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SJTA Expands the Scope and Reach of Its Environmental Initiative

 
Partners with NJ Fish & Wildlife to present Northeastern Transportation and Wildlife Conference in Atlantic City
 
An osprey builds up a nest on a platform installed by the SJTA in recent years as part of its READI program. (SJTA photo/Darleen Adamo)   
 
 
HAMMONTON, NJ - Nov.25, 2019 - As it marks over two years since it started its Roadway Environmental Advancement Initiative (READI), the
South Jersey Transportation Authority is proud to announce New Jersey Fish & Wildlife Services is joining with the Authority in co-hosting the Northeastern Transportation and Wildlife Conference in September 2020.
 
With its theme of "2020 Vision - Creating a Roadmap to Help Wildlife Navigate our Mobile World," the biannual conference is slated to meet in Atlantic City at the Sheraton Hotel, September 20 - 23, 2020, and is inviting a wide array of transportation and ecology professionals, researchers, academics, students and consultants.
 
The conference will explore how industry leaders, ecologists, transportation planners, as well as state and municipal officials can work together to ensure wildlife mobility across the Northeast's fragmented and changing landscape. More conference information is available at https://www.netwc.org/ .
 
The SJTA launched READI several years ago when the Atlantic City Expressway Operations Department began reintroducing native, perennial wildflowers across 35 acres of the Expressway's right-of-way. The wildflowers attract and support important pollinators like bees and butterflies that are suffering from habitat loss and pesticide use. The goal is to reverse the population decline of these crucial pollinators
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The initiative evolved when the Expressway installed a series of bat boxes or bat houses along the highway's right-of-way in 2017. While bats play a vital role in the ecology of local environments, they face numerous threats including a disease called White Nose Bat Syndrome and the loss of habitat. The bat houses provide shelter and safety from predators.
 
The efforts of READI go beyond only supporting bats; it has installed structures for a variety of species including the American Kestrel, blue birds, screech owls and nesting platforms for ospreys near Atlantic City. The program has created animal crossings that allow wildlife to travel underneath the Expressway as they naturally migrate between different areas.
 
READI also has an educational component that involves presenting programs at local schools to support their environmental curriculums. Every year around Arbor Day, the Operations Department is invited to local elementary and middle schools to plant a tree(s) and present assemblies that impress on students the importance of practicing good environmental stewardship. The SJTA has visited more than 26 schools since 2011 and planted as many as 35 trees in a variety of species during the past four years. These programs invite student participation in the planting of a native tree(s) at each school visited.
 
The Northeast Transportation and Wildlife Conference will enable READI to expand its educational focus and engage professionals from nine states interested in helping transportation and wildlife to coexist and share space in our region of the country.
 
"The SJTA's co-hosting of this important conference is a natural outgrowth of our efforts to help the environment while operating the Expressway, the Atlantic City International Airport and other South Jersey infrastructure assets that play an important role in supporting commerce, tourism and economic growth across South Jersey and beyond," said SJTA's Executive Director Stephen F. Dougherty. "We are proud to join the New Jersey Fish & Wildlife Services in offering this conference."
 

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