Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program in New Jersey

Introduction and General Description
The inception of the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program in New Jersey began in 1991 and has been growing at a steady pace ever since. In New Jersey the program has focused on restoring several types of habitats including wetlands, uplands, and riparian (streamside) areas. The Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program is successful in New Jersey because it is a pro-active, voluntary costshare program that builds on the strength and interest of committed individuals and organizations to accomplish shared conservation goals.

New Jersey Activities

  • Wetland restoration
  • Grassland restoration
  • Riparian fencing
  • Riparian planting
  • Bioengineering
  • Restoration of threatened and endangered species habitat
  • In-stream restoration
  • And other activities.

Habitats of Special Concern
Currently, we are focusing restoration of fish and wildlife habitat in the following regions: Delaware Bay, Pinelands, Highlands, Barnegat Bay, and within the watershed of the five National Wildlife Refuges located in New Jersey. In addition, the Partners Program has worked with other groups to clear invasive species from threatened bog turtle habitat and stabilized eroding streambanks to restore water quality in threatened swamp pink (an aquatic plant) habitat. The Program concentrates on constructing these projects through a wide variety of funding sources, with a typical cost of $5,000 to $10,000 per project.

Lost Habitats
New Jersey annually loses about 10,000 acres of rural land to development. Much of this "lost" land becomes piecemeal development (suburban sprawl). Many of the State’s natural resources have been greatly diminished or degraded as the landscape has changed to provide for agriculture and urban development. New Jersey has lost more than half of its wetlands, some 584,000 acres. In addition, numerous dams continue to block fish movement, miles of stream are channelized, and numerous wetlands remain grid ditched from former mosquito control activities. As these areas changed, so did the fish and wildlife populations that relied on them; leading to declines in waterfowl, grassland nesting birds, anadromous fish, and forest dependent species.

Conservation Strategies
The focus on wetlands is the result of the importance that these areas play in the lives of so many Federal trust resources, such as migratory birds and anadromous fish. Restoration in estuarine (brackish) wetlands is focused on eliminating invasive species such as common reed (Phragmites australis) and restoring tidal flows to disturbed wetlands. Restoration in freshwater wetlands focuses on restoring hydrology to formerly drained wetlands and restoring native plant diversity. For example, drainage tile is broken and small berms and ditch plugs are constructed to keep the water from draining off the site. In addition, wetland restoration can include planting a diverse array of beneficial wetland plants; creating micro-topography (little hills and swales); establishing groups of small seasonal wetlands; and, restoring important upland buffers adjacent to the wetland. The cost for this restoration averages about $850 per acre. Wetland restoration projects have focused in the Delaware Bay, Great Egg Harbor River, Mullica River, and the Upper Delaware River watersheds. The Delaware Bay beaches and marshes are critical to millions of shorebirds during spring and fall migration. The Barnegat Bay and adjacent Atlantic coast tributaries support most of the wintering Atlantic Brant on the Atlantic Coast. The Upper Delaware River Ridge and Valley Province provides important habitat for raptors and grassland nesting birds. In addition, New Jersey has five National Wildlife Refuges operating throughout these focus areas.

The decline of grassland nesting species such as bobolink and eastern meadowlark is directly correlated with the decline of grasslands in the Northeast. The Partners Program in New Jersey has lead the way by obtaining the first native grass seed drill (i.e., custom-built seed planter that can be pulled behind a tractor) to work on private lands in the State. The Partners Program now has two grass drills operating within the State to establish native warm-season grasslands. Other grassland management techniques include mowing, burning, planting both warm-season and cool-season grasses, and removing invasive species. The Partners Program also implements reforestation projects particularly in areas where forest areas have been fragmented by development or agriculture. Costs for this work averages about $400 per acre.

Streams and Riparian Areas
Streams and riparian (streamside) areas support fish, waterfowl, shellfish, amphibians and many other species comprising a diverse aquatic community. One restoration technique that is cost effective and valued by natural resource advocates, as well as farm groups and landowners, is streambank fencing. The Partners Program purchased equipment and provided labor to protect streams from grazing livestock. Along with sediment and nutrient reduction in the stream, excellent habitat is provide for both fish and wildlife. The landowner benefits from having a quality fence to use as part of a rest-rotation grazing system that allows the profitable yet wildlife friendly use of the land.

