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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.

Native tribes hold public Prayer For the Earth

Saturday, May 5, 2012
95 Halifax Rd. Mahwah, New Jersey 07430

Native Tribes & Local Communities BAND TOGETHER to Bridge Cultures
for the Preservation & Protection of our Water from Hydraulic Fracking

The Ramapough/Lunaape Nation is calling on all humans of good conscience to join a Prayer Rally/Vigil on our Ceremonial Land:

Why? This is the time, this is the hour to speak out for the protection of all US Watersheds that supply everyone with fresh drinking water, preserve Native traditions, and for the healing of Grand Mother Earth.

The Ramapough are expecting an array of communities, native peoples, environmental groups, representative of diverse cultural and spiritual traditions. Several of the guest speakers include:

-Professor Airy Dixon/Saponi
-Chief Vincent Mann/ Ramapough Nation
-Dean Hutchins Cherokee Nation
-Monica Evans/Haida Nation.

There will also be light entertainment. Please bring chairs and blankets. This event will close in Ceremony with a Prayer for Grand Mother Earth.

The Ramapough’s traditional land has met with imprudence from numerous outside groups, including Ford Motor Company – which used our land as a “toxic dumping ground”, and now gas/oil corporations want to endanger our vital watersheds by hydrofracking for export to foreign markets. To create this supply of fracked gas would involve blasting and clearing of public and private land, creating hazards for communities in the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York regions which includes the beautiful Long Island Sound. Fracking fluid contaminates water sources, poisons ecosystems [animal & plant], and is currently suspect to have caused earthquakes in Ohio.

The Ramapough believe that callous disregard for humans and Grand Mother Earth cannot go unanswered. The Ramapough assert: it is the civic duty of all people of good conscience everywhere to ensure change be just, rather than a reinforcement of finance inequities that have so long divided us. To that end, we are asking everyone to join in making their voices heard on behalf of families, community, our watersheds, and Grand Mother Earth against this current atrocity.

Ramapough Lunaape Chief Perry(Kihkay Maqua) states:

“We have chosen to hold this event now because the hour is critical for America. The destructive extraction of gas/oil resources from our Grand Mother Earth is almost complete. We hope this event will result in “An Awakening, an Occupation of the Spirit”, whereby each and every human concerned with the Earth and Future Generations will stand together as “One Voice”, accumulating the collective strength of millions. Knowing we are not alone, that each action is not an isolated action but supported by millions who vote, sends an important message to our elected officials & the gas/oil corporations that our tax dollars can no longer be used to literally poison us. The potential increase to medicaid costs will skyrocket for these toxins will cause long term damage.

I ask in a good way, that each and everyone of you who hold a drop of knowledge to come forth now; share, teach, put down some medicine, send up some sounds, help in any way you can for our Grand Mother is in pain. Join those who have been speaking out and those who have been keeping us alive. Stand Up Now, help us to pray. Show us how to heal in a good way our Grand Mother Earth for she is crying out for our assistance. Remember who you are, Humans. Remember you are dependent on Grand Mother Earth to sustain your lives.”

The Ramapough have lived in this area for over 15,000 years, with unfortunately a long tragic history that drove a wedge between the Ramapough and the community at large; a gap we are seeking to bridge with this event. We are honoring our past and seeking to move forward as a strong coalition that will address issues common to all communities.

Rain Date: Sunday, May 6th, 2012

for more information contact: Charlene –
Jill –
Jon –

ISO affordable foods lacking corn syrup

Since deciding I couldn’t continue to poison my children with high fructose corn syrup aka glucose syrup, corn syrup and the like, I’ve been looking for better alternatives that won’t break the bank.

At Fairway in Paramus, which is expensive for produce and many other items, but has the most fabulous bagels in the area at the great price of 79¢ each (but quite often on sale for 50¢) I found moderately priced ice cream by Alden’s Ice Cream which is not only made with real cream and sugar – it’s also organic! A 1.5 quart tub cost about $7.00, which made it much cheaper than the only real sugar alternative at Shop Rite which was $8.00 for 1 quart and is not organic. I made my kids promise that if I buy them really expensive ice cream that won’t automatically kill them when they eat it, that they won’t gobble the container up in a day and a half. They are going through this box slowly, so I’m really happy with the find.

So, what about jelly and cereal? The small jar of grape jam I got (also at Fairway) was way too pricey. Not sustainable. A friend told me to check the ingredients on Trader Joe’s cereals so walked down their aisle, discovering with relief that every one of their cereals uses sugar as a sweetener instead of corn syrup AND is affordably priced starting at $2.49 per large-sized box.

Trader Joe’s also has many flavors of jams and jellies all made with sugar, and none of them listing any ingredients resembling corn syrup. Nice sized jars cost just a bit more than I’ve been paying at Shoprite for the killer version.

Fortunately, there are plenty of grocery stores in northern New Jersey. With a small investment in time and a bit more expense, I’ve already made serious progress towards wiping out corn syrup from my family’s lexicon and our pantry shelves. Exciting!

I just can’t buy my sons poisonous cereal any more

Your lady friend made the big mistake of looking at the ingredients list of her son’s favorite cereals today and afterwards COULD NOT bring myself to purchase a single box. Corn syrup is one of the first/main ingredients listed and that stuff is DEATH. But oh boy, my sons love cereal.

I walked down the aisle muttering to myself about how bad corn syrup is for people, and then spotted some of that healthy-looking stuff right at the end of the aisle, marked half price! I checked the labels. Yep! Real sweeteners like honey, molasses, sugar and no corn syrup, so I bought 8 boxes. This stuff is going to be here a long time if my boys don’t like it.

