Animals need to be able to move through the landscape to find food, shelter, mates, and other resources. Without that ability to move, healthy populations simply cannot persist over the long term. Here in New Jersey, wildlife are up against steady urbanization, a dense network of roads, and now a changing climate, each putting the connectedness of habitats and wildlife populations in jeopardy.
We are literally at a "cross-roads" in determining how to maintain healthy ecosystems in our state. Fortunately, New Jersey is also a recognized leader in preserving open spaces for recreation, agriculture, and conservation. In order for those tremendous investments to have the greatest value to wildlife, land preservation and habitat restoration efforts must target the most important, intact wildlife habitats and must provide linkages between them. They must help to repair our fragmented landscape.
CHANJ Is Coming: Our Goals and Objectives
Connecting Habitat Across New Jersey (CHANJ) was formed in 2012 with the vision of making our landscape and roadways more permeable to wildlife movement. To do this, we must protect land within core wildlife habitats and the corridors between them. We must be effective in how and where we restore and manage habitats for the wildlife we're concerned about, including the habitats they need for dispersal. And we must address the impacts of roads on wildlife and their habitats.
CHANJ is guided by a Working Group of natural resource managers, transportation planners, conservation professionals, and university researchers with the combined interest and expertise needed to advance such an effort at the local and state levels. We have gleaned greatly from the ideas and experiences of other U.S. states, at least half of which have habitat connectivity projects of their own.
|Toward those goals, CHANJ offers a blueprint for strategic habitat conservation that includes:
- A statewide analysis depicting areas crucial for habitat connectivity; and
- A menu of implementation actions for securing, restoring, and/or reconnecting the habitats within each important area.
These products are intended to help land-use, conservation, and transportation planners to operate in a more proactive and collaborative way that reduces conflicts, saves time and money, and ultimately improves the prospects for sustaining New Jersey's terrestrial wildlife over the long term. These products may also be useful in pinpointing areas for wildlife habitat mitigation work.
Biologist Brian Zarate holds a salamander egg mass while discussing an amphibian road-crossing project in Sussex Co.
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