In addition, the Partners Program reestablishes riparian buffers through tree and shrub planting on farms. Many riparian areas of New Jersey are mowed grass to the river or stream edge. These wooded riparian buffers provide critical wildlife habitat and can drastically improve water quality through erosion control, nutrient retention, and cooler summer water temperatures, which is important in trout production waters. In-stream work concentrates on the concept of natural channel design that reduces sediment, improves fish and wildlife habitat and cost-effectively creates a stable stream. In addition, this type of restoration provides habitat and cover in streams for fish. Instream projects typically cost between $20 and $50 per linear foot of restored stream, depending on the restoration requirements.

Invasive Species
Common reed, while native in origin, is believed to have crossbred with a European genotype making it more invasive and aggressive. Common reed dominates many wetlands along the Delaware Bay and Atlantic Coast Bays. This invasive species forms dense uniform stands reducing fish and wildlife use of the wetlands and altering the water regime and nutrient exchange of estuarine wetlands. The Partners Program has worked with landowners to control this invasive species through limited herbicide application, burning, and hydrologic modifications to encourage tidal flooding of the salt marsh. The hydrologic modifications through the use of ditch plugs and open marsh water management are critical to discouraging the return of common reed and encouraging the reestablishment of beneficial salt marsh vegetation. The Partners Program has been successful at reducing the coverage of common reed and restoring fish and wildlife use of degraded salt marshes.

Purple loosestrife, a European wetland plant, has invaded many wetlands in northern New Jersey to the point of being the dominant plant in many wetlands. This plant out competes most native species, reducing the plant diversity and keeping native wetland plants that provide important food and cover for wildlife from proliferating. The Partners Program has worked with the New Jersey Department of Agriculture to release beetles that feed only on loosestrife, which stresses the plant and reduces its vigor so native plants can better compete. The Partners Program is also working with the New Jersey Endangered and Nongame Species Program to control purple loosestrife on private lands that provide habitat for the federally threatened bog turtle. Cost for invasive species projects have ranged from $200 to $1,000 per acre.

Outdoor Classrooms
The Partners Program has worked with schools, county parks, and municipal parks in New Jersey to restore wetlands, grasslands, and riparian areas that are used in conjunction with environmental educational programs. In addition, Partners staff frequently provide presentations and "hands on" restoration at these sites to teach about the biological values of these habitats. The Partners Program leverages funds with many other sources to implement these projects, which typically cost about $5,000 per project.

Farming for Wildlife and Profit
In addition to habitat restoration, the Partners Program also improves the effectiveness of the conservation provisions of the Department of Agriculture by providing the technical expertise needed to evaluate which projects are best suited for fish and wildlife, demonstrating as well as recommending management and restoration techniques and providing data that lets the Federal funds be used most effectively . This relationship combines the more extensive funding of the Department of Agriculture with the biological expertise of the Partners Program in order to benefit the public.

The Partners Program recognizes that agricultural lands are more valuable to wildlife than urban development and works with agricultural producers, the Natural Resource Conservation Service, and the State of New Jersey to keep farms both economically and biologically productive. The special expertise of Partners staff provides regular and important technical assistance to the USDA in the administration of the various USDA conservation programs.


  • 465 landowners have been visited by Partners staff
  • 158 landowners have had projects completed
  • 3,856 acres of wetland habitat restored
  • 339 acres of upland habitat restored
  • 12 miles of riparian habitat restored
  • 12 miles of stream opened for fish passage
  • 2 educational facilities have restored wildlife habitats and are used as outdoor classrooms

Future Needs

  • Restore or enhance 150,000 acres of salt marsh wetlands, primarily in the Delaware Bay and Atlantic Coast Bays to improve habitat for waterfowl, shorebirds and wading birds. Commercial fishing, sport fishing, bird watching and other uses that directly benefit from wetland restoration, generate $40 million annually in the Delaware Bay area.
  • Restore or enhance 10,000 acres of uplands through grassland restoration or reforestation particularly in the Cape May Peninsula, to provide critical stopover habitat to migrating birds.
  • Restore, protect, and enhance 2,000 miles of stream habitat, particularly in the Highlands Region to improve trout production waters.
  • Provide access to 1,000 miles of riverine habitat (areas along or within large rivers), for anadromous (migratory) fish along the Delaware and Atlantic Coast Bays by removing fish barriers or constructing fish ladders.
  • Improve federally listed species habitat in New Jersey, particularly for the federally threatened bog turtle and swamp pink (New Jersey has more than 70 percent of the known swamp pink sites).
  • Work with 100,000 private landowners across New Jersey to improve habitat on their property.

Contact Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program in New Jersey

Eric Schrading
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
927 North Main Street
Building D
Pleasantville, New Jersey  08232
Phone: 609 646-9310
Fax: 609 646-1456


Service Area

National Program

Office Locaters

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