Liberty Marsh Restoration project to be dedicated

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:56

    Sussex - Ducks Unlimited and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will host a dedication of the Liberty Marsh Restoration project at 9:30 a.m., Friday, Oct. 7, at the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge office, 1547 County Road 565. A tour of the project will follow the dedication. “Seeing the impressive results here shows how the national wildlife refuge system and the public benefit from public-private partnerships,” said Edward Henry, Wallkill River refuge manager. “Now visitors will be able to observe and enjoy waterfowl and shorebirds along one of the premier birding sites in Sussex and Orange counties.” The North American Wetlands Conservation Council and the N.J. Dept. of Environmental Protection’s Division of Fish and Wildlife, Waterfowl Stamp Advisory Committee provided additional funding. Completed in two phases, 350 acres of prime wildlife habitat have been restored from previous agricultural uses. Five miles of new dikes and 11 water control structures were erected that will provide maximum flexibility to manage the site for wetland-dependent wildlife. Annual flooding events in the Wallkill River valley will provide water that can be captured and diverted to any of the seven impoundments to manage specific regimes for a variety of wildlife. Craig Kessler, manger of Ducks Unlimited’s conservation programs, said, “During early spring and fall, migrating waterfowl,including black ducks, mallards, green-winged teal, wood ducks, and ringnecked ducks, will be treated to a buffet of wetland foods, as well as a permanent refuge area for staging birds.” Later in the spring, water levels will be lowered for the arrival of migrating shorebirds including yellowlegs, common snipe, pectoral sandpipers, and many others. “Still lower water levels during summer will stimulate the resurgence of wetland plants that will again provide a plentiful food source for the arrival of fall migrants,” added Kessler. Other species expected to benefit from specific management opportunities are the state-listed short-eared owl, marsh hawk and several species of sparrows. The New York portion of 143 acres was completed in June 2003; the New Jersey portion, encompassing 207 acres, was completed this year in June. This project also provides opportunities for public use. The Liberty Loop Trail, running along the perimeter dikes, shares much of its length with the Appalachian Trail, and provides an ideal setting for wildlife observation, nature photography, and environmental education. Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge is one of more than 540 refuges in the country. President Theodore Roosevelt founded the system in 1903. Wallkill River NWR was established in 1990.