Thanking the Protecting Hunting Heritage and Education Act
November 22, 2023 •iSportsman Staff
With hunting season practically around the corner, it’s important to recognize that hunting goes together with good land management and conservational effort. Beyond hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation iSportsman strives to aid those who use their services to preserve the natural landscapes we all enjoy. Joint Base McGuire-Dix Lakehurst (JBMDL) was recently recognized for such efforts, being awarded the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 19th Annual Military Conservation Partner Award for significant natural resource management achievements.
The New Jersey base was recognized for their aggressive conservation of the unique habitats associated with the Pinelands National Reserve that is supporting globally rare plants and wildlife. JBMDL’s dedicated team of conservation, environmental, and wildlife experts are also making strides to expand and protect grasslands on base and provide important breeding habitats for a wide range of grassland birds, many of which are rare and imperiled.
We broke down some of our favorite rare, imperiled, threatened, and endangered species found at JBMDL to provide additional insight into the fantastic works they are achieving in preserving the outdoors for the future.
The bald eagle continues to be protected under the Federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and is currently a New Jersey state-listed endangered species. A nesting pair of bald eagles were discovered in Dix in spring of 2000 and would continue to nest there until 2015 raising sixteen eaglets. In 2017, tragedy struck in the dead of winter when the nest tree fell frightening the couple who have not returned since.
In 2018 when a new nest was spotted, it was soon realized that it would continue to be hard times for bald eagles at JBMDL. Due to the nest’s proximity to a runway, JBMDL natural resources obtained and executed a USFWS nest depredation permit to remove the nest by cutting down the host tree during the off-season in an effort to prevent a BASH incident. BASH stands for the Bird/Wildlife Aircraft Strike Hazard prevention program, in which air operations, aviation safety, and natural resources personnel work together to reduce the risk of bird and wildlife strikes through risk management and is implemented throughout the military.
Despite these circumstances, JBMDL continues to monitor the bald eagle to the present day.
A state threatened species, the barred owl prefers secluded habitats and does not fare well with humans. JBMDL habitat assessment surveys conducted through 2007-2009 identified 13 barred owls, including four breeding pairs at Dix. In 2010 similar surveys were conducted at Lakehurst, which identified four present owls, two of which were a breeding pair.
Keeping these breeding habitats in good standing, JBMDL continues to survey these areas every three to five years.
Grassland birds get their name from their need for large open gassy areas to nest and feed. While an adaptable category of birds, they still need a healthy supply of grasshoppers, insects, seeds, and grain to forage from for survival. Of the total 2,542 individual birds noted at Lakehurst Airfield (56 species), grassland birds accounted for the highest observations. Of these frequent flyers to JBMDL, the eastern meadowlarks and horned larks are year-round residents.
These healthy observational numbers are possible due to the preservation of the habitats required for them to thrive made possible by the JBMDL environmental staff.
The New Jersey state threatened pine snake, state endangered timber rattlesnake, and state endangered corn snake have all been documented at both Dix and Lakehurst. The pine snake prefers pine-oak forests and infertile sandy soils making the JBMDL Lakewood sands a comfortable place of lodging. The corn snake dominates mature upland pine forests, nestling in stump holes and rotten logs. And the venomous timber rattlesnake primarily favors habitats made up of a variety of pines and oaks found along streams and cedar swamps.
Due to these diverse habitats being upkept and available at JBMDL, these snakes have been spotted at the base since 1990 and continue to be so throughout the 2020s.
Coming in as the only rare amphibian at JBMDL, the pine barren tree frog thrives in the base’s acidic woodland pools, flooded wetlands, and pines. The first colonies of this New Jersey state threatened species were identified in 1996.
Surveys indicate that JBMDL has one of the three highest concentrations of globally rare invertebrate anywhere in the eastern part of North American north of the Florida peninsula. Visitors to the joint bases can most likely spot a plethora of New Jersey state threatened, and species of special concern such as the arroyos skipper, frosted elfin, silvered-bordered fritillary, Leonard’s skipper, and the dotted skipper.
Dix has been managing the habitat for some of these species since 1995, an effort that encompasses prescribed burnings and maintenance of stands of wild indigo. Project areas of comprised grasslands are being upkept for the potential of providing critical breeding habitats for these species.
The staff at JBML remain diligent in their efforts to maintain the water, environmental, and air quality necessary for these unique species to thrive. And it is important to note that they do so while also operating large-scale military operations and outdoor recreational opportunities. Join us in giving the folks at JBMDL a big congratulations and thank you for all their outdoor work. And if you find yourself recreating at JBMDL with iSportsman be sure to be respectful, responsible, and safe.