Why We Need Wildlife Refuges
Sunday, I wrote about Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey. Great Swamp was established in 1960 to protect this unique habitat from human development. Many years ago, this area was a glacial lake and later, a swamp. It is home to many species of birds. It also serves as a resting point for birds that are migrating from one place to another.
Why do wildlife refuges matter?
When humans move into an area, we like to make sure that it meets our needs for living. We knock down trees to make way for houses and streets. We pave over the grass and dirt to make roads and sidewalks. Humans need places to live, but so do animals. As humans continue to expand our homes, animals like birds and snakes and turtles and foxes have fewer and fewer places to live.
Here, in the gallery, you'll see a nest box for wood ducks. Wood ducks like to live in hollow trees. Now, if you moved into a new house and your yard had a hollow tree, what do you think you would do? You would probably knock it down! While that might be great for you, it wouldn't be so great for the wood duck who needs a place to call home. At Great Swamp, not only are there lots of nest boxes, there are also lots and lots of hollow trees with inviting holes for animals to call home.
To compare, the day after I hiked Great Swamp, I went on another hike to Hawk Watch. The trail leads to an overlook where you can see birds of prey like Coopers hawks, goshawks, barred owls and red shouldered-hawks. These birds of prey, many of whom are endangered, live in the forest. They need large swaths, or large pieces of unbroken forest habitat to flourish. In the photos below, you can see two pictures from Hawk Watch that show the valley below. Then, there are three photos that show how humans have moved in and started to change the landscape by building houses. In one photo, you can see the square where all of the trees have been cut down leaving a flat, square patch. Because Hawk Watch is so high up, it offers a unique perspective on how the forest is changing.
As humans and animals continue to learn how to share the planet, places like Great Swamp are vital to a healthy planet. Great Swamp is a cool place to hike and see lots of wildlife. But there are also lots of rules about staying on the path and making sure that humans don't bother the animals. The refuge is a safe place where animals can live without worrying about losing their hollow trees or swampy lands to humans.