2020 Year in Review
From the Director
Dear Fans of Conservation,
How our world has changed! The pandemic has brought radical changes to our lives – but it has not diminished The Nature Conservancy in New Jersey’s commitment to protecting nature nor my gratitude for all of you who stand with us. Ensuring the safety and respect of our colleagues and partners, pushing for equal access to nature, building communities where both nature and people thrive – this IS the real work of conservation.
Thanks to you, we are celebrating the successful completion of the Campaign for The Real Nature of New Jersey! In this report, you will see how our work during the last year took us over the finish line: we exceeded the majority of our ambitious 2015-2020 conservation objectives and surpassed our $80 million fundraising goal.
Some of our proudest accomplishments include: the largest dam removal to date in New Jersey; 38 coastal communities engaged in using nature-based solutions to address erosion, flooding and sea level rise; and protection of 5,989 acres to conserve critical wildlife habitat and freshwater resources. Conservation at a pace and scale greater than we have ever done before. You made all this happen!
Looking forward, the need to protect our lands and waters, strengthen the resilience of our coastline, green our cities, and tackle climate change has never been greater. I am counting on you to remain steadfast in your commitment to protect nature as we work towards our new five-year conservation goals. And I know that together we can do great things – just look at what we have been able to accomplish. Thank you!
Yours in conservation,
Dr. Barbara Brummer
5,000-Acre Protection Goal Surpassed!
The New Jersey chapter is thrilled to report that we recently exceeded our ambitious goal to protect 5,000 acres across the state. Using the power of partnership, we helped protect 37 different properties totaling 5,989 acres in New Jersey’s most iconic landscapes: Bobcat Alley, the Highlands, the Sourlands, the Pine Barrens, and the Cape May Peninsula.
Highlight: Award-winning Conservation Blueprint
As the nation’s most densely populated state, New Jersey has a critical need to balance land protection with intelligent growth. With that in mind, since 2015, The Nature Conservancy partnered with 21 government and nonprofit organizations to create the New Jersey Conservation Blueprint, an online, interactive mapping tool that provides the most up-to-date environmental and cultural resource data needed to prioritize land protection.
We have reached several exciting milestones toward our goal to restore the health of the entire Paulins Kill watershed: completing the largest dam removal in New Jersey history, exceeding our ambitious tree-planting goal, and designing a restoration plan for the degraded headwaters of this key Delaware River tributary.
Highlight: Transforming the Paulins Kill Watershed
When The Nature Conservancy planted our first tree in the Paulins Kill watershed in 2012, most state residents, even those working in conservation, were unfamiliar with this area of northwestern New Jersey. Our work in the watershed began with one local partner: the Wallkill River Watershed Management Group. Eight years later, both the watershed and conservation community are thriving. We have planted more than 57,000 trees throughout the watershed, restoring over 140 acres of floodplain.
TNC led a coalition of over 29 partners, including the NJ Division of Fish & Wildlife, NJ Office of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and Warren County, to complete the largest dam removal in New Jersey history. Removing the Columbia Dam at the juncture of the Paulins Kill and the Delaware River has transformed the lower third of the Paulins Kill, and removal of the Paulina and County Line dams upstream, both of which are now underway, will open a total of 45 miles of mainstem river and tributaries.
With the growing urgency to create resilient coastal communities able to adapt to sea level rise and other impacts of climate change, the Chapter doubled down on efforts to incentivize the use of nature-based solutions by towns up and down New Jersey’s coasts.
Highlight: Saving Salt Marshes
New Jersey’s iconic coastal salt marshes –those expanses of tall grasses between the mainland and barrier islands –are incredibly hard-working. Salt marshes provide critical food and habitat for wildlife, filter stormwater, reduce wave energy and storm surge, and even sequester carbon. But many of these marsh areas arelosing the battle with sea level rise, and some are quite literally drowning.
Since 2014, The Nature Conservancy and partners have been piloting an innovative technique that builds up the elevation of marshes with mud and sand dredged from nearby boat channels. The key question for our three demonstration sites: would the marsh grasses recover and provide thriving habitat longer into the future? The good news: Avalon and Fortescue marshgrasses have returned to baselineand are continuing to grow. Birds, turtles and other marsh dwellers are making good use of the restored habitat.