Mission: The Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization dedicated to the protection and preservation of New Jersey's endangered and threatened wildlife and the habitats they depend on. The Foundation was formed in 1998 to provide support for the Endangered and Nongame Species Program in New Jersey's Division of Fish and Wildlife. Today it continues this support by partnering with the Program on wildlife projects and carrying out education and outreach activities to advance the work the protection of the species of greatest conservation concern in New Jersey.The Foundation is staffed by biologists who work across the state on species as varied as indiana bat, piping plover and bog turtle. They work with private land owners to restore habitat and on public lands to protect important or critical areas. GIS staff map habitat needs of species across the state and develop models in an effort to better understand the more reclusive or hard to access species like bobcat and whale. The Foundation's Education and Outreach team works hard to promote threatened and endangered species in New Jersey and engage residents of the state in our volunteer Citizen Science network. Although New Jersey is considered a highly urban state, it does contain a vast and valuable natural diversity. New Jersey, because of its geographic location, represents the northern end of the range for some species and the southern end for others, thus creating a unique mix of species. Despite its small size, New Jersey is home to an array of habitat types ranging from highly productive coastal marshes and estuaries at its eastern end to mountains, ridges and valleys in the northwest. It is also an important site for those species that travel along the northeast flyway and provides stopover habitat and nutrition for birds that range from Chile to the Arctic. Of the many species of wildlife that are found in New Jersey, over 70 are listed as threatened or endangered either federally and/or by the state. Threatened or endangered species can be found across the entire state, from urban to wilderness settings, from wetlands to uplands and represent birds, mammals, fish and reptