Camp Moshava hosted the last day of restoration work on the Moshava Serpentine Barrens, a rare ecosystem on the camp’s property, on Sunday.
Serpentine barrens are an endangered type of savannah grassland that are especially rare on the East Coast. A 2015 survey concluded that this particular land contained 11 species that are rare and endangered in Maryland.
Moshava’s barrens are the first on the East Coast to undergo restoration. These preservation efforts first began in 1988 following the purchase of the current campsite. The ecosystem, which is also contained at the Soldiers Delight Natural Environment Area in Owings Mills and Reisterstown, is unique because it is fire dependent. Many plants do not grow there and those that do are particularly adapted to the harsh environment, as their DNA has evolved over time to deal with the conditions.
“For the first step in the restoration, we had to remove a tree called the Eastern red cedar,” said Sandy Laden, project manager of the clean-up effort. “We’ve taken down probably over 200 of them. It is an invasive tree that is not fire resistant and threatens to overgrow the barrens.”
Sunday was the last of a number of work days during which older campers, alumni and parents from the community have come out to help remove the cedars. Representatives from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, which partnered with Moshava to plan the restoration, came out with chainsaws, and volunteers worked to drag the felled trees into the surrounding woods.
“This work needs to be done during the late fall, winter and early spring to avoid the growing season and avoid disturbing the endangered plants,” said Laden. “For years, campers have admired the beauty and fragile nature of the barrens, and education about them is organically incorporated into the camp’s programming. It has also been used as a vehicle to teach the importance of protest to effect social change, when the campers last year spontaneously organized a demonstration to support the restoration. The bottom line is that they serve as a reminder of the fragile nature of the earth and the importance of biodiversity — concepts that are all intertwined with Jewish values.”
The next step in the restoration is to carry out a prescribed burn on the barrens. Moshava is currently looking for grants to fund that part of the restoration, which is expected to cost between $10,000 and $12,000.