Land Preservation & Stewardship

Land preservation and stewardship are critical to the future of our wildlife and the health of the natural environment in which we recreate and on which we depend for important services like clean water and air and to support our economies. Efforts now to preserve and steward New Jersey’s waterways, wildlife habitat, natural areas, farmland, forests, and parks enhance our quality of life and that of future generations.

  • Open Space Preservation
  • Forest Stewardship
  • Prescribed Fire
  • Southern Pine Beetle
  • Deer Management

Open Space Preservation

NJ Audubon champions the importance of open space preservation and stewardship throughout the State. As coordinator of the NJ Keep It Green Coalition (KIG), NJ Audubon is heavily engaged in efforts to ensure long-term funding for State preservation programs such as Green Acres, Blue Acres, Farmland Preservation, and Historic Preservation. KIG also seeks to ensure the stewardship of preserved lands and parks and that State parks remain open and accessible.

NJ Keep It Green led successful campaigns to pass statewide ballot measures in 2006, 2007 and 2009 generating $600 million for state open space, farmland and historic preservation programs, as well as dedicated annual funding for capital improvements to state parks and other public lands. With funds from the 2009 bond act now fully allocated and significant remaining needs, NJ Keep It Green has launched the Sustainable Funding Campaign to secure a stable source of funding for the preservation and stewardship of New Jersey's natural, recreational and historic treasures for generations to come. Visit the NJ Keep It Green website, "like" us on Facebook (NJ Keep It Green), and follow us on Twitter (@NJKeepItGreen) to learn more and get involved! Also, check out NJ Keep It Green's new Statement of Support and sign on today!

NJ Audubon also advocates for funding for open space preservation at the federal level by supporting the Land and Water Conservation Fund. LWCF is the nation’s leading land conservation program with funding derived from revenues generated from offshore leasing and development. Congress authorized the program to receive $900 million of those funds annually but actual appropriations have consistently fallen well short. The stateside component of LWCF leverages local and state matching investments in New Jersey that support the acquisition and development of state and local outdoor recreation areas and facilities. Hundreds of state and local parks across New Jersey have benefited from LWCF grants. LWCF is also the source from which other important conservation programs in NJ receive their funds (e.g. Highlands Conservation Act, Forest Legacy Program).

Resources: NJ Keep It Green website, Keep It Green Aug 2011 appropriations bills press statement, Keep It Green Blue Acres op-ed, Keep It Green Green Acres 50th Anniversary Report, How to Get Involved with Keep It Green, LWCF Coalition website

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Forest Stewardship

Healthy forests provide numerous benefits including diverse habitat for species, water protection, soil conservation, carbon sequestration, wood products, and much more. New Jersey’s forests are faced with many human-induced impacts. The introduction of exotic invasive plants, disease and insects, along with fire exclusion, fragmentation, and excessive deer populations have many forests struggling to support the natural processes that once occurred. Most of New Jersey’s forests are in the mid-successional stage of development, a stage when forests tend to have the least biological diversity and growth and vigor begin to slow. This translates into reduced natural resilience which is needed to combat the negative stressors that have become common ailments in our forests. Such a situation compels active and responsible management for a sustainable future.

NJ Audubon actively supports the New Jersey Healthy Forests Act (S1085) which establishes a program to ensure proper planning and implementation of active management of our state forested lands. In so doing, we are encouraging the kind of stewardship that we have been implementing on NJ Audubon managed lands to ensure healthy forested ecosystems and increased habitat for wildlife and threatened and endangered species. This work is so important that NJ Audubon has been the leader in supporting this conservation initiative for the past several years.

This legislation recognizes the need to nurture New Jersey's forests through active management. It also requires a third party certification process via the Forest Stewardship Council to ensure that projects are ecologically sound, sustainable, and that our forests are properly managed by requiring monitoring, public participation, and many other best management practices in the implementation of the program.

