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Speakers at the sixth annual Acting Locally for a More Sustainable World Conference include, from left, Debra Kagan, Armando Cruz, Tobias Fox, Lana Mustafa and Dr. Douglas Tallamy (Photos courtesy of the Northeast Earth Coalition)

By DAVID WASMUTH
for Montclair Local

Curious about how to make your yard more inviting to butterflies and other pollinators? 

Ready for details about a bike- and pedestrian-friendly greenway connecting Montclair with Jersey City? 

Want to know about community garden and environmental justice projects led by local activists?

Would you like your yard to become part of a “Homegrown National Park”?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you will want to register for the sixth annual Acting Locally for a More Sustainable World Conference, organized by the Montclair-based Northeast Earth Coalition. I’m a board member of the group. Jose German-Gomez, who writes the Gardening for Life column, is its founder and CEO.

This year’s conference will be virtual, so you can sit back and view the presentations from the comfort of your home. The conference will run over three days, from today, Thursday, Feb. 11, through Saturday, Feb. 13.

The NEEC will have as a featured speaker on Saturday morning Douglas Tallamy, author of two national bestsellers, “Nature’s Best Hope” and “Bringing Nature Home.” Tallamy argues that isolated national parks and wildlife preserves are not sufficient to save declining populations of birds, insects and other wildlife. 

His solution is the “Homegrown National Park,” a project anyone with a yard or access to a public space can join by making simple changes in landscaping – less lawn and more native plants – to create conditions to support insects and the birds that depend on them for food. 

The result will be more space for threatened wildlife and vital links between isolated wildlife habitats. Tallamy will explain this concept and provide practical advice about creating beautiful gardens that also support wildlife.

On a related theme, Connecticut-based master wildlife conservationist Mary Ellen Lemay will kick off the conference on Thursday evening by discussing the work of the Northeast Pollinator Pathways Project, which seeks to create connected corridors for pollinators throughout our region. 

The Northeast Earth Coalition recently brought this project to New Jersey for the first time, and Lemay’s presentation will give pointers to local residents who would like to join in.

Friday evening will feature three local environmental and community activists, Tobias Fox, founder of Newark Science and Sustainability, Lana Mustafa, farm director of Montclair Community Farms, and Armando Cruz, founder of New Jersey Climate Save. They will share their experiences in creating local projects and movements to address issues of environmental justice.

Prior to Tallamy’s talk on Saturday morning, Debra Kagan, executive director of the New Jersey Bike and Walk Coalition, will lay out the plans for the long-anticipated Essex County Greenway, which now seems close to fruition. The Greenway will span the 10 miles from Montclair to Jersey City along the route of an abandoned railway. 

It will provide recreational opportunities for biking and walking, establish an inviting alternative to traffic-clogged drives between Montclair, Newark and Jersey City, provide easy access to green space for underserved communities along the route, and form a bird and pollinator corridor through one of the most densely populated regions of the country.

Following the presentations by the featured speakers on Friday evening and Saturday morning, activist groups from New Jersey, New York and Connecticut will offer presentations of the work they are doing to promote environmental justice and sustainability.

Tickets are available online at the Northeast Earth Coalition website, neearth.org/events. Visit the website for more conference information.

DAVID WASMUTH

In “What’s in Your Backyard,” Sanford Sorkin and David Wasmuth alternate writing about the birds and beasts you may see around your house. Wasmuth is a local environmentalist and amateur naturalist.

He is a Rutgers Environmental Steward and the founder of the Montclair Backyard Habitat Project. Seen a bird or animal you want to know more about? Write to us at culture@montclairlocal.news.