Rare Plant Species Reporting Form on the NJDEP website for further guidelines on how to report a potentially rare species!”

Currently, Renee is in the process of setting up various projects to increase data on rare plant species within the Sourlands. Alongside working with partner organizations with similar interests such as NJCF (NJ Conservation Foundation) and FoHVOS (Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space), she has also begun collaborating with Rutgers Chrysler Herbarium. Renee aims to work with Rutgers to update the herbarium’s limited records of the native species in the Sourland region.

 

C. viscossisima. Photo courtesy of Renee Galimba. 

A spicebush swallowtail on an L. spicata. Photo courtesy of Renee Galimba. 

Protecting these fragile ecosystems is critical to helping rebuild a diverse forest understory. With help from Sourland Conservancy and partner staff and landowners, Renee will also monitor and protect various Sourland sites from aggressive invasive species. Sourland Conservancy’s partners include: Raritan Valley Community College, New Jersey Conservation Foundation, Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space, Mercer County Park Commission, Somerset County Park Commission, D&R Greenway Land Trust, and Montgomery Township.

Thank you again to the Northfield Bank Foundation for their generous support.