Get Your Feet Wet in These New Jersey Habitat Conservation Efforts

The New Jersey Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership brings together 30+ partners from all backgrounds in the name of restoration
Nov 22, 2021 9:00 AM ET
Blog

Wetlands—as you may guess—are mostly covered by water. But they do so much more, providing some of the most biologically diverse ecosystems for thousands of organisms.

The New Jersey Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership (NJCWRP), which exists to ensure the aquatic habitats throughout the state are protected, has a partnership that is nearly as diverse at the wetlands it protects.

As a public-private initiative, the organizers behind the restoration partnership are experts at bringing together organizations to contribute to the mission: corporations, federal and state agencies, non-governmental organizations and academia.

The New Jersey chapter was started as part of the nationwide Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership, whose focus is preserving, restoring, enhancing and protecting aquatic habitats throughout the United States. The New Jersey chapter was created in 2003 as an affiliate of the Coastal America Program, a national initiative formed to reduce the loss of wetlands.

“The Coastal America Program started originally as an inter-agency program including all federal agencies with a wetlands focus working together to achieve national wetland goals,” says Russ Furnari, chair of NJCWRP.

“The added interaction of corporations created a foundation that allowed people to make more specific contributions to wetland restoration,” he adds. “New Jersey itself is extremely diverse in ecosystems, waterways and habitats, so we are able to find many partners with at least some basic common interest in preserving the area.”

Furnari was also recently chosen for a 2021 National Wetlands Award for Business Leadership through the Environmental Law Institute, recognizing excellence in wetlands protection, restoration, and education. He has been at the helm of the partnership since 2006.

Enbridge has provided funding for the Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership as a founding corporation since 2003, and has supported state chapters in the U.S. Northeast for the past decade.

In 2020, and again in 2021, Enbridge donated $5,000 to the New Jersey chapter as part of our commitment to sustainability—helping to meet North America’s growing energy needs in ways that are environmentally and socially responsible. The funding helps support a number of initiatives, including educational programming during National Wetlands Month in May.

Currently, the partnership is working on some watershed projects, dam removals and marsh restoration.

“This isn’t a one-time-and-then-it’s-over process,” says Furnari. “The partnership is now a sustainable entity that, through our dues structure, has raised money every year and made significant impacts on wetland and related aquatic habitat conservation.”

Although the COVID-19 pandemic had an impact on the number of projects NJCWRP could fund and complete, they are a shining example of collaboration. In fact, the partnership actually peaked in funds raised and showed remarkable turnout at meetings during the pandemic.

While Furnari humbly calls the partnerships’ funding role “not a large part of much larger projects” when compared to state and federal funding, the fees collected from their more than 30 company partnerships constitute a higher percentage of the funding for smaller projects—and help to enhance larger projects by providing elements like interpretive signage and education outreach.

The ongoing project map of NJCWRP is a particular highlight, and seeing proposed projects become reality gives Furnari and his team a reinforcing sense of purpose.

“Together, we are all focused on a common objective: restoration.”

(TOP PHOTO: One of the NJCWRP's recent projects, at Cox Hall Creek, involved restoration of tidal flow to a marsh in Cape May County.)