High Fructose Corn Syrup Does Weird Stuff to Your Body
While the commercials claim that it’s fine in moderation, the truth is that the whole problem with high fructose corn syrup in the first place, is that moderation is seemingly impossible. The syrup interferes with the body’s metabolism so that a person can’t stop eating. It’s truly hard to control cravings because high fructose corn syrup slows down the secretion of leptin in the body. Leptin is a crucial hormone in the body that tells you that you’re full and to stop eating. That’s why it’s so closely associated with obesity in this country. It’s like an addictive drug.

The Digestion of High Fructose Corn Syrup Is Hard On the Body
Acidic “foods”, which are void of nutrition, wreak havoc on the body. To compensate, the body will pull calcium and other minerals from our bones, teeth, and organs to keep our blood slightly alkaline. Enzymes must be produced to metabolize high fructose corn syrup and micro-nutrients must be utilized. High fructose corn syrup causes mineral imbalances and deficiencies, which can cause a host of other diseases and health problems.

Not easy to find ideal venue for Hackensack Green Drinks

Green Drinks Hackensack has been meeting at Victor’s Maywood Inn in Maywood since our first meeting venue, The Restaurant, burnt down. Victor’s has been very hospitable to us and they have great food, but there are a few reasons we’d like to find a new home for our monthly get-togethers:

  • We’d like to meet in downtown Hackensack because it’s convenient for local residents to access by biking or walking, and it also houses the regional county bus hub.
  • We’re getting a bit cramped at our table in the bar area of Victor’s, where we meet, but don’t relish the idea of sitting in the restaurant portion of the place because it’s kind of formal for the type of gathering we enjoy holding.
  • When there are sports games on Monday nights or the regular bar patrons decide to play the juke box, it’s so loud it’s hard to carry on conversations. Ultimately, conversation about sustainability and the environment is what Green Drinks is all about.

Last night the group gathered was rolling ideas around about a change in venue, and I thought of a restaurant I’ve eaten at several times that’s located on Main Street and has great food. It’s a tradition for Green Drinks to take place in places that serve liquor, and this place doesn’t, but this is not a requirement or a big consideration for us anyway, since 70% of our members don’t drink at meetings. This morning I reached out to the restaurant’s owner to discuss the idea of us meeting there, but although he admits to his place being pretty empty on Monday nights, he still isn’t keen on the idea of hosting us.

In the couple of years I’ve been scouting out good places to meet, B is certainly not the first venue owner to offer discouragement instead of a warm welcome. He wanted us to commit to ordering a minimum amount per person, something I’m not willing to do since inclusion is part of the Green Drinks philosophy I’m sure B’s not asking casual diners who happen by on a given Monday night to do the same, so that’s a discriminatory practice! When restauranteurs hear “environmental”, do they think of wispy hippy types who consume only alfalfa sprouts, honey and wheat bread and ride bikes because they can’t afford to drive cars – and can’t imagine the reality: that the north Jersey Green Drink crowd contains plenty of professionally employed home owners who eat out on a regular basis?

I ended up asking myself – and now I’m asking followers: do you think it’s shortsighted of a food establishment’s owner to discourage Green Drinks from gathering there on an off night mainly because we won’t guarantee consumption of a minimum amount of food per person? Since I was thinking about it, I made up a list of:

Reasons a venue can benefit from hosting Green Drinks gatherings

  • If the menu’s good at the place we meet, group members do order food. For some reason, many Green Drinkers are also foodies. Sometimes, every member of the group eats.
  • We meet on Mondays and Tuesdays because those are off nights for restaurants. We want to be able to chat easily without the distraction of too much ambient noise, and feel at ease holding the kind of lively discussions Green Drinks is famous for.
  • It costs a restaurant to be open whether or not they have customers, so why not fill the seats at empty tables?
  • It’s easier to draw diners into a full place than an empty one.
  • Places empty on off nights benefit from a bit of revenue by having us there, no matter how much our group spends
  • If Green Drinkers like a venue, they will introduce friends to it and patronize it on other occasions besides our monthly meetings.
  • Over 3,000 people a month receive announcements about Green Drinks meetings and the venues where we hold them.
  • A host venue can show its support for environment health and making their community more sustainable just by hosting Green Drinks gatherings (=free advertising).
  • By listening in on – or actively participating in – our conversations, business owners can learn about ways to save money and enhance their communities through implementing sustainability practices.

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:

Take Back Port Newark forum

Take Back Port Newark
When: Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Where: Essex County College
Siegler Hall, Room 2132
303 University Avenue, Newark, NJ 07102


  • Larry Hamm, Chairman of People’s Organization for Progress
  • Reverend Jethro James, Paradise Baptist Church
  • James Harris, President NJ NAACP
  • Kim Gaddy, Environmental Justice Organizer, NJ Environmental Federation
  • Henry Rose, Statewide Coordinator – NJ Environmental Justice Alliance

It’s time to take back the Port and make it work for Newark and its people!

The Two Faces of Port Newark

For corporations in the Tri-State Area, Port Newark means:

  • $50 billion dollars worth of imported goods per year!
  • “. . . the most important engine for economic growth in our state” (Gov. Christie)
  • Eating Very Well!!!

For Newark residents, Port Newark means:

  • Only $71 million dollars in rent piad for both the Port and Newark Airport
  • Budget woes that lead to cuts in residents’ services, and more pollution and ashtma in our communities.
  • Washing Dirty Dishes!

For more information contact:
Take Back Port Newark Coalition: 978-573-6013 or 201-878-8482