Protection installed to save birds from invisible torch in Meadowlands

- The closed Kingsland Landfill sits on a hilly section of the Meadowlands with a direct line of sight to the Manhattan skyline.

"The Meadowlands is one of the most incredible places in the whole country," Bergen County Audubon Society President Don Torino said.

Torino knew of sightings of at least 280 species of birds in the Meadowlands, all seemingly enjoying what he called one of the great ecosystem reclamation success stories in the history of the world, while a nearby flare burned methane produced by bacteria consuming mountains of rotting underground trash.

"There's almost an invisible 20-foot flame that migratory birds and endangered birds and threatened birds like American Kestrels were flying through and getting torched," Torino said.

Torino and fellow birders first suspected this invisible torch might be roasting their feathered friends a few years ago. More recent pictures proved that theory and a plan to deter birds from this federally-required flame (methane is a dangerous greenhouse gas) soon took flight.

"This structure will appear to birds as a building," New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority spokesman Brian Aberback said.

Aberback, whose employer owns this piece of land, gazed up at the 65-foot skeleton of a bird-blocker, Wednesday afternoon, fencing in the unintentional wild-avian-roaster visible only by its ghostly ripples of heat emanating skyward.

Construction began on the shield last month designed with input from the Authority's staff naturalists and environmental scientists, the Audubon Society, Fish and Game and New Jersey DEP after a nationwide search for a similar existing structure found no model worth imitating.

The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority paid the electric company $65,000 for its poles and labor to erect the frame of the barrier. Its total cost will rise after workers complete installation of the chain link fence connecting the circle of wooden poles.

"The bald eagle has come back," Torino said, "the peregrine falcon, the osprey. Those birds are almost commonplace in the Meadowlands."

Torino, Aberback and others hope, when finished this September, the custom screen now under construction allows those raptors to continue to thrive in the Meadowlands, safe from the ecosystem's eternal torch of burning methane.

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