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Open Space Committee Continues Fight Against Invasive Species In Native Grasslands

The Negri Nepote Grassland Preserve is one of two for which the township Open Space Committee is applying for prescribed burns.

The fight against invasive species in the township’s grassland preserves continues, with the Open Space Advisory Committee voting June 15 to apply for more prescribed burns in two grassland areas.

The Committee decided to apply to the New Jersey Fire Service for prescribed burning – intentionally setting fires in certain areas for forest management – in parts of the Negri Nepote and John Clyde Memorial grassland preserves. The Clyde preserve was formerly known as the Griggstown Grassland Preserve.

Two prescribed burns were conducted at the Clyde preserve in January and April 2020. They were successful to a degree, said Tara Kenyon, the township’s open space consultant.

“The recommendation from the New Jersey Fire Service is to do the burn at the same location,” Kenyon said. The first round of burns “did work, but because of invasive species that were there, we need to do two or three burns.”

Repeated burns deal with the invasive plants, but also eliminate any “seed packs” that may remain, Kenyon said.

“Even after you burn or cut them, they come back,” she said.

New Jersey Audubon, a statewide conservation organization, recommends that a prescribed burn also be performed at two areas of the Negri Nepote Grasslands Preserve, Kenyon said.

“We didn’t do a burn there last year because we wanted to see how the process went,” Kenyon said.

The burns will be conducted in the winter, followed by mowing by the township Department of Public Works and spot-treating whatever invasive plants are left, she said. The mowing and spot-cleaning would occur after August first, when the nesting season for birds in the areas ends, Kenyon said.

Chuck Martin, a member of the township Advisory Trails Committee, agreed with Open Space’s decision to conduct the burns.

Burning, he said, has been used to control invasive species since before the first Colonists came to the country.

But, he said, it’s not known if controlled burning is enough to deal with the invasive species.

“We just don’t know at this point,” he said. “So, it’s quite possible we will need to employ other methods as well.”

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