Category Archives: Nature

Sandy in New Jersey – News & General Resources

These resources are mostly for New Jersey residents – good luck to everyone out there! My family and I hope you stay safe, warm and dry. Please post any other resources you know as a comment. Please check in on friends, neighbors and seniors you know and help out if you can. Together we are strong and will overcome every challenge. (Post will be updated as information becomes available.)

Hurricane Sandy puts Hoboken train station under water

  • Very Important Tips

  • If you bought a generator from Costco DO NOT USE IT! Its causing FIRES!
  • Homeowner’s Insurance Issue: when Sandy touched down in New Jersey, it was not technically a hurricane. Many insurance policies will not pay for hurricane damage, but in this case, they cannot deny New Jersey residents insurance coverage for damage their properties have sustained. Check it out!

  • Shelters

  • Try calling your town’s police or county Office of Emergency Management (OEM) for up to date shelter and aid information. You can also use your phone to search for open Red Cross shelters by texting: SHELTER and a Zip Code to 43362 (4FEMA). Example: Shelter 01234 (standard rates apply) or visit the Red Cross website.

    Another way to look is using the search terms Google search for local shelters

    If you book into a shelter, please remember to bring any clothes, medications for yourself and/or family members, and linens if you can. They will have food, but you might also want to bring a book. If you bring a pet please bring a carrier case or crate, leash, pet food, any medications, a water bowl, and waste bags.

  • Pet friendly shelters on Jersey Shore
  • Pet friendly shelters in Morris County
  • Bergen County Regional Shelter (special needs accommodations and pet-friendly) is open at Bergen Community College, 400 Paramus Road, Paramus NJ
  • Shelters in Greater Newark, NJ.
    • Newark’s JFK Recreation Center on West Kinney Street is a pet-friendly shelter. Newark Stage Shelters (go there for transportation to a full-service shelter) are Berringer and Shabazz High schools.
    • Irvington Shelter at Chris Gatling Center 285 Union Avenue 973-399-6597 or call Police at 973-399-6600 or Fire Department 973-399-6555
    • Corey Arena in West Orange
    • Park Avenue School and Lincoln Avenue School in Orange are Staging Shelters.
  • Pets

    NJ pet owners who were separated from their pets during Sandy, please call 1-855-407-4787

  • See list of pet-friendly shelters listed under shelters

  • Safety Tips & Reporting
  • Don’t drive through water – most flood-related deaths occur in cars. Also, stay put as much as possible to keep roads free for emergency personnel until travel is safe.
  • Report downed wires, outages and gas leaks to your electric and gas provider:
  • How to eat and be well without electricity due to an emergency
  • Drinking water safety Connecticut DPH website tells us to check well and public water by sight and smell. Don’t use water that is dark, has an odor, or has floating pieces. Also, listen to the news or check with your water company.
  • Road Closures

  • Call 511 or visit 511 websites 511 NJ or 511 NY
  • How to Help

  • President Obama points out that the best way to help Sandy victims is to donate money or volunteer. Supplies not specifically asked for, create the need for emergency personnel to sort and manage the donations, and this creates a burden on their time and energy.
  • Facebook friend Kaia Shivers says “Donate directly to people in need NOT AMERICAN RED CROSS, ETC. (Kimi edit: so all of your money goes to help and not administrative fees). American Red Cross still has not explained the millions of dollars that disappeared in the Haiti Relief.”
  • Shuan In the City has some good ideas for New Yorkers who want to help.

Protect our world – say goodbye to dirty fuel & coal

The Sierra Club tells us that coal industry is heavily subsidized by American taxpayers to the tune of tens of billions of dollars and it’s clear that this industry’s power is not diminishing. But it should diminish. In fact, it’s so dangerous that it should be done away with altogether. In the process of mining, coal destroys waterways, ecosystems, trees, miners’ health and the health of residents of nearby communities. A well-documented example of this is the tragedy of mountain-top mining in the Appalachian Mountains, a practice which Robert Kennedy Jr., affected citizens and environmental activists continue valiantly fighting to bring to a permanent end.

