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The New Jersey Conservation Foundation (NJCF) owns and manages the 9400 acre Franklin Parker Preserve in the Heart of the New Jersey Pine Barrens. NJCF has entered into an agreement with the United States Department of Agriculture – Natural Resource Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS) to restore wetland hydrology and function to 1100 acres of former wetlands, now recently abandoned cranberry fields. This restoration of a wetland milieu will present a historic opportunity to restore Atlantic White Cedar (AWC) forests to historic locations in the headwaters of the Wading River. Due to habitat destruction and poor forest management practices, AWC swamp forests have been decreased to less than 20% of their original coverage in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. NJCF proposes to restore approximately 150 acres of AWC as a complement to the USDA-NRCS Wetlands Restoration Project (WRP). This would be the largest AWC restoration ever done in NJ, and would bolster the existing habitat in NJ by 3%.

The WRP portion of the restoration broke ground in early 2006. Flat surfaces and compacted soils of the former agricultural areas were raked to a depth of 16" to loosen soil and kill cranberry vines, followed by irregular disking and/or plowing to create topographic relief similar to that found in a natural wetland. While AWC may regenerate naturally in a small amount of the 1100-acre restoration area, a lack of nearby seed sources and competition from pitch pine and red maple will make AWC a rare component of the natural ecological succession in the restored wetlands.

For this reason, a portion of the acreage was targeted specifically for restoration as an AWC forest. In 2005 NJCF conducted pilot work to determine the best method for cedar regeneration. Pinelands Nursery staff partnered with NJCF to collect AWC seeds from within the Parker Preserve. These seeds were then used in the production of the thousands of local genotype AWC seedlings. NJCF planted and fenced a trial AWC swamp on 2½ acres of already restored cranberry bog. The project team used various size seedlings, to determine the most cost-effective way to achieve success in the large-scale project.

In 2008 volunteers and staff members, using the information learned from the pilot, planted more than 30,000 AWC seedlings at the Preserve. The Atlantic White Cedar Restoration will be carried out in phases over a 4 year period. The full restoration project planned for the Parker Preserve is currently considered to be the largest freshwater restoration project in the northeastern United States.

Atlantic White Cedar Parker Reserve

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