Many states throughout the country practice responsible forestry. In doing so, they are improving the overall health of forested ecosystems, diversifying the local economy, and creating quality job opportunities. In recent years, all of our adjoining states have realized the positive results from a proactive philosophy of managing their public lands. New Jersey has been a nationwide leader in preserving open space but we have lagged as stewards of that land. Now it is time to steward our lands as well. 

On June 25, 2012, S1085 successfully passed the Senate, 36-3. NJ Audubon continues to work with partner organizations and legislative leaders towards its passage in the Assembly.

Resources: NJ Audubon Stewardship in Action - Ecological Forestry, NJ Audubon Forest Health White Paper

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Prescribed Burn

Fire is a normal and necessary process in our forests and is one which provides both a valuable public safety purpose and an important ecological function. Fire has long been suppressed in New Jersey in a sometimes misguided effort to protect people and property and without considering the ecological consequences. Being too restrictive with controlled fire in New Jersey creates a dangerous situation by allowing for the buildup of excessive fuel loads and increasing the chances of wildfires. It also impedes fire from serving an important ecological role on which fire-adapted plants and wildlife depend.

Prescribed burn is a management technique applied by trained experts to fire dependent ecosystems to provide both an important form of natural disturbance and reduce fuel loads. It provides a safe way to maintain fire as a natural form of disturbance in our ecosystems. For a number of reasons, however, New Jersey has a restrictive approach to prescribed fire which means very little forest is burned, and the way it is burned does not reproduce the ecological effects of wildfires.

NJ Audubon is a longtime supporter and user of prescribed burns and has been working actively with partners and members of the Legislature to pass the Prescribed Burn Act (A329). This Act provides for a certification process for prescribed burn managers, a notification process for landowners, and a liability shield for prescribed burn managers and owners who are properly utilizing this valuable management tool.

On January 28, 2013, A329 successfully passed the Assembly unanimously. NJ Audubon continues to work with partner organizations and legislative leaders towards its passage in the Senate.

Resources: NJ Audubon Stewardship Issues - Right to Burn, NJ Audubon Stewardship in Action - Hovnanian Sanctuary

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Southern Pine Beetle

The southern pine beetle, one of the most destructive forest insect pests in the southeastern United States, appeared in New Jersey in 2001 and reached outbreak levels in 2010. As their name suggests, southern pine beetles depend on pine trees for food and carrying out their life cycle and kill them in the process. Decades of fire exclusion and a lack of management in the Pinelands has made the region particularly vulnerable to southern pine beetle attacks and of concern are the long-term, regional impacts associated with extensive tree mortality.

NJ Audubon is following this issue closely, providing testimony and information to state and federal representatives about the need to improve and provide new policy measures that enable control treatments and enhance opportunities for active stewardship.

Resources: NJDEP SPB homepage, NJ SPB factsheet

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Deer Management

The current white-tailed deer population in New Jersey far exceeds the ecological carrying capacity of the land to sustain biodiversity and allow for forest regeneration. The increasing suburbanization of New Jersey provides a highly fragmented environment. Deer thrive in fragmented landscapes containing high amounts of edge habitat. Plentiful food sources, along with open spaces where hunting access is limited or restricted, high deer birth rates, longer life spans, and a lack of natural control from native predators no longer prevalent in the region, suburban areas can experience exponential deer population growth. Elevated deer densities have devastating impacts on the understory of forests because deer prefer to forage on woody vegetation and herbaceous plants in the understory. Native wildflowers and herbs are among their favorites as are the buds and young shoots of woody shrubs and saplings. This can cause a severe problem for forest regeneration and structure.

NJ Audubon advocates for State policies to manage deer herds based on ecological integrity, including biodiversity conservation. NJ Audubon also works to make available informational materials and workshops to communities and landowners dealing with deer overabundance and to those interested in developing local deer management programs. This is in keeping with our mission to help restore natural ecosystem health and balance.

Resources: NJ Audubon Forest Health White Paper 

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