When it’s burned, coal puts massive amounts of carbon in the air, and this is a main contributor to global warming which brings on drought, soaring temperatures, the rising of seas that will take over island cities and coastal areas, tsunamis, floods and drought. Coal is also a dirty fuel, so burning its puts heavy pollutants in the air that lead to poor air quality and acid rain.

Why aren’t people all over the world staging huge protests to ban coal mining and replace it with clean energy sources? It boils down to this: we’ve been supporting coal so long it’s become sort of a global institution. We can’t imagine a world without a massive coal industry any more than we can imagine a world without gas-powered vehicles, so we protect the industry even though it’s killing both us and our Earth Mother. World citizens protect our institutions. But, the truth is that clean energy is our future: it’s environmentally friendly, health friendly. It’s a massively growing jobs industry, is economically friendly and it’s also cool (in more ways than one). Can you say, win-win-win-win-win? There’s nothing wrong with protecting institutions but they need to work for us. It’s so clear that we need to give up on the old fuels that are destroying us and turn to clean energy with open arms.

For those worried about the impact that embracing clean energy will have on our economy and jobs, just look at the evidence. The Boston Herald reports,

“The growth of Massachusetts’ renewable energy economy is outpacing the overall economy nearly tenfold, according to a new report that measures clean energy sector employment and the number of businesses that use clean energy practices.”

Avaaz is working to prevent horrific environmental destruction in Australia. Please sign the petition.

Australia could let mining magnates build one of the world’s largest coal ports on top of the Great Barrier Reef ecosystem – opening access to 8 billion extra tonnes of planet-killing coal and risking the survival of this entire amazing world heritage site.

US laws which address environmental issues are the Clear Air act and Clean Water Act. They need to be strengthened and expanded.

The Clean Water Act
The River Network’s Course on using the Act to protect local waterways
The Clean Air Act
Other Proposed Legislation
2009 Waxman-Market Climate Energy bill (Died)
Everything you always wanted to know about the Waxman-Markey energy/climate bill — in bullet points and

H.R. 724, the Security in Energy And Manufacturing (SEAM) Act (sponsored by Congressman Steve Rothman).  If enacted, this legislation would make needed investments in a clean energy economy by rebuilding the U.S. manufacturing sector.  It provides a 30% tax credit or grant to companies that open new or expanded facilities that manufacture a wide range of clean energy products, including wind turbines, solar panels, hybrid vehicle systems, carbon capture and sequestration systems, and biofuel refinery components, among others in the U.S. I strongly believe that this is the path we must take to end our dependence on both foreign and domestic oil and move toward a secure clean energy future. H.R. 724 is currently pending before the House Committee on Ways and Means.

H.R. 3307, the American Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit Extension Act of 2011 (co-sponsored by Congressman Steve Rothman). If enacted, this bill would provide a clean, 4-year extension of the existing production tax credit (PTC) for wind, biomass, geothermal, small irrigation, landfill gas, trash, and hydropower. This tax credit was created in the Energy Policy Act of 1992 and has frequently been extended in year-end packages of expiring tax provisions, as well as in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The current incentive is set to expire this year for wind and in 2013 for other renewable energy forms. Historically, at least six to eight months before the tax credit expires, financial lenders hesitate in providing capital for projects because of the uncertainty created by the pending expiration of the credit, stalling projects from coming online. This is why many of my colleagues and I believe it is imperative to pass H.R. 3307 now as our economy continues to recover. If the PTC is not renewed, those projects working under the credit will be reduced in size, will not be completed or will add costs, resulting in higher electricity prices for consumers. This measure is currently pending before the House Committee on Ways and Means.

Found a baby bird orphan?

Whew, baby animals are so hard to take care of! Their little stomachs are delicate and small, so we need to be careful what we feed them and feed them often (as often as every 15 minutes if they’re weak). Baby birds are the most delicate of all wildlife we might find orphaned, because birds are so different from us we can’t even imagine what they should be eating or how to give them liquids without drowning them. We definitely need the advice of experts to make sure we’re helping – not harming – them.

