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Living with the Future in Mind
Goals and Indicators for New Jersey's Quality of Life
First Annual Update to the Sustainable State Project Report 2000

Indicator 30


Additional  Natural and Ecological Integrity  Indicators

31 - Nesting Water Birds

32 - River Health

33 - Marine Water Quality

Freshwater Wetland Impacts

The acres of freshwater wetlands permitted to be disturbed and required to be mitigated each year: Little recent change

  Things to think about 

Although our drinking water has remained relatively clean, the amount of work necessary to make it clean has increased over the years as nature’s services of cleaning the water have declined with the loss of wetlands and other ecosystems.

In addition to freshwater wetlands, New Jersey is also home to over 200,000 acres of coastal wetlands.

Importance

Wetlands or bogs and marshes – including the Great Swamp and the Meadowlands around Giants Stadium – are a particularly critical ecosystem. They filter water, protect us from floods, and provide habitat for a wide range of species. They are incubators supplying our sport and commercial fisheries. They are way stations for migrating birds. According to estimates, we have lost 20 to 39 percent of our freshwater wetlands since colonial times. Fortunately, with the passage of the State’s Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act, the rate of freshwater wetland losses has been significantly reduced over the past 12 years. On average, we now permit development of fewer than 175 acres of freshwater wetlands each year, from the approximately 700,000 acres of freshwater wetlands remaining in our state. Currently, mitigation is required to offset many authorized wetlands disturbances. On average, 84 acres of mitigation is required per year. Mitigation may include restoration and enhancement of existing wetlands, creation of new wetlands, purchases of credits in a mitigation bank, or contribution to the State’s Wetlands Mitigation Fund.

Economic

Wetlands act as natural filters for our ground water supply, reducing the need for expensive investments in water purification. Wetlands also mitigate floods by absorbing water and releasing it slowly, which reduces costs that we might otherwise pay for insurance and clean-up. As habitat for a rich variety of wildlife, wetlands attract tourists and bird watchers to our growing "eco-tourism" industry.

Environmental

Wetlands support a high density and diversity of native and migratory animal, plant, and insect species. Many oceanic species rely on wetlands for some portion of their lives. Wetlands are one of the state’s largest repositories of biological capital. Wetlands are also among the habitats most sensitive to disturbance.

Social

Wetlands enhance our quality of life by contributing to our recreational opportunities. Hunting, fishing, and bird watching are activities dependent upon clean water and habitat. Birds and other species that rely on wetlands for habitat enhance our daily relationship with the natural environment.

Knowledge Gaps

These data are based on permits to legally alter and fill in freshwater wetlands. Some wetlands are filled illegally while others slated for development with permits remain untouched. Many legally disturbed or filled wetlands are replaced with mitigated or man-made wetlands. Over time, mitigation is expected to produce additional functioning wetlands. Studies are underway to assess the success and viability of mitigated wetlands. There is a need for better ways to measure the net changes in wetlands acreage, the quality of existing wetlands, and the impacts of development near wetlands.

Data Source: NJ Department of Environmental Protection

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Copyright © State of New Jersey, 1996-2006
Department of Environmental Protection
P. O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Modified: May 1, 2007

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