Close-up of a monarch butterfly on a yellow plant.
Monarch Butterfly Monarch migration typically starts in late September and continues into October. © Trisha Seelman / TNC

Stories in New Jersey

2023 Year in Review

Dr. Barbara Brummer headshot.
Dr. Barbara Brummer State Director, The Nature Conservancy in New Jersey © TNC

From the Director

Dear Friends,

The thick orange haze of Canadian wildfire smoke that blanketed our towns and most of the northeastern United States earlier this year was a very tangible reminder that we live in a connected world where negative climate and biodiversity impacts in one place can reverberate in another part of the globe. Fortunately, that also holds true for positive conservation efforts! Our work in New Jersey to address climate and biodiversity challenges—funded by your generosity—is critical here, but also resonant well beyond state lines.

I am proud to share this report detailing the incredible accomplishments we have achieved in the last year and want to thank you on behalf of the entire Nature Conservancy team for catalyzing so much progress. Together, we are protecting and connecting land in New Jersey’s corner of the Appalachian Mountains, a continental stronghold of resilience. We are freeing New Jersey’s rivers from hazardous, antiquated dams, and sharing our learning in the US and Europe.

We are advocating and taking action to restore and maintain coastal salt marshes which protect people from accelerating sea level rise and are nurseries for numerous Atlantic Ocean species, we are infusing nature’s benefits into the landscape of New Jersey’s cities, and we are making TNC’s flagship preserves in New Jersey more accessible and welcoming to people from varied backgrounds.

Remember, your support made these advances for people and wildlife possible. I hope you will join us in celebrating the outcomes and committing to a future of meaningful conservation for our state and our planet.

Yours in conservation,

Dr. Barbara Brummer

A graphic map of New Jersey with call-out boxes displaying TNC projects with text descriptions..
Our Priorities A map of TNC programs and where we work in New Jersey.
Bobcat perched on a log in forested area.
New Jersey Bobcat With the largest home range in New Jersey, bobcats are an umbrella species—protecting land for them benefits a host of other wildlife. © Tyler Christensen


Bobcats Without Borders

Since 2014, when The Nature Conservancy launched efforts to protect Bobcat Alley, the region has taken on increasing importance. This corridor connecting the New Jersey Highlands to the Kittatinny Ridge is a key link in the 2,000-mile Appalachian Mountain range—one of TNC’s four global focal areas for resilience. TNC science shows that plant and animal species are shifting 11 miles northward and 36 feet upslope every decade in response to climate change, and the Appalachians provide an essential habitat refuge and migratory corridor to accommodate that movement.

Recognizing the magnitude of Bobcat Alley’s significance to biodiversity in eastern North America, TNC has reimagined the project’s scope, tripling its planned footprint to more than 96,000 acres. Our expanded vision includes intact forests in the Kittatinny Ridge and the Highlands, which connect respectively to Pennsylvania and the Hudson Valley into the Berkshires. Together with partners, we aim to protect 20,000 acres in Bobcat Alley by 2030!  

Animated gif showing migration routes in New Jersey Appalachians.
Migratory Flow in Bobcat Alley Migration corridors in New Jersey's Appalachians
Four people posing behind a large butterfly statue.
Monarch butterfly statue Designed by Brazilian artist Rubem Robierb, a monarch butterfly statue installed at New Jersey’s Garrett Family Preserve. © Lily Mullock/TNC


Monarch Mania

The Garrett Family Preserve was protected in part with funding from the estate of artist and nature lover James Garrett. TNC honors this legacy with permanent art easels, a poetry trail, and now a larger-than-life, interactive butterfly sculpture created especially for TNC by artist Rubem Robierb.

The gleaming orange statue, called Dream Machine Monarch, was unveiled this past year during a special event that brought together the artist, community and conservationists, with remarks from ABC-TV meteorologist Sam Champion and the local mayor. It celebrates the positive transformational power of nature while highlighting TNC’s work to support habitat for the endangered monarch butterfly and other pollinators at the site—and makes for a fun photo op, too! 