Experts share advice through websites and you can reach out to avian rehabilitators in your area too. Some will agree to look at a photo of your foundling and then share personalized handling and feeding tips with you by phone. If your bird is lucky, it will be identified as something fairly exotic and a wildlife rescue individual or agency will offer to take it in and raise it to adulthood. Otherwise, you will need to care for that little guy yourself. Avian rehabilitators are all situated in rural areas, too, so be prepared to drive 1/2 hour to 3 hours to get your little friend to an expert caretaker, if handing her over seems to be the best or legally indicated course of action for you.

Most important tips are:

  • Keep the baby bird warm, but don’t overheat it
  • Keep body supported – as they’re too easily breakable
  • Feed every 30-60 minutes during daylight hours (15 min. intervals for very weak birds).

The Smithsonian National Zoo gives these instructions on caring for nestling baby songbirds

Babies with no feathers, a little fuzz, or pinfeathers need a soft, snug, cup-shaped nest of tissue in a small container—don’t use cotton, grass, or existing bird nests. The cup shape is necessary to support their bodies, sprawling may cause them injury. Plastic berry containers make an excellent framework for a tissue nest and are easily cleaned. Warm chilled nestlings in your hands, then put them in the tissue-nest container and put it on a heating pad (low setting) or hot water bottle or under a light. Never put them in direct sunlight—they may overheat. Put the nest (and pad) in a larger box for safety. Handle the birds only when necessary. They should always feel warm to the touch.

The Animal Rehabilitators Alliance of New Jersey says:

If you find a baby bird/birds which have fallen out of the nest that are not injured and you can reach the nest, you can gently put them back into the nest and the mother will accept them. You can wear gloves to do this, but if you do touch them, it is fine. It is a wives tale that the mother will not come back.

If the nest is destroyed, but was in a reachable location, you can tie a basket (open weave) to a tree branch near the area where the original nest was located. Put the old nest in the basket for the babies to sit in. Watch the nest for about 20 minutes to be sure a parent has found the babies and will take care of them.

Jim Six writes in a article:

You could, without a permit, hand raise a starling or a house sparrow, neither of which is native … It’s messy and noisy and a 16-hour-a-day job. Parent birds feed their babies more or less constantly during daylight hours, for the few weeks it takes to do the job. Most humans have other things to do.

Here are starting points for finding an Avian rehabilitator in New Jersey. Always remember to ask anyone you have the chance to speak with if they know of someone closer to your geographical region. Do not attempt to drop off birds or other wildlife anywhere without making prior arrangements.

Let me know if this information was timely and helpful, and good luck!

Too many deer, forest damage and Lyme disease

It’s worthwhile for people who are spending time out of doors to learn about ticks and Lyme disease. Northeast states share this problem, and there are two solutions for it: prevent tick bites in people and lower the population of infected ticks by controlling the population of animals that are the largest source of Lyme disease (mice, our region’s Lyme generation machines) and deer (which, because of their abundance and mobility carry them too far and too wide). Lyme is transmitted through infected ticks which attach themselves to the bodies of mice, deer and other warm mammals, like us. Mice produce the bacteria that cause Lyme disease in human, though; deer are just carriers.

In a healthy forest environment the balance of ecology provides homes to the many different species of plants, insects, bird and wildlife, and each species exists in proportionate and harmonious balance. But in our region woodlands have been destroyed, and deer are directly responsible for the very recent, rapid and sharp decline in their health. Because there are way too many deer – up to 4 times the number our forests can support – there are too many of them feeding on the low growing vegetation which makes up the forest understory. This loss of vegetation is the first step in a degenerative cycle of woodland habitat destruction that leads to the overgrowth of opportunistic, invasive species like mice, deer and the “mile a minute” ivy that’s literally choking the life out of thousands of our trees. These invasions are symptoms of an unhealthy ecosystem.

This is how the cycle plays out: when there are too many deer in a forest, they eat up all of the young tree growth, plants and bushes which collectively are known as the understory. This means the loss of insects living in, on and from these plants plus the loss of the berries, seeds and nuts that some of them produce. Birds, reptiles and some small rodents need these food sources to survive. Deprived of them, they either abandon their homes for “greener pastures” or their populations simply fade away. With less of those small creatures, predators which consume them – like foxes and hunting birds – can’t get enough to eat either, and their populations too begin to disperse or dwindle. Some experts advocate getting rid of deer in order to get rid of ticks. Others say that it’s mice we need to worry most about.

