Author Mary Bruno’s 2016 Gala Keynote Remarks

Good evening, everybody, and thank you for inviting me to speak. It’s an honor and a pleasure to be here on such a big night. And this really is a Big Night.

I’m here tonight because, having grown up along the degraded lower stretch of the Passaic, I had a burning question: How did a river that was once celebrated for its beauty become an EPA Superfund site?

In my quest to find an answer, I found Andy Willner, who at the time was still the executive director of the NY/NJ Baykeeper Association. I’m sure many of you know Andy.

He told me that the Passaic’s biggest problem was that it had become a stranger to the people who lived in its watershed. That people didn’t know the river any more, and that you can’t love something that you don’t know.

Up to that point, I had thought of the Passaic as the dark and menacing monster of my youth. Andy helped me see that the Passaic wasn’t a monster at all. It was a victim. A victim of our own greed and ignorance and complacency and shortsightedness.

Andy was an advocate. And that’s what advocates do: They tell us things we didn’t know. Using reason and passion and eloquence and persistence — and maybe a lawsuit here and there — they help us to see a truth about the world, and about ourselves.

They traffic in epiphanies.

Continue reading

Eagle Scout Project – A Success!

Matt Bennett, a Madison High School Senior, can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel as he looks to wrap up his yearlong Eagle Scout project with Great Swamp Watershed Association over the coming weeks!

Matt, a member of Troop 25, in Madison Boro, has been working with GSWA to increase the passive educational opportunities at the organization’s 53 acre Conservation Management Area. A successful Eagle Scout project must highlight leadership and allow for a project that will have lasting impact to the community the Eagle Scout works with.  His project to research, design, create and install 20 wildlife interpretive signs at the CMA will certainly pass the longevity bar for a great project!

Over a year ago, Matt began his project by reaching out to GSWA Director of Education and Outreach, Hazel England, with his initial desire to complete his Eagle Scout award at the Conservation Management Area.  After walking the trails and learning what some of the stewardship, education, and conservation needs and goals for the property were, he refined his potential project to create signage that encouraged hikers to learn more about some of the native plants and animals to be found on the property.  Over the winter months he and his fellow scouts researched the species they would highlight, refined their plans, revisited the site with GSWA trustee John Neale, and visited area hardware providers to solicit donations. They began to draw and use dremel tools to craft the Corian signs that they would install.  Locations were picked to install the various signs, with 4”x4” posts and wooden backboards being installed in place ready for the final signs.

Continue reading

The Autumn Weather is Calling!

By Dan Ross

As the air grows brisk, and the days get shorter, there’s no better time to get outside and immerse yourself in nature! The sights and sounds of autumn are all around us; from the changing colors of the tree canopy to the noticeable scurry of woodland animals preparing for the long harsh months ahead. Yet amidst the hustle and bustle of nature, something seems to be missing, or gone awry, as if nature has moved on without us.

All too often the iconic scenes of children playing in leaf piles, or climbing to the top branches for the biggest juiciest apple, have disappeared from the landscape. Trails go unexplored, forts go unassembled, bugs are left to their own devices. Rocks and logs remain in place, sheltering newts and salamanders from prying eyes, and streams gurgle along undisturbed. No, there hasn’t been a tragic shortage of children in the world, but rather a disconnect between their attention spans and the fascination and wonderful excitement that only nature can offer.

The term “nature deficit disorder” was first coined by Richard Louv, author of “Last Child in the Woods,” and it alludes to the fact that people, most notably children, are spending far less time outdoors, which he believes has resulted in a wide range of behavioral problems. Children are growing into young adults with asthma, allergies, and a complete disregard for the outdoors. In some small way, the magic and excitement of nature has been extinguished.

Continue reading

Did You Know? How Trees Fight Against Water Pollution

­By Jim Northrop

Treating water pollution may be one of the most critical services that trees offer to the world.  In The Man Who Planted Trees, a 2012 book written by Jim Robbins, the author looks at the relationship between New York City and the forests just to the north of the city in the Catskill Mountains. These rolling woodlands form a catchment and filter area for the water that New Yorkers drink. In 1989, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ordered the city to build a new water treatment plant at a cost of $8 billion. Their concern was that microscopic intestinal parasites, and some other waterborne pathogens, would find their way into the New York City water supply.

However, city officials decided that the cheaper and better option would be to better protect the existing two-thousand-square-mile forested watershed that naturally filters water flowing into the city. That plan would only cost about $1.5 billion, and the money was spent on such things as buying buffers of natural landscape around reservoirs to act as filters, and negotiating agreements with upstate cities and towns to limit development in watershed areas. While using woodlands to clean the water made economic sense on its own, maintaining tracts of native forest provided many additional ecosystem services, including wildlife habitat, recreation, and carbon dioxide absorption.

treesDeforestation anywhere can cause many problems for our water supply. Where fresh water once fell as rain (and was filtered by the forest and slowly released) there are now farm fields, lawns, and parking lots that pour polluted sediment into our streams and rivers.  In fact, research shows that river basins with the greatest amount of farmland produce the most pollution-laden sediment, while river valleys with the most forest coverage produce the least. Nitrogen and phosphorus from agricultural fertilizers and poultry waste increase the proliferation of bacteria that, in turn, consume oxygen dissolved in the water.

Continue reading