Protecting lands in LightHawk’s strategic conservation work in the Delaware River Watershed.

LightHawk partnered with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) New Jersey in support of a project that is ten years in the making. TNC New Jersey, in collaboration with a number of other organizations (American Littoral Society, NJDEP Green Acres Program, Ducks Unlimited, US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Open Space Institute) and with partial funding from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Green Acres program, was hoping to purchase 477 acres from a private landowner in an effort to expand the existing Cape May National Wildlife Refuge. The private owners of the property were evaluating for development purposes before they were approached by the conservation groups back in 2005.

Credit: The Nature Conservancy

In August of 2017, Michael Scullion of TNC and photographer Jim Wright of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission flew with LightHawk pilot Geoff Nye over this area. They hoped to document changes along the coast of New Jersey to convey the importance of conserving lands, especially along coastal areas, to allow salt marshes to migrate as sea levels rise

The Cape May NWR addition circled in blue. Photo: Jim Wright.

This was the largest privately-owned property remaining on the Cape May Peninsula, and is one of North America’s most important migratory stopovers and world-renowned ecotourism destinations for birding and outdoor recreation. The area houses diverse wildlife that depend on the lands and waters of the refuge, which is visited by 317 bird species, 42 mammal species, 55 reptile and amphibian species, and large variety of marine life. This property also contains several salt marshes and tidal creeks that are both vitally important for the health of the Delaware River. Salt marshes are some of the most important habitats on earth. They provide valuable feeding, nesting and resting locations for birds, sea turtles and fish; they also protect communities from storm surge and store carbon to reduce impacts of greenhouse gas in our atmosphere. The tidal creeks drain directly into the Delaware Bay, and will ensure that there is space for the tidal marshes, which rim the Delaware Bay, to move inland – which will happen when sea levels rise. So should the sea levels force these marshes to migrate, there is now a flow pattern intact as these tidal connections are now preserved through this land acquisition.

Key Outcomes

Philadelphia Inquirer covers the good news on February 7, 2018.

The Cape May County Herald spreads the word about the new NWR parcel on February 8, 2018.

Lead support is provided by the William Penn Foundation

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