Most rare species in New Jersey can be found on - and ultimately depend upon - privately-owned lands. Throughout our state many of these sensitive animals and habitat types are in serious decline. In recent decades, development and agriculture pressures have increased throughout the state, resulting in loss of the delicate open space and green land that makes New Jersey so beautiful.
Landowner Incentive Program (LIP)
Not only has our state's natural aesthetic changed irreparably, but loss of these habitats are the number one cause of declining populations for New Jersey's native flora and fauna. In fact, there are over 70 endangered and threatened wildlife species in New Jersey that need our help to protect them from extinction. Since much of the land in our state is privately owned we can protect our natural resources through active and thoughtful partnerships with willing landowners. The Landowner Incentive Program (LIP) is one such successful program that has managed and restored thousands of acres of vanishing habitat favored by some of New Jersey's rarest species. This is a competitive program where the projects that provide the highest potential for targeted species are funded.
Since 2005, the Division of Fish and Wildlife has administered LIP through its Nongame and Endangered Species Program (ENSP). Because of this program and the efforts of dedicated landowners and partners, LIP has protected and restored thousands of acres of unique habitat from the rolling farmlands of Hunterdon County to the precious wetlands of Cape May.
Over the years, LIP has worked with dozens of private landowners from around the state interested in conserving threatened and endangered species on their property. By providing financial and technical assistance, LIP established working partnerships with private landowners to protect and manage important habitats so our children and grandchildren could benefit from our conservation efforts. Through LIP, landowners work on a cost-share basis for the benefit of at risk species and had the satisfaction of being an active partner in working to protect New Jersey's rare and fragile wildlife.
Through LIP, a variety of wildlife habitats have been restored and managed to protect Federal and state-listed species. As participants in LIP, landowners were asked to actively manage their property by following established methods that benefit both wildlife and landowner alike. Some acreage in LIP restored fragile wetland habitat used by the Federal- and state-endangered bog turtle. Other restoration and management efforts provide woodland habitat for the state-endangered Indiana bat. But by far the most acreage enrolled in LIP is grasslands - a habitat type in serious decline in New Jersey and used by a variety of endangered and threatened birds, mammals, and insects.
Grassland projects typically require two steps to protect the ground nesting birds dependent on this habitat. The first step is to assess the site for restoration potential. If so, LIP participants planted native warm-season grasses, such as switchgrass, Indian grass, and big blue stem usually in prior cropland. These lush, native grasses provide a financial benefit to the landowner by reaping valuable hay in mid-summer while at the same time these grasses provided habitat favored by many of our more sensitive native bird species such as the bobolink, northern harrier, and grasshopper sparrow.
The second step is to protect the nesting birds so all grassland landowners are required to delay mowing of these warm season grasses until July 15, a date that benefited both wildlife and landowner alike. By mid-July most bird species have successfully fledged young from their nests and can avoid mowers that would otherwise destroy nests and young birds. At the same time these warm-season grasses have retained nutritional value where the landowner can still gain financial benefit at market.
Over the course of the program, LIP has been a resounding success. In 2005, the first year of the program, 13 individual landowners enrolled more than 1,000 acres to be actively managed. As a result of their dedication, 343 acres of these lands were planted with warm season grasses suitable for grassland wildlife. By 2009, 68 private landowners were participating in the program covering more than 4,565 acres. As a result 1,980 acres of warm-season grasses have been planted through LIP. (Click for a list of projects funded [pdf, 44kb] across the state.) Over the next few years, ENSP will continue to work with these landowners to manage and monitor these grassland restoration efforts. In addition, ENSP will make all remaining LIP funds available in a 2010 request for proposals.
ENSP's Landowner Incentive Program is just one example of how successful public-private partnership can be. Conserving New Jersey's natural heritage is an on-going struggle, and one that is not likely to end anytime soon. Active participation by private landowners and concerned citizens is one way to ensure our native wildlife and open spaces remain for future generations to enjoy.
Where the Funds Come From
The NJ Landowner Incentive Program grant funds were awarded to NJ by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Landowner Incentive Program grant. The federal grant program was a competitive grant program available to all states. The last year this grant was funded was 2007 and it is the remaining funds from this last award NJ is making available in 2010. To read New Jersey's latest successful grant proposal to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's LIP grant, click here (pdf, 690kb).
If you would like to learn more about the Landowner's Incentive Program contact:
MacKenzie Hall, Private Lands Biologist, North Jersey: 908-782-4614 x104 orFor maps of critical wildlife habitat in your area please refer to the Landscape Project Map or NJ-GEOWEB (www.nj.gov/dep/gis/newmapping.htm).
Managing Grasslands, Shrublands, and Young Forest Habitats for Wildlife: A Guide for the Northeast