BASKING RIDGE, N.J. - More than 550 native trees and shrubs will be planted Wednesday (June 13) as part of a habitat improvement project at Verizon's corporate campus in Somerset County. The project, a partnership involving the New Jersey Audubon Society (NJAS), the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and Verizon, is aimed at cultivating the natural greenscape and wildlife communities on about 25 acres of grassland, riparian and wetland habitats on the Verizon site.
"Corporate landowners, through wise land stewardship, can enhance the ecological value of their properties for the benefit of surrounding communities," said Brian Marsh, private lands biologist with USFWS. "The Verizon Center in Basking Ridge is a good example of a corporate entity taking a keen interest in land stewardship."
Last year, Verizon forged a partnership with the New Jersey Audubon Society and the USFWS to enhance 25 acres on the property, which serves as a buffer to the Passaic River.
"The face of our landscape is constantly changing, and with increasing urbanization and development comes fragmentation and loss of critical habitats," said John Parke, NJAS stewardship director for the North region. "Habitat loss is the greatest single factor adversely affecting wildlife populations today. The habitat enhancements that Verizon has implemented at its property through the Partners Program are expected to have far-reaching benefits for not just wildlife, but for the watershed and the community as well."
Habitat improvements at the site include: invasive vegetation-species removal and control; native warm-season grass, wildflower and riparian buffer plantings; delayed mowing; and installation of a vernal pool, nest boxes and turtle nesting areas. These enhancements are currently providing suitable habitats for a variety of wildlife this spring, including numerous bird and herptile species.
"It's exciting to see more and more native plants and wildlife return to this environmental treasure chest," said Dennis Bone, president of Verizon New Jersey. "Our goal is to be a productive and vibrant partner in the community. This means working to benefit the local economy, and being an active partner in improving the region's environment as well."
As of last month, over 60 species of wildlife have been observed utilizing the improved habitat at the site. Some of the species were never before recorded on the property. By actively managing and protecting natural resources through its participation in the Partners Program, Verizon is demonstrating an outstanding commitment to sustaining native wildlife populations while providing a healthy landscape for the community at large.
The NJAS and the USFWS welcome Verizon as a Partner, solidifying a symbiotic relationship with the community to foster environmental awareness and a conservation ethic while enhancing wildlife and natural systems in New Jersey. Under the partnership, Verizon is scheduled to plant 500 more trees and shrubs in 2008.