For balance, I’d like to interject my friend Brenda Cummings’ comment about deer’s role in forest habitat destruction: “Unfortunately, humans didn’t really need much help from the deer while destroying the ecology of the planet.”

The mice will play!

What do the mice say? No predators? Wow! Fantastic conditions for growth of the versatile and highly adaptive mouse population. In a healthy ecosystem, native species either crowd out or eat up glutonnous invaders, but when there isn’t enough strength or numbers in the native ecosystem inhabitants to effectively combat opportunistic species’ intrusion and arrest their expansion, those species take advantage of symbiotic collaborations to expand rapidly. This is how ticks benefit from one such cycle:

Mice with their hot little bodies are great breeding grounds for ticks, and deer come into the tick encroachment picture as convenient conveyances for those little suckers. Due to a decline in natural predators from habitat destruction and hunting restrictions, the deer population has exploded. Ticks jump onto deer and catch free rides to the grassy fields and lawns where they wait to attach themselves to adults and children walking through – and infect a growing number of victims with Lyme disease. The presence of so many deer ensures that little understory vegetation will remain in forests: and this leads back to fewer insects, berries, nuts and seeds… Northern Woodlands Magazine tells us,

Foresters often have a front-row view of the damage “too many” deer can cause to the landscape. Wildflowers, such as trillium and showy lady’s slippers, can be especially hard hit. “Each adult white-tailed deer eats about 2,000 pounds a year,” says Charlie Fiscella, New York State chapter president of the Quality Deer Management Association “That’s one ton. Go out with clippers and see how long it takes you to clip one ton. It’s hard to do that, especially when the habitat is marginal.”

The Nature Conservancy is just finishing up a study finding that deer are one of the top threats to a healthy forest in New York State, and that oak and maple seedlings are a deer’s favored food source. Since woodlot owners and foresters are also fond of oaks and maples, the deer’s impact is deeply felt. As these commercially valuable hardwood species start disappearing, forest composition can be skewed to favor birch, beech, and hophornbeam.

When deer pressure is overwhelming, you get no seedling regeneration at all. This allows invasive species to fill the void and dominate the ecosystem. As the invasives grow, the deer continue to eat native plants and avoid the invasives, thus giving the invasives a perpetual advantage.

People who spend a lot of time in fields and woods understand how dangerous Lyme disease is and check for ticks carefully after each outdoor exposure, but suburban and city dwellers don’t know how important it is to do this. Lyme takes time to develop and doesn’t manifest itself right away, but it is a very serious illness with many long-term implications. Because ticks don’t move and their attachment doesn’t hurt, most people don’t know when one has attached to them until it’s become huge from eating, which can take a while. A tick should be removed before it has been attached for 24 hours, the time needed to infect a person with Lyme.

Bard College biology professor Felicia Keesing and scientist Richard S. Ostfeld of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, explain why mice are more dangerous in the tick transmittal cycle than are deer, and also why the most effective method for controlling the mouse population is promoting the health of a natural forest ecosystem and sufficient forest land.

… ticks are only dangerous if they are infected, and deer play no role in infecting ticks. Ticks become infected with the Lyme disease bacterium by feeding on small mammals such as white-footed mice, chipmunks, and shrews. And mice play the additional role of increasing tick survival — they are at the opposite extreme from opossums, which kill the vast majority of ticks they encounter. When our group compared the importance of deer, mice, and climate in determining the number of infected ticks over 13 years in southeastern New York State, mice were the winners hands down.

Other compelling reasons exist for controlling deer populations, such as reducing vehicle accidents and increasing forest regeneration. But, in many Lyme disease zones, reducing the deer herd is unlikely to substantially affect tick abundance. Reducing mice is more likely to be effective.

This is best accomplished by allowing natural predators like weasels, coyotes, foxes, and owls to do the job. And the best way to increase their numbers is to maximize the size of forest patches. A number of other ways of reducing risk are currently being tested by our group and others, including the use of natural products such as soil fungi to kill ticks without adverse environmental impacts and the use of vaccines against Lyme disease that can be delivered to wildlife.