Aerial view of a flowing river surrounded by trees and grasses.
County Line Dam Removal The site of the former County Line Dam, where the river now flows freely. © TNC


Another One Bites the Dust

As of Fall 2022, one less impediment is blocking the Paulins Kill. The County Line Dam, a privately-owned structure on the border of Warren and Sussex counties that collected unhealthy sediment and kept migratory fish from reaching historic spawning grounds for 100 years, is no more. TNC led removal of the four-foot high, 230-foot-wide dam in concert with the supportive owner, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP). A relocation and recovery plan for sensitive freshwater mussels was included in the restoration plan, ensuring their full potential to recolonize in the river. Our monitoring is already showing improvements in water quality.

The final of four dam removals on the Paulins Kill is in our sights. Blairstown’s Paulina Dam is not only disconnecting the river, but is also classified by the State as a significant hazard, endangering people and property. This year, TNC updated the design for removal of the Paulina, gathered technical information, developed a mussel relocation plan and secured necessary permits. Removal is beginning in late November 2023, with completion projected for 2024.

Removal of the dams—the Columbia, County Line and Paulina—will reconnect a total of 45 miles of the mainstem Paulins Kill and tributaries! 

Underwater photo of a sandbar shark swimming in clear, blue waters.
Sand Tiger Shark Smooth dogfish, sandbar sharks and sand tiger sharks use New Jersey’s back bays as important nursery areas and rely on salt marsh habitat. © Shutterstock


Making a Mark for Sharks

With their toothy grins and glimmering fins, sharks are among the most charismatic—and important—marine wildlife species in New Jersey’s waters, and our 200,000 acres of coastal wetlands are critical for their survival. Smooth dogfish, sandbar sharks and sand tiger sharks use New Jersey’s back bays as important nursery areas, with their pups relying on the resource-rich salt marsh habitat to hide, feed and grow. These sharks benefit from healthy coastal habitats and in return play a vital role in marsh function and biodiversity balance, as well as being an important part of the food web in the Atlantic Ocean.  

With many of New Jersey’s salt marshes eroding and drowning due to accelerating sea level rise, boat wakes and hardened shorelines, the nurturing resources and conditions they provide to sustain sharks and so many other species are at risk. TNC is funding tagging, monitoring and other research through Monmouth University that will help us better understand the symbiotic relationship of coastal salt marshes and these three shark species, and to plan and implement regional conservation actions to help them survive for the future.

Close-up of hands tree planting.
Tree Planting Trees filter our air and water, absorb carbon dioxide to help mitigate climate change, and boost our mental health. © Mike Wilkinson

Greening Our Cities

Newark Tree Canopy Initiative

It is no coincidence that with a tree canopy cover of less than 14%, Newark has the second-worst urban heat island effect nationwide. Trees play a vital role in reducing urban heat, as well as improving air quality and helping to absorb stormwater—both of which are also major issues in Newark.

TNC is working with the City of Newark and New Jersey Institute of Technology on the Newark Tree Canopy Initiative. This project builds on our Newark Greenprint, an interactive mapping tool developed with the City and Rowan University to identify areas of the city most in need of greening. TNC worked with the Canopy Initiative team to secure an NJDEP Natural Climate Solutions grant to the City of Newark, which will support planting 331 trees across five neighborhoods with low canopy cover.

We also led an expanded team to submit a proposal to the USDA that would dramatically increase the number of trees planted, add permeable tree pits to absorb stormwater and incorporate a paid workforce development program, training Newark residents to plant and maintain the new trees. The larger initiative would support a long-term goal to increase Newark’s canopy cover to 25%.

We are currently working to determine the scope of the Tree Canopy Initiative. Most importantly, increasing shade, air quality and stormwater absorption will benefit current Newark residents and generations to come.

See the Full Report

  • 2023 Year in Review

    A look back at our successes throughout the state.