Pinelands Commission Sees Results of Not Mowing Shoulders in Pinelands

Oct 31, 2018
Photo by: Paul Leakan Resource planner for the Pinelands Commission, Robyn Jeney takes surveys along roadsides that have not been mowed and finds rare orchids and plants.

The Pinelands Commission is now seeing the flowering of a policy it adopted nine years ago to stop mowing certain roadsides within the Pinelands Reserve. In 2009, the commission worked with the Pinelands Preservation Alliance to identify likely roadsides that native plants had colonized from the 11,000 acres of roads across five counties, including Ocean.

“While it took some time to adjust to these practices, the counties are doing an excellent job,” said the commission’s executive director, Nancy Wittenberg. “Our staff has made a concerted effort to improve communication with the counties, and that has translated into better implementation of measures that protect roadside plants.”

The best roadside management practices adopted by the commission and the counties include: mowing only the minimum width of the roadside needed to maintain safe vehicle pull-off areas and clear sight lines at turns and intersections; mowing only to a height of 6 inches to allow common low-growing groundcovers such as Pixie to thrive; restoring soils to nearly undisturbed conditions following road improvements; avoiding mowing sparsely vegetated areas at all times; and mowing identified rare plant populations only once a year, during the dormant season.

PC staff members and 10 volunteer botanists survey the roadside vegetation on numerous occasions each year to ensure mowing compliance. They have found Pine Barren gentian, goat’s rue, orange milk wort, fireweed, butterfly weed, asters of all types, sedges and indigenous grasses.

The commission staff has observed greater compliance with the measures after meeting with county road workers and sending an informational brochure about the program to all seven Pinelands counties and 53 municipalities. —P.J.

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