New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the country, has one of the densest networks of roads, and has faced steady urbanization over the past several decades. These realities make it increasingly difficult for wildlife to safely move through the landscape to find the resources they need to survive and thrive. Climate change will only exacerbate our fragmentation problems, thus the ability for wildlife to move and adapt has never been more crucial.
Recognizing these threats, the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife formed a multi-partner, multi-disciplinary working group to develop a statewide habitat connectivity plan, called Connecting Habitat Across New Jersey (CHANJ). CHANJ is an effort to make our landscape and roadways more permeable for terrestrial wildlife by identifying key areas and actions needed to achieve habitat connectivity across the state. CHANJ, newly released this spring, offers two main products - statewide Mapping and a Guidance Document.
The CHANJ Mapping gives land managers, transportation planners, conservation groups, and the public a way to visualize New Jersey's habitat connectivity puzzle and their place within it, to catalyze actions and inform planning efforts. Fundamentally, the Mapping highlights our state's remaining core terrestrial wildlife habitats and the corridors connecting them. The Mapping also identifies road segments that intersect habitats and are likely to pose barriers to wildlife movement.
In addition to the fundamental mapping product: CHANJ Mapping, there are several other mapping tools provided to help inform decision-making, including habitat Stepping Stones, Action Regions for organizing collaborative efforts, Terrestrial Wildlife Habitat Preserved Lands, North Atlantic Aquatic Connectivity Collaborative (NAACC) Road-Stream Crossing Assessments, and a Road/Wildlife Mitigation Database of projects constructed or in progress across the state.
The Mapping is available for download, and via an online CHANJ Web Viewer, which allows users to interact with the CHANJ mapping tools and resources. CHANJ-mapped features are interactively linked to relevant sections of the Guidance Document, which provide ideas, contacts, and specifications related to habitat protection, habitat restoration and management, and mitigation of road barrier effects. The Guidance Document also provides more information about the mapping tools and resources, connectivity assessments that describe the current state of connectedness across New Jersey and will serve as the basis for evaluating landscape connectivity trends over time, and an explanation of CHANJ Action Teams that have been organized as a way of bringing implementers together to advance connectivity across New Jersey.
The actions we take now will determine what New Jersey's final landscape looks like and how much room is left for wildlife to roam. CHANJ offers a strategy to make sure those actions consider habitat connectivity.