We're on TV! Wild Crossings from PBS' EcoSense for Living tells the story of three major habitat connectivity projects across the eastern U.S. CHANJ begins at 14:05.
Whether they’re small like a salamander or big and wide-roaming like a bear, 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 will not 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, all of which put the connectedness of our habitats and wildlife populations in jeopardy.
New Jersey at a Cross-roads
Right now, our state’s final landscape is being decided. Urbanized land is already the dominant land use type – covering more than 30% of the state – and NJ is on track to reach build-out by the middle of this century (Hasse & Lathrop 2010). With more development come more roads, and busier roads, further fragmenting the habitats we have left and making it increasingly difficult for wildlife to find the resources they need to survive and thrive.
Fortunately, NJ is also a recognized leader in preserving open spaces for recreation, agriculture, and nature. Nearly one-third of the state’s land mass is now in permanent preservation, thanks to steadfast public support and tremendous capital investments. In fact, NJ boasts a higher percentage of publicly-owned forest land than any other state east of the Mississippi (Widmann 2004). We must move quickly and purposefully to build on this strong foundation if we are to secure a legacy of healthy, connected ecosystems.
Time for CHANJ
Connecting Habitat Across New Jersey (CHANJ) is an effort to make our landscape and roadways more permeable for terrestrial wildlife by identifying key areas and actions needed to achieve habitat connectivity across the state. CHANJ offers two main products – statewide Mapping and a Guidance Document – to help prioritize land protection, inform habitat restoration and management, and guide mitigation of road barrier effects on wildlife and their habitats: