Page 8 - July 21, 2021
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{ 8 }  SNJ Today  |  JULY 21, 2021                                                                                                                                                                                                                               JULY 21, 2021  |   { 9 }
              THE GREAT OUTDOORS

     Light at End of the Tunnel

     Connecting habitats in an increasingly urbanized landscape will protect animals
     and maintain biodiversity for the enjoyment of this and future generations.

      NATURE AROUND US                                                     J. Morton Galetto, CU Maurice River

            ew Jersey is the most densely   the broad categories of natural resource
            populated state in the nation.   managers, transportation planners,
     NNonetheless over one-third of our   conservationists, and researchers.
     land is preserved—1.5 million acres—by   New Jersey utilizes five Landscape
     local governments, land trusts, Green   Regions to develop its Wildlife Action Plan.
     Acres, NJ Wildlife Management Areas,   These are primarily based on physiographic
     state parks, Farmland Preservation, and   areas within the state—Skylands, Piedmont
     the like. Citizens have always placed a   Plains, Delaware Bay, Atlantic Coastal, and
     priority on preservation, consistently   Pinelands. A huge number of overlay maps
     voting for open space funding.       show a vast diversity of information—forest
        This undeveloped space provides a lot   types, wetland types, endangered species,
     of habitat for wildlife to utilize, but the   common species, vernal ponds, streams,
     fragmentation created by urbanization   rivers, lakes, roads, urbanization… you
     and roads presents problems because   name it; if it is a habitat type it’s mapped.
     animals need to move through the       The CHANJ project used several of
     landscape for the basics—food, shelter,   these mapping layers to define “core
     mates, genetic diversity, and resources.   habitats,” which are patches of primarily
     Animals often need various kinds of   natural land areas. Then biologists and
     habitats at different life stages or seasons.   geographic information system specialists
     Their forage needs can change during the   (GIS) studied adjacent habitat with
     year as well. Moving from one habitat to   potential for wildlife movement between   Trail camera image captures black bear
     another while passing through unsuitable   “core habitats.” Each connection or   traversing culvert under a roadway, safer for
                                                                               both the bear and motorists.
     areas presents challenges and perils.   corridor is rated in its potential for wildlife   INSET ABOVE: Entrance for a turtle passage
        New Jersey has instituted an initiative   passage on a scale of 1–5, one being the   system beneath a roadway.
     to provide greater connectivity called   easiest to traverse and five being more   RIGHT: CHANJ documents include drawings
     Connecting Habitat Across New Jersey   difficult. This allows wildlife managers   of engineering that can be implemented
     or simply CHANJ, pronounced “change.”   opportunities to identify connections and to   under roadways; this one shows how a
     We are clearly not the only state that’s   select priority CHANJ projects.  culvert can be widened and a dry path
     conceived that a “change” needs to be   CHANJ makes use of two major      provided next to a stream.
     made to our landscapes in order to help   components, mapping and a guidance                                  including New Jersey, have been working
     terrestrial animals move along safe   document. The map shows the connective   Mortality is most obviously caused   in a regional partnership called North
     corridors. At least half of our nation’s states   opportunities and the guidance document   by vehicular/animal collisions, but some   Atlantic Aquatic Connectivity Collaborative
     have connectivity plans that try to create   offers management practices that can   animals die as a result of the barriers   or NAACC, collecting data to assess road-
     safe corridors for animals to move within   be implemented on site to help animals   used to prevent them from crossing roads   stream crossings and rate their suitability
     and from one “core habitat” to another.   navigate more safely. The CHANJ map is   Although fences can keep animals off the   for safe passage. Each is graded on a scale
        To accomplish safe corridors, protected   not a secret document; in fact people are   road, they can also have the reverse effect   from no barrier, to significant barrier, to
     space can be connected by adding to   encouraged to study these layers of maps   of forcing them to remain on the road   no crossing. Many sites still need to be
     preserved lands. CHANJ focuses on    for opportunities to help support safe   side of that obstruction. Animals are often   surveyed and data accumulated. In 2019
     safeguarding or improving habitats and   passage. The teams of people who can make   attracted to resources like food, spilled   about 269 of an estimated 9,128, or three
     achieving safer road crossings. It provides   a difference are as a diverse as the habitats.   grain, or heat from basking on blacktop.   percent, had been inventoried and scored
     insight into what spaces should be     Roadways present the most challeng-  Some, like red tail hawks, use roadside   for aquatic and terrestrial passability.
     prioritized for protection. NJ DEP Division   ing crossing. Maybe you have seen “guide-  habitat to hunt, while others, like deer   These data are included in the CHANJ
     of Fish and Wildlife is the organization   books” identifying road kill, but the dark-  and rabbits, use it for browsing. In any   mapping along with the ratings. The
     leading the effort, but partners are a must to   humored theme is seated in reality. On U.S.   event when animals cross roads there are   CHANJ Guidance Document cites as an
     accomplish improved habitat connectivity.   roadways millions of animals are killed each   endless perils for them.   example a culvert where stream edges
        CHANJ’s success relies on lots of   year. In New Jersey many deer accidents   Culverts under the road are an excellent   lap its sides. This can be widened to offer
     expertise and cooperation. The people   are not only fatal to deer but extremely dan-  example of how safe passageways can be   dry passage along with water passage.
     involved in the initiative normally fall into   gerous for drivers.       created under roadways. Thirteen states,   Municipal, county, and state road designers
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