The deer population is critical in New Jersey, where we have 40 deer per square mile in our forests. Rutgers University Cooperative Extension Agent Bruce Barbour explains, “When any woodland deer population exceed 20 deer per square mile, the forest become unsustainable. Deer denude the forests by eating away all of the understory vegetation, which includes young saplings that are meant to mature over time to replace aging or damaged trees in the forest canopy. The long term effect of understory destruction will be sparser forests, but the short term effect is immediate destruction of habitat for insects, birds and wildlife, and the health threat of an increase in Lyme disease.”
In the Dover, Massachussetts woods, 25 deer per square mile is enough to cause serious problems too. The Boston Globe reported,

In Dover, where the deer population is almost three times the levels recommended by state wildlife officials and cases of Lyme disease have increased sharply, officials last week lifted restrictions on bow hunting on some public land to begin the town’s first “deer culling.’’

The hunt is strictly regulated, and will probably harvest only about 50 deer. But in a region with limited affection for deer hunting, and doubts about its safety in well-traveled woods, it shows that personal health concerns are gaining the upper hand.

“Five years ago, we couldn’t have done this,’’ said Barbara Roth-Schechter, head of the town’s health board. “People would have shot it down. But there’s been an exponential increase in Lyme disease, and people are fed up.’’

Dover has expansive forests that have become overrun with deer, roughly 25 per square mile, and a surging rate of Lyme disease, a bacterial infection transmitted by tick bites.


Recommendations for avoiding tick bites from the Illinois Department of Public Health

Make your own, natural tick repellent with this recipe from eHow. But be careful, essential oils may not be healthy for cats, so check with your vet before using near them.

The Federal Government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tick information page offers lots of good tips on how to avoid contact with ticks. They also advocate the use of DEET, a chemical repellant which has potential dangerous side effects – so maybe ignore that part.

How to remove a tick!
Not recommended: touching it with a hot match. Rather, use pointed tip tweezers near the tick’s head – where it attaches to your body – and keep pulling until it lets go and becomes detached. Then freeze that bad boy in case you need to produce it later for testing. This how-to video is a little gross, but can be really helpful in time of need. offers detailed written instructions for removal.

Tell the EPA to clean up Ford’s mess in Ringwood

Journalist Jan Barry started the research on the tragic and intentional pollution of a housing development which was home to members of a tribe of Ramapough Indians in Ringwood, NJ, and collaborated with HBO to create Mann v. Ford, a moving documentary about the crushing impact this has had on the health of tribe members as well as the water source for the entire region. The site was prematurely de-listed by the EPA from its Superfund cleanup status, and several years later became the first site to be listed for a second time. Ford has resisted taking responsibility for the poisonous effects on tribe members of the toxic paint sludge it trucked in under cover of nightfall every day for many years, and has also resisted funding the cost of cleanup.

Make sure the EPA knows you support the clean-up of the Ramapough Indian’s by (Action 1) signing the petition and (Action 2) sending a letter to the EPA (download sample below).

Action 1

Sign the petition

The United States Environmental Protection Agency will soon decide how Ford Motor Company should clean up the 500-acre Ringwood (New Jersey) Superfund Site, where Ford Motor Company dumped tens of thousands of tons of paint sludge into old abandoned mine shafts, leaching landfills, the lawns of the Ramapough Mountain Indians, and the very trails of Ringwood State Park five decades ago.

All options are on the table – from doing absolutely nothing to controversially capping the sludge in place and leaving it there forever to completely removing all of the toxic waste. The people in Upper Ringwood are still suffering from devastating health impacts, staggering rates of premature deaths, rare cancers, and autoimmune diseases believed to be linked to the witches’ brew of toxins left in their homes, yards and community.

Astronomically high levels of lead and dioxin have been found in attics and yards, while the neighboring mines – including those in Ringwood State Park – sit just upstream from the drinking water source for one to two million people.

Action 2

Send a letter to the EPA! Be part of the EPA’s public comment process by customizing this sample letter and sending it to the EPA’s New York Office (the address is at the top of the letter). Just do it by the May 18 deadline! The original letter, with minor changes, was found on the Edison Wetlands Watch site but no author attribution appeared together with it, so I don’t know who to credit with its creation.

