Europe has long supported wildlife passages across roads.
The Dutch have built more than 600 road tunnels and overpasses to protect native animals. Ontzagwekkend! (Awesome!)
Tools of CHANJ
Our statewide mapping tool and guidance document are nearly ready to share. We expect they will be available in early 2018, so please check back soon! Or e-mail us at CHANJ@dep.nj.gov and ask to be added to our e-mail list.
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.
CHANJ Is Coming
Connecting Habitat Across New Jersey (CHANJ) is an emerging statewide effort, launched in 2012 with the vision of making our landscape and roadways more permeable to wildlife movement. Toward that vision, CHANJ offers a blueprint for strategic habitat conservation, including:
A statewide analysis depicting areas crucial for habitat connectivity (which we call “cores” and “corridors”), and
A menu of implementation actions for securing, restoring, and/or reconnecting habitats within those key areas.
These products are intended to help land-use managers, conservationists, and transportation planners to work in a more proactive and collaborative way that reduces conflicts, saves time and money, and ultimately improves the long-term prospects for NJ’s terrestrial wildlife. These products may also be useful in pinpointing areas for wildlife habitat mitigation work.
Roughly 126 wildlife species (pdf,510kb) stand to benefit from the connected landscape envisioned by CHANJ.
CHANJ is guided by a Working Group of more than 100 natural resource managers, transportation planners, conservation professionals, and university researchers from over 40 different agencies. The combined expertise and commitment of all of these partners are needed to advance this effort at the local and statewide levels. We hope to add more and more partners as time goes on.
CHANJ has gleaned greatly from the ideas and experiences of other states, at least half of which have habitat connectivity projects of their own.