Jersey Central Power & Light Provides Key Improvement to Critical Habitat Project in New Jersey

  Jersey Central Power & Light Provides Key Improvement to Critical Habitat
                            Project in New Jersey

PR Newswire

MORRISTOWN, N.J., Feb. 15, 2013

MORRISTOWN, N.J., Feb.15, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --Jersey Central Power & Light
(JCP&L) initiated its first habitat restoration project as part of the
company's participation in NJ Audubon's Corporate Stewardship Council (CSC),
at the South Branch Wildlife Management Area. Volunteering to remove and
recycle nearly a mile of old wire, 18 transformers and 40 utility poles left
on site by the former owner, JCP&L provided this key improvement to the
critical habitat at this 422-acre site that has been undergoing large scale
restoration efforts over the last four years.

Identified as one of the most important in the region for protecting nesting
populations of threatened and endangered grassland birds, the South Branch
Wildlife Management Area has become a model site for how both wildlife and
agriculture can coexist. Working with a local farmer, a unique partnership
between the Hunterdon County Department of Parks and Recreation, the New
Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife, and New Jersey Audubon was formed in 2006
with a goal of managing the site for grassland habitat and grassland dependent
species. Consequently, portions of this site have since been transformed from
scrubby invasive plant habitat to native grasses that provide critical habitat
for a number of rare species including Bobolinks, Grasshopper Sparrows,
Eastern Meadowlarks, and Savannah Sparrows.

"Grassland birds require large, open treeless areas of grass and sedge meadow.
One issue at the South Branch WMA site was that the old utility wires and
poles remaining on site were attracting Brown-headed Cowbirds," said John
Parke, Stewardship Project director for New Jersey Audubon. "Cowbirds were a
big concern in that they are nest parasites, laying eggs in other birds' nests
for the hosts to raise as their own. The wires and poles at the South Branch
WMA were used by cowbirds as vantage points to observe the activity of host
birds and identify locations of the nests of these rare grassland species.
Grassland birds typically require large contiguous areas of grassland with few
trees or perch sites for species such as cowbirds and hawks. One of the keys
to discouraging cowbird parasitism or controlling populations of Brown-headed
Cowbirds, is to remove perch sites, especially within or surrounding the
grassland habitat. This is exactly what JCP&L has done and it has improved
the habitat value at the South Branch WMA immensely! Over the next several
breeding seasons we expect to see many more grassland birds successfully raise
young. New Jersey Audubon and the other partners involved in the project
cannot thank JCP&L enough for this work and their commitment to help steward
this habitat," added Parke.

A few utility poles were strategically left standing to allow for nest boxes
to be attached to them. JCP&L assisted with the installation of the nest boxes
specific for other grassland dependant birds that are also state listed
species, specifically American Kestrel and Barn Owl. Both species are cavity
nesters and require large expanses of open grassland to forage, which South
Branch WMA provides.

"The South Branch Wildlife Management Area provides a much needed grassland
habitat and is a model for how partnerships can help protect the environment,"
said JCP&L President Don Lynch. "Removing the poles, wires and transformers
will help ensure that the birds have a natural habitat. We are proud to
support the New Jersey Audubon Society's Corporate Stewardship Council and its
partners in their efforts in restoring the site and look forward to partnering
in other projects."

About JCP&L:

JCP&L is a subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp. (NYSE: FE). JCP&L serves 1.1
million customers in the counties of Burlington, Essex, Hunterdon, Mercer,
Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union and
Warren. Follow JCP&L on Twitter @JCP_L, on Facebook at
www.facebook.com/JCPandL, or online at www.jcp-l.com.

About New Jersey Audubon:

The New Jersey Audubon Society is a privately supported, not-for profit,
statewide membership organization. Founded in 1897, and one of the oldest
independent Audubon societies, New Jersey Audubon has no connection with the
National Audubon Society. New Jersey Audubon fosters environmental awareness
and a conservation ethic among New Jersey's citizens; protects New Jersey's
birds, mammals, other animals, and plants, especially endangered and
threatened species; and promotes preservation of New Jersey's valuable natural
habitats. For more information about New Jersey Audubon and the S.A.V.E.™
Birdseed program please visit www.njaudubon.org

About the NJ Audubon Corporate Stewardship Council:

For more information please visit
http://www.njaudubon.org/SectionConservation/StewardshipInAction/CorporateStewardshipCouncil.aspx



SOURCE FirstEnergy Corp.

Website: http://www.jcp-l.com
Contact: John Parke (NJA), +1-908-366-7781; Ron Morano (JCP&L),
+1-973-401-8097
 
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