Mann v. Ford Facebook Page
Edison Wetlands Watch has good information too but it’s on a poorly coded web page which makes it very difficult to access.

Community Activism Training Materials

Activism 101 primer: They Said it Was Impossible: How to Win Progressive Change When the Odds Are Against Us by LAANE in Los Angeles

99% Spring Activism Training Videos

Nature v. cookie money – lessons for Girl Scouts

A couple of Girl Scouts were looking for material about the cookies sold each year as this organization’s main fundraiser and discovered much more than they wanted to. Their findings have put Madison Vorva and Rhiannon Tomtishen at the center of a national debate on what an acceptable tradeoff can be to monetize natural resources in order to make money from items that are not truly valuable in and of themselves, when the cost is environmental destruction and sometimes, lives. The young scouts found out that Girl Scout cookies are made with palm oil derived from trees grown in groves that Orangutan habitat is destroyed to make open space for. In simple terms, Orangutans die in large numbers due to loss of habitat in order for Girl Scouts to have cookies to sell.

For Madison Vorva and Rhiannon Tomtishen, it all began with orangutans. Four years ago-inspired by the work of primate researcher Jane Goodall-the two friends from Ann Arbor, Mich., collaborated on a research report on the endangered primates to help qualify for their Girl Scout Bronze award, one of the highest prizes offered by the 3.2 million-member organization. Vorva and Tomtishen have both been scouts since they were five years old, and they take their roles and responsibilities seriously. So when they discovered that one of the major threats to orangutan populations in Indonesia was deforestation caused by the growth of palm plantations-and that the iconic cookies the Girl Scouts sell can sometimes contain palm oil from plantations on deforested land-the girls refused to simply do nothing. “Being a Girl Scout is about showing stewardship for the land,” says Vorva, who is now 16. (Tomtishen is 15.) “We knew we had to keep fighting.”

Making Girl Scout Cookies Better for the Planet | Rainforest Action Network

Unfortunately, the Girl Scout organization has not demanded major immediate changes to their cookie formula and seems content to go along with the plan offered by agribusiness giants like Cargill, which is talking about plans to offer sustainably produced palm oil several years from now – probably hoping that by then, there won’t be any Orangutans left to protect. Girl Scouts has taken this position:

In its announcement Wednesday, the Girl Scouts said it has directed its bakers to use as little palm oil as possible, and only in recipes where there is no alternative. It wants its bakers to move to a segregated, certified sustainable palm oil source by 2015.

The Scouts will buy GreenPalm certificates to support the sustainable production of palm oil. The certificates offer a premium price to palm oil producers who are operating within best-practices guidelines set by the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil, an organization of palm oil producers, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, environmentalists and others.
Girl Scouts of the USA will also become an affiliate member of the roundtable.

The teen activists and environmentalists welcomed the announcement as a good first step, but said much more needs to be done.

Also see Girl Scouts Activists, Rainforest Action Network and Union of Concerned Scientists Respond to Palm Oil Cookie Announcement by Girl Scouts USA

Saddle River County Park watershed cleanup 3/24!

Water is one of our most valuable resources with less than 1% of the water supply on Earth used for drinking. This precious resource is being threatened, whether from fracking or pollution, but we can and must protect it. World Water Day is March 22nd: what better way to celebrate and help care for this precious resource than by a water way (watershed) clean up? Please join ours on Saturday, March 24. If you have gardening or work gloves please bring them and dress appropriately.

Saturday March 24th from 10am to 12pm
Saddle River County Park

Meet at Saddle River Road in Fairlawn Exit Off of Route 4 parking lot P on your Right
Here is a map to better understand:
Everyone Welcome! Friends, family, neighbors spread the word to whoever wants to come out & make a difference!

Please RSVP to the clean up

Nicole Dallara, Outreach Coordinator, New Jersey Sierra Club

Help protect national forests – sign petition

America’s national forests provide essential habitat for lynx, grizzlies and other wildlife — and clean water for millions of Americans. Yet new rules could threaten the sanctity of these special places, paving the way for more logging and more destructive development on our national forests. Help protect these special places. Sign the petition online at: