Tuesday, July 16, 2024

NJ Recognizes 50 Years Leading in Protecting Wildlife Diversity

Landmark Law and Dedication of Professionals Supported by Partners and Volunteers Crucial to Protecting Garden State’s Wildlife Diversity

PRESS RELEASE: TRENTON – New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJ DEP) Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette today joined with DEP staff and conservationists across the state to mark the 50th anniversary of the New Jersey Endangered and Nongame Species Conservation Act. This landmark legislation protects hundreds of wildlife species, including raptors such as bald eagles and ospreys, threatened shorebirds such as the piping plover and red knot, rare amphibians and reptiles such as the Eastern tiger salamander and timber rattlesnake, and even butterflies and freshwater mussels. ENSA

The Commissioner credited the law and the dedication of DEP professionals, partners and volunteers for preserving New Jersey’s wildlife diversity for future generations to enjoy.

“The New Jersey Endangered and Nongame Species Conservation Act was a milestone in the history of environmental protection, coming at a time when the environment was under siege from pollution, wanton use of pesticides and uncontrolled development,” said Commissioner LaTourette. “Without this law, many of the species that we enjoy today, from bald eagles to bobcats to bog turtles, might no longer be part of New Jersey’s landscape.”

“Today the challenges are in some ways more complex than 50 years ago, including threats from climate change, invasive species, illegal collection and roadway mortalities,” Commissioner LaTourette continued. “Our state is so much richer for all of the hard work by our staff, our support organizations and volunteers to preserve the Garden State’s wildlife diversity.”

Five Decades of Protection

Governor William T. Cahill signed the New Jersey Endangered and Nongame Species Conservation Act into law on Dec. 14, 1973, two weeks before President Richard M. Nixon signed the federal Endangered Species Act. The state law established NJDEP Fish & Wildlife’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program (ENSP), a small, highly dedicated team supported by hundreds of volunteers throughout the state.ENSA
ENSP’s mission is to actively conserve New Jersey’s biological diversity by maintaining and enhancing endangered, threatened and nongame wildlife populations within healthy ecosystems. Today, ENSP is responsible for the protection and management of more than 500 wildlife species, including 83 currently listed as threatened or endangered.ENSP uses the New Jersey State Wildlife Action Plan to prioritize species and management actions. The plan assesses the health of the state’s wildlife species and their habitats, identifies the problems they face and outlines the actions needed to conserve them over the long term. View a video of the exciting work done by ENSP.

“The history of our Endangered and Nongame Species Program has been full of success stories and, yes, some challenges and setbacks,” said NJDEP Fish & Wildlife Assistant Commissioner Dave Golden. “But what shines forth every day is the passion and tireless efforts of a group of dedicated professionals that cares deeply about the wildlife that the people of New Jersey have entrusted to their care. Key to our success is a commitment to science, planning, and strong lines of communication with the public and stakeholders.”ENSA

“We have many wildlife success stories – the recovery of ospreys to their historic population size; the return of the peregrine falcon statewide; and the remarkable rebound of bald eagles, to name a few,” said ENSP Chief Kathy Clark, who began her career with the program in 1984 as a wildlife technician. “These species would have been lost without the concerted efforts that resulted from the Endangered and Nongame Species Conservation Act. Work by conservationists from state and non-profit organizations, along with DEP Green Acres land acquisition, and land use regulations that protect habitat – all these fell into place because of New Jersey’s Endangered Species Act.”

“New Jersey has been a national leader in protecting and restoring nature for endangered and threatened species. The Nature Conservancy congratulates the Department of Environmental Protection on 50 years of actively implementing the New Jersey Endangered and Nongame Species Conservation Act,” said Dr. Barbara Brummer, The Nature Conservancy’s New Jersey State Director. “We have achieved so much thanks to this program, but there is a lot more work to do, requiring renewed capital and commitment. It is crucial that the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act – federal legislation providing dedicated funding for our state’s precious wildlife and natural resources – is passed to enable another 50 years of conservation successes.”ENSA
“New Jersey residents need only look to the sky – or explore the state’s remarkable raptor webcams – to witness the success of the Endangered and Nongame Species Conservation Act,” said Liz Silvernail, Executive Director of the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey. “The thriving eagle, osprey, and peregrine falcon populations exemplify the potential when dedicated scientists and volunteers work together with the public to safeguard listed species and their critical habitats. For over 25 years, the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey has collaborated in the field with the state’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program, alongside other partners, to ensure the preservation of our wildlife for future generations and that work is more critical than ever.”

“The NJ Endangered and Nongame Species Conservation Act enables ordinary citizens to play an important and personally rewarding role by helping to monitor and protect our threatened and endangered species,” said Barb McKee, who volunteers, along with her husband, to monitor populations of eagles, kestrels and ospreys in central New Jersey. “As a volunteer, it is an honor and a privilege to work with the dedicated biologists and other professionals who have devoted their careers to protecting our precious wildlife, and through my volunteer activities, I have had the opportunity to learn so much by observing the animals in their natural environments. This important legislation empowers us to make a real difference in the survival of the wild creatures with which we share our populous state.”

Endangered Species Achievements:

Successes made possible by the Act include:The bald eagle was nearly extirpated in New Jersey and was down to one active nesting pair in the early 1980s. As a result of a comprehensive restoration program and a ban on the pesticide DDT, they now number more than 250 nesting pairs. This is considered one of New Jersey’s greatest wildlife conservation success stories. At one time lost from the wild in all states east of the Mississippi River due to the pesticide DDT, the peregrine falcon is still considered endangered or threatened in many eastern states, but it has been restored to many natural cliffs and has adapted to the tallest urban buildings. Through reintroduction and careful management, New Jersey is now home to more than 40 pairs of these impressive birds of prey.ENSA

Growing up to eight inches long, the Eastern tiger salamander is the largest salamander in New Jersey, yet it is elusive and rarely seen. Historical distribution was across 10 counties. Today it is only found in parts of extreme southern New Jersey, and it has been lost from surrounding states. Conservation efforts focused on the vernal ponds they need for reproduction have slowed the decline in New Jersey, giving hope for this species.

White-nose syndrome is a fungus that decimated bat populations in eastern North America. In New Jersey, efforts to protect their populations include installing bat-friendly gates to protect hibernating bats from human disturbance during winter months; preserving land to safeguard important bat hibernacula and fall foraging habitat; improving communications with residents and nuisance wildlife control companies about proper handling of bats in buildings and using new techniques to study and monitor bats.

New Jersey provides important habitat for many species of beach-nesting birds, such as the piping plover, least tern, black skimmer and American oystercatcher. Threats include human use of the beach, storms, development, shoreline hardening, increasing coastal flooding, sea-level rise, and predation. ENSP staff and volunteers have been working for decades to monitor populations, manage and protect beaches where they nest, and coordinate with municipalities on beach management plans.

Connecting Habitat Across New Jersey, or CHANJ, is a unique program that works to address habitat fragmentation caused by roads and developments, one of the greatest threats to wildlife populations. It aims to reconnect habitats for wildlife. CHANJ provides an interactive mapping tool and a guidance document to prioritize land protection, inform habitat restoration and guide mitigation of road barrier effects on wildlife and their habitats. This project has led to the construction of tunnels to help wildlife pass safely between habitats, while many volunteers assist in helping species cross barriers that impede their natural movement.

Endangered and Nongame Species Resources

DEP’s wildlife conservation efforts are funded by donations received through the Wildlife Habitat Supporter Program, the New Jersey Endangered Wildlife Fund and sales of its popular Conserve Wildlife license plates. Additional funding comes from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Wildlife and Sportfish Restoration Program.

For more information about the New Jersey Endangered and Nongame Species Conservation Act, visit https://dep.nj.gov/njfw/conservation/endangered-species-conservation-act/.

Learn how you can help support New Jersey’s wildlife here: https://dep.nj.gov/njfw/conservation/how-you-can-help/

Learn about New Jersey’s endangered and nongame species and their management here: https://dep.nj.gov/njfw/wildlife/species-and-management/

Learn about the Connecting Habitat Across New Jersey Project (CHANJ) and other major endangered and nongame species programs here: https://dep.nj.gov/njfw/wildlife/major-programs/

Like NJDEP Fish & Wildlife’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/NewJerseyFishandWildlife

Follow NJDEP Fish & Wildlife on Instagram @newjerseyfishandwildlife

NJDEP Photos/From top: ENSP biologist Kathy Clark checks bald eagle nest in southern New Jersey, 2012; Caitlin DiMaria, seasonal field technician, releasing a piping plover after banding (By Jim Verhagen); Passaic County bobcat release, 2017; Seasonal wildlife technician Jesse Amesbury holds a piping plover chick after banding (By Jim Verhagen); Eastern tiger salamander.                                                                                 
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection is dedicated to protecting New Jersey’s environment and public health. The agency prioritizes addressing climate change, protecting New Jersey’s water, revitalizing its communities and managing and promoting its natural and historic resources.

For the most recent information, follow the DEP on Twitter @NewJerseyDEP, Facebook @newjerseydep, Instagram @nj.dep, and LinkedIn @newjerseydep, or visit www.nj.gov/dep.Follow Commissioner LaTourette on Twitter and Instagram @shawnlatur.  
Desiree Dunn
Desi L. Dunn, Writer
Managing Editor at Desiree L. Dunn, LLC

Born & educated in NY with an Environmental Science degree from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Desi's family resides in Hardwick with a young teen and several spoiled pets. Considering northwest Jersey to be a true gem, her commitment to the people and environs is exemplified by the many different jobs she's had - municipal & county official, election clerk, open space plan writer, newspaper & radio journalist, grant writer, events coordinator and farm market manager as well as retail, waitressing, archaeological digger and once for a short while in a very huge warehouse.

Her favorite was as a reporter for many years with the Recorder newspapers, Blairstown Press, Paulinskill Chronicle, Gannett publications plus WNTI Public Radio producing public affairs and human interest stories on-air.

She often has her camera ready to capture interesting people and events. She's thrilled to now serve as RVE's Managing Editor, helping fellow writers hone their skills and show you the issues as well as treasures that exist in North Warren, through their eyes.