NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — Rutgers University's reach extends beyond the lab or boardroom and into some of the state's wildest areas.
That much was made clear this week with the announcement that Bill Haines Jr., who graduated from the school in 1975, won New Jersey's first-ever National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative's National Fire Bird Conservation Award.
The honor recognizes people who boost efforts to restore the habitat of bobwhite quails, according to a news release. In partnership with several entities, including the environmental advocacy group New Jersey Audubon, Haines groomed roughly 14,000 acres of land—the largest swath in the state, owned by his Pine Island Cranberry Company—to help the birds return and flourish.
“The work done at Pine Island Cranberry Company over the years through active forest stewardship, combined with their participation in the national Bobwhite Quail recovery initiative, could very well change the reintroduction effort in the Mid-Atlantic region for the species,” James Sloan, a state Division of Fish and Wildlife biologist and coordinator of the award, said.
As TAPinto New Brunswick reported last month, Haines teamed up with NJ Audubon to launch a three-year quail research project to restore the bobwhites to his Pinelands property in Chatsworth.
He and a forester and fellow Rutgers alumnus named Bob Williams cared for the land in a way that ultimately allowed NJ Audubon to reintroduce the quail, that story reported. Workers captured wild quail in Georgia and brought them to the Pine Barrens, collaring and tracking each one.
In 2015, the first known quail nesting in New Jersey since the 1980s occurred there.
To date, 240 wild quail have been released at Haines' site, according to the announcement. From there, the birds built 39 nests and spawned 116 confirmed chicks, also proving that the birds can over-winter here.
Scientists said the Pine Island Cranberry Company site was actively and thoughtfully managed, which helped make the reintroduction—and reproduction—of the quail a success.
“The actions that Bill Haines Jr. and the PICC have taken will continue to create and enhance high-quality habitat for the species in the years ahead,” John Parke, NJ Audubon stewardship project director, said.
NJ Audubon went on to congratulate Haines and his staff for the “well-deserved” award.
For their part, the Haines family is excited to play a role in bringing the Bobwhite back to the Garden State.
“We are honored to receive this recognition, but it is an even greater honor to participate in the project with partners like NJ Audubon, the University of Delaware, Tall Timbers and the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife,” Stefanie Haines, who works for Pine Island Cranberry, said on behalf of her father. “We are proud that our stewardship practices benefit not only our business and our home, but the wildlife which surrounds us as well.”