As part of the fulfillment of a grant awarded to the Galloway Township Environmental Commission, a roll-out event was held on Friday, Sept. 27, at the Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center Auditorium. This grant, to study and educate about invasive plants in the Galloway Township area, was awarded to Galloway’s team by the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions.

A capacity crowd of about 80 people attended the program, officially titled “The Case For Native Plants.” As part of this, a locally made 40-minute video, “Twelve Tenacious Invasives,” was shown. The video highlighted local hotspots of plants that have become nuisances over time, described and guided by local U.S. Fish and Wildlife Agent Eric Schrading and also Port Republic naturalist Jesse Connor.

The crowd was a mixture of environmental commission members, green team members, educators, municipal officials, native plant experts, Master Gardeners, historians, hobby gardeners, environmental groups and other interested folks. During the making of the video, recognizable scenes were shot at Patriot Lake, which is still in need of volunteers for remediating invasive plants and establishing new native tree areas and perennial plant colonies. At the end of the event, a native perennial plant was given out to each attendee who wished to have one.

A companion brochure titled “Twelve Tenacious Invasive Plants and Native Alternatives For Southern New Jersey” was distributed. An information table was set up by the Southeast Chapter of the New Jersey Native Plant Society to give out more information and to invite folks to attend its monthly meetings at Stockton University’s Mainland Campus.

Cheryl Reardon, project director with ANJEC, spoke briefly about the organization, which trains, educates and provides grant opportunities to municipal and county environmental commissions throughout New Jersey.

A panel of experts in different aspects of this issue assembled after the film and fielded questions from the crowd. A good mixture of statements and questions came up to validate the immensity of the invasive plant problem, but also good information about re-establishing native plant yards, commercial areas and natural spaces. The case was made for using fewer chemicals, using natural pest controls and nontoxic techniques for remediation of affected areas.

Part of the takeaway message was to tolerate some nibbling of native plant leaves to sustain beneficial local pollinators through their cycles of life. The popular but problematic regimen of planting nonblemished plants that local organisms get no nourishment from was called into question. The spraying of wide spectrum herbicides and pesticides was discussed. They also discussed the need to develop a wider demand for landscape designers and landscapers who understand an improved way of providing green infrastructure as well as plants healthier for the environment. The connection was made between how chemicals today still cause havoc in the natural world, as was outlined generations ago by scientist Rachel Carson in her book “Silent Spring”.

This program will be offered at a variety of venues for municipalities, counties, officials, clubs etc. throughout the New Jersey area. For more information, contact the Galloway Township Office of Sustainability at 609-652-3700, ext. 209.

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