Audubon, Willistown Trust get $20,000 Toyota grant

To many people, "scrub" is just a junky landscape trying to become something else -- a forest. And the sooner the better.

But to birds and other wildlife, it's valuable habitat.

This month, the Valley Forge Audubon Society and several partners got a grant of $20,519 to raise awareness of the importance of this habitat, which includes woody shrubs, small trees, grasses and wildflowers.

The grant is from Toyota's Together Green program. Others involved in the local project are the Willistown Conservation Trust, Audubon Pennsylvania, The Achievement Project and the Charles A. Melton Arts and Education Center.

The grant will fund three demonstration projects -- at Ashbridge Preserve, Rushton Woods Preserve and Ridley Creek State Park. First, the invasive plants will be yanked or otherwise removed. Then, native shrubs will be planted, grasslands will be mowed (to make them more habitable for grasslands species) and deer fencing will be installed. 

Is it working? Bird surveys and banding will provide the data.

The point is to involve others through community engagement and education, and that will involve high school student volunteers from The Achievement Project of Chester, a nonprofit afterschool enrichment program. Another partner is the Melton Arts & Education Center of West Chester.

The local grant is among 41 nationwide, totaling $1 million. They involve more than 150 conservation, environmental justice and community organizations working collaboratively on habitat, water and energy conservation, according to a press release.

“By involving urban and suburban volunteers and landowners in the creation of this model and by actively promoting its importance and replicability though workshops, brochures, and self-guided tours, we hope to shift area residents’ suburban mentality to a mindset that allows them to see the natural and ecological beauty of early successional scrub habitat,” said Audubon Pennsylvania Important Bird Area Coordinator Brian Byrnes in the press release.