2021 Year in Review
From the Director
The Nature Conservancy in New Jersey has made great progress despite challenges posed by COVID-19. I hope you enjoy reading about the conservation achievements that your generous support made possible. You helped protect land in Bobcat Alley that is critical to the Appalachian natural highway, strengthen the resilience of salt marshes along our shoreline, and much, much more!
During the last year, the chapter developed a clear framework to guide our work over the next five years. Two major factors influenced this framework. First, the entire Nature Conservancy committed to addressing the two greatest threats to the environment: the biodiversity and climate crises. We gave much thought to how all of us here in New Jersey can make the greatest impact on tackling these serious challenges.
The second factor was our increased understanding of the history of the environmental movement and how it serves to support established dominant groups. Enduring conservation success depends on the active involvement of people and partners whose lives and livelihoods are linked to the lands and waters we seek to conserve. We recognize that our prior work has not always been equitable or truly inclusive, and we have committed to change and to achieving more equitable outcomes. Moving forward, nature will remain at the heart of our work, and equity will be essential to how we operate.
One of the wonderful things about nature is that it typically provides multiple benefits. We certainly see that in our work in New Jersey. For example, the trees we planted along the Paulins Kill improve fish habitat by providing shade and lowering water temperatures; their roots filter water draining into the river and the Delaware, a source of drinking water for 17 million people; and the trees sequester more and more carbon as they grow.
I am very excited about the foundation we built this year, and I see great conservation progress in the years ahead! Friends, I am grateful to have you standing with us as we work to protect the lands and waters we all depend upon. Thank you!
Yours in conservation,
Dr. Barbara Brummer
Bobcat Alley and the Appalachian Connection
In response to the effects of climate change, wildlife migration patterns are shifting farther north and to higher elevations; therefore, protecting the Appalachian region, a vast, nearly unbroken chain of forested mountains, valleys, wetlands and rivers stretching from Alabama to the Canadian Maritimes, is a top priority for the entire Nature Conservancy. Bobcat Alley, a corridor of protected lands linking the New Jersey Highlands to the Appalachian Mountains, is a small but mighty component of this landscape.
TNC has been working to build Bobcat Alley since 2014, and we have added several more pieces to the puzzle over the last year. Most recently, we partnered with the Land Conservancy of New Jersey to expand their Yards Creek Preserve in Blairstown. Along with other partners including Ridge and Valley Conservancy, Warren County, Open Space Institute, the State of New Jersey, and Frelinghuysen Township, we have protected 1,483 acres in Bobcat Alley to date. That’s 42% of our goal of 3,500 newly protected acres. It’s also a big step toward protecting biodiversity by ensuring a healthy and resilient migration route, not just for bobcats, but for all the species who call the Appalachians home.
Statewide Dam Removal Partnership
As our infrastructure ages and climate change produces more frequent and intense storms, dam removal is an important strategy to ensure healthy rivers and community safety. The Statewide Dam Removal Partnership, led by TNC, provides the resources needed to make dam removal a widely used method of river restoration across New Jersey. Sharing expertise, finding new funding sources, influencing public opinion, and streamlining the regulatory process are all in a day’s work for this coalition of experts representing federal, state, and nonprofit organizations.
In 2020, the Partnership had to replace their in-person meetings with virtual Zoom gatherings. Despite this shift – or possibly because of it – meeting attendance exceeded all expectations! The information sessions have become an important resource for dam safety stakeholders. The six sessions averaged 70 attendees each and prompted seven communities to reach out to the Partnership for consultation on the potential removal of local dams. The Partnership also continues to enhance the njdams.org website for dam owners and the general public.
Soaring Ahead with Oyster Restoration
During a challenging year, TNC was able to help both oyster farmers and reef restoration sites through the Supporting Oyster Aquaculture and Restoration (SOAR) project. With restaurants either closed or takeout-only for months when the COVID-19 pandemic began, demand for oysters plummeted.
TNC partnered with Pew Charitable Trusts, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help oyster farmers by purchasing their unsold bivalves and placing them on reef restoration sites throughout the Mid-Atlantic and New England states and Washington state. The program purchased more than five million oysters from 100 shellfish companies to bolster 20 restoration sites.
In New Jersey, we worked closely with the state to sign up farmers, coordinate with approved sites, follow strict standards to accept, count, and “plant” oysters, and disburse payments – all while following COVID-19 protocols. SOAR purchased more than 615,000 oysters from 24 farmers across New Jersey, which have been deployed at four reef restoration locations.