Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’

The Complicated History of Our Marshes and an Update on Restoration Progress

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2023

by Caroline Abramowitz, CWF Biological Technician

When looking at the expansive mudflats along the marshes of the Delaware Bay, it is hard to imagine that the area was once densely vegetated and home to a variety of bird species. This spring, CWF began work on a new marsh restoration project funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and led by Ducks Unlimited and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). CWF was contracted to assist with biological monitoring at sites targeted for marsh restoration along New Jersey’s side of the Delaware Bay. Restoration efforts for our sites are being directed toward mudflats that exist due to significant physical alterations made to the marsh in the past. The story of how these mudflats came to be lies in the area’s history and roots in salt hay farming.

As early as 1675, settlers arriving on the Delaware Bay built dikes in salt marshes to protect land from saltwater inflow and create an environment more conducive to salt hay farming and development. One of the most important types of salt hay harvested along the Delaware Bay was Spartina patens, a crop that was widely used as bedding and feed for livestock due to its high nutritional value. By the mid-1800s, at least 14,000 acres of marsh were impounded in Salem County alone with comparable areas altered in both Cumberland and Cape May counties (Cook, 1870). Impoundments restricted tidal flow within the marsh, which stopped the natural process of marsh accretion in which sediment is consistently added to the marsh to increase its elevation. Additionally, drier conditions exposed marsh soil to too much air, resulting in the breakdown of soil and further loss of elevation.

Salt hay farming circa 1940’s.
Photo retrieved from”From Marsh to Farm: The Landscape Transformation of Coastal New Jersey,” by Kimberly R. Sebold.
Retrieved through https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/nj3/contents.htm
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JB MDL Military Conservation Partnership Award & CWF Projects

Thursday, August 17th, 2023

by Meaghan Lyon, Wildlife Biologist

Earlier this year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) awarded Joint Base McGuire, Fort Dix, and Lakehurst (JB MDL) with the Military Conservation Partnership Award for outstanding efforts to protect both State and Federally listed threatened and endangered species. The award recognizes significant natural resource management achievements by military installations, particularly the conservation of important wildlife and their habitats through cooperative work with USFWS and other partners. CWF has been a major partner on many projects at JB MDL spanning from grassland habitat restoration and monitoring, myotis bat surveys and tracking, and a full mammal inventory.

Over the past six years, long term efforts have been ongoing to expand and protect grassland habitat at the McGuire Airfield. So far, roughly 600 acres have been restored to native warm season grasses with another 100 acres to be completed by next spring. The planting of species like little bluestem, sideoats grama, and blue grama has helped to create grassland bird nesting habitat. Grassland bird surveys are conducted each summer to monitor success of species like upland sandpiper and bobolink.

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Reflecting on a Year of Growth for Seabeach Amaranth

Wednesday, August 16th, 2023

by Sherry Tirgrath, Wildlife Biologist

The population of seabeach amaranth (Amaranthus pumilus) in New Jersey has continued its upward trend for the 2023 season, marking another successful year of protecting the rare and vulnerable plant. Since 2019, CWF has partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – NJ Field Office (USFWS-NJFO) in monitoring and managing the state’s population of seabeach amaranth (SBA), a federally-threatened and state-endangered coastal plant. The number of SBA in the state fluctuates each year but suffered tremendously in the past due to coastal erosion, habitat loss, and disturbances from recreational use and municipal beach management. For 87 years, from 1913 until 2000, the species wasn’t seen in New Jersey. Plants have started rebounding on certain beaches in recent years, with numbers now in the thousands.

Seabeach amaranth beginning to bud
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It’s a Wrap! First Season of Delaware Bay American Oystercatcher Monitoring is a Success

Tuesday, August 15th, 2023

by Emmy Casper, Wildlife Biologist

This past winter, CWF announced a new project designed to study and monitor the population of American oystercatchers breeding along the New Jersey side of the Delaware Bay. In addition to locating nesting pairs and tracking their success, our goal is to better understand how oystercatchers utilize the bayshore habitats and what factors threaten their productivity. The data we gather with our partners at The Wetlands Institute and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will be used to inform future management decisions. We spent the past few months working hard to conduct the project’s first season of monitoring, and we are happy to say that we have made significant progress in beginning to unravel the mysteries surrounding this understudied population.

Delaware Bay American oystercatcher study area. Most oystercatcher pairs this season were concentrated in the bay beaches between Stipson Island and Heislerville WMA.

Since so little is known about this subpopulation of oystercatchers, we had a lot of ground to cover in our first season of fieldwork. First, we had to locate any breeding oystercatcher pairs across 35 sites spanning approximately 45 miles of bayshore from Cape May Point to Sea Breeze. Luckily, we had a head-start based on a preliminary census survey from 2021 that documented some already existing pairs as well as some sites with potentially suitable nesting habitat. We were also fortunate to have a dedicated seasonal technician assisting with the heavy workload. That said, figuring out how to access many of these sites was definitely a learning curve. We quickly discovered that many beaches were only reachable by boat or kayak and only during a narrow window of tide and wind conditions. Other sites were walkable, but only at peak low tides, which meant our surveys couldn’t take too long without risking becoming stranded by the rising tide.

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In the News: WHYY Article Highlights New Delaware Bay Marsh Restoration Project

Thursday, March 9th, 2023

by Emmy Casper, Wildlife Biologist

Over the winter, biologists from CWF, Ducks Unlimited, USFWS, and Partnership for the Delaware Estuary visited sites like this marsh in Dix Wildlife Management Area to assess their restoration potential and strategize monitoring plans.  

This spring, CWF will begin fieldwork for a new marsh restoration project along the Delaware Bay. The ambitious project, funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and co-led by Ducks Unlimited and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, aims to implement cost effective and low-tech marsh restoration techniques in New Jersey and Delaware salt marshes. Restoration plans will be designed to create, protect, and/or enhance habitat for multiple marsh-dependent species including black rails and saltmarsh sparrows. As a project partner, CWF will provide two seasons of biological monitoring assistance at the New Jersey sites. This week, WHYY published an article about the project, featuring representatives from CWF and other project partners. Click the link below to read the piece and learn more about some of the important work being done by the Delaware Bay!