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Thursday, October 26, 2023


TRENTON – As climate change continues to adversely affect wetlands across the globe, New Jersey must continue to advance efforts at restoring and enhancing these critical ecosystems, Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette said today to mark the 20th anniversary of the New Jersey Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership (NJCWRP).

For two decades, this affiliation of corporations, businesses, NGOs and government agencies has worked to preserve and enhance wetland and stream habitats across New Jersey, with projects ranging from removing a dam to restoring fish passage along the Paulins Kill in North Jersey to a project creating habitat in Salem County for the endangered bog turtle.

“The New Jersey Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership has been steadfastly and quietly at work helping to preserve the ecosystems that provide tremendous richness and wildlife diversity to the Garden State,” Commissioner LaTourette said during the partnership’s meeting today at DEP headquarters. “Their work and other efforts such as this have taken on an even higher level of urgency in the face of climate change. Ironically, the wetlands and forest ecosystems that hold some of the greatest potential for mitigating climate change are among those that are at the greatest risk from its effects.”

With the assistance of Coastal America, a partnership of federal agencies, the NJCWRP was formed in 2003 and has expanded greatly since its inception. The NJCWRP has received numerous environmental awards for the projects that it has supported, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Champion Award and the Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award.

“The NJCWRP’s collaboration is a stellar example of how public-private partnerships can be impactful,” said Kati Angarone, DEP Assistant Commissioner for Watershed & Land Management. “The fact that they have a model that has been successful for 20 years should be a call to action for other groups looking to collectively act to reduce impacts from climate change.”

The NJCWRP is unique not only in its collaborative approach to solving the problems facing New Jersey's valuable water resources, but also in its ability to apply dollars to projects that improve the health of coastlines, rivers and waterways.

“We’re proud that NJCWRP is viewed by our government partners as a model for the nation in its approach to preserving, enhancing and protecting New Jersey’s wetlands and aquatic habitats,” said NJCWRP Chair Rob Pollock.

Long protected by state and federal laws, wetlands are an extremely valuable natural resource that provide essential benefits for people, animals and the environment. Wetlands purify water by filtering out harmful pollutants, and they protect against flooding by soaking up water during storms.

Along the coast, wetlands help prevent erosion. Additionally, they are excellent at storing carbon because their wet soils are low in oxygen, which slows decomposition and allows organic material to build up. Therefore, they are instrumental in combating the effects of climate change.

However, wetlands are vulnerable to inundation from sea-level rise and to erosion from storms, as well as other climate change-induced threats. According to the 2020 New Jersey Scientific Report on Climate Change, New Jersey supports a remarkable diversity of freshwater, brackish and saltwater wetlands. But these wetlands are vulnerable to the effects of climate change that will impact the functions and ecosystem services they provide.

For example: Some New Jersey tidal wetlands may not gain elevation at a rate that equals the rate of sea-level rise and thus, some are expected to be lost to increased rates of sea-level rise.

Increased flooding and salinity are projected to lead to a loss of 92% of brackish marshes, 32% of tidal swamps, and 6% of tidal fresh marshes in the Delaware Estuary by 2100.

Temperature increases and species migration are expected to result in a decrease of plant species diversity in tidal wetlands.

Atlantic white cedar, a globally rare species, is expected to continue to lose habitat in New Jersey because of rising sea level. Historic land use practices, such as ditching and construction of dikes, make New Jersey wetlands particularly vulnerable to sea-level rise.

NJCWRP brings together 34 companies, four business associations, 19 NGOs, academia and 12 government agencies to promote and contribute funds to support crucial projects that protect, enhance and restore important aquatic habitats and water quality in New Jersey.

Since its inception, the NJCWRP has received more than $1.6 million in contributions and pledges of in-kind services from its company members and NGOs. These donations have resulted in 59 projects totaling more than $21.6 million that have aided in the preservation, restoration, enhancement and protection of more than 1,000 acres of important aquatic habitats and 70 stream miles. The partnership also focuses work on enhancing public education.

Among the projects the partnership has worked on:

  • The Scotch Bonnet Island Marsh Elevation Enhancement project, in Stone Harbor, Cape May County will beneficially use clean dredged material to stabilize a failing marsh platform and reverse marsh acreage loss.
  • The Forested Wetland Floodplain Restoration, in Woodbridge, Middlesex County, will enhance wetland function and integrity through the restoration of a native forested wetland as well as improved stormwater retention.
  • The Salem County Bog Turtle (Phase 3) will improve freshwater wetlands and associated uplands to enhance habitat for bog turtles, a federally threatened and state endangered species.
  • The Upper Wallkill River Watershed Riparian Restoration and Floodplain Reforestation Corridor Initiative, in Sparta Township, Sussex County has restored resilience and function to a degraded section of the Wallkill River, while educating a new generation of students to engage in protecting the local environment.
  • The Expansion of the Floating Treatment Wetland Program for the Paulins Kill Lakes Initiative, in Fairview and Bass Lakes, Sussex County, has established a floating treatment wetland pilot program at youth outdoor educational camps to combat nonpoint source pollutant loading and deter harmful algal bloom development within Fairview Lake of Stillwater Township and Bass Lake of Hardwick Township in Warren County.
  • The Cadwalader Park Ecological restoration project in Trenton, Mercer County, restored the structure and function of a degraded site to improve water quality entering the Delaware River and increase biodiversity.

“Groups such as the NJCWRP have and will continue to play an important role in ensuring the survival of our wetlands,” said NJDEP Fish & Wildlife Assistant Commissioner Dave Golden.

“These public and private partnerships are necessary for our state to continue to be a leader in wetland restoration strategies. This work has been critical to ensuring that the plants and animals that depend on these sensitive ecosystems remain part of New Jersey’s landscape for future generations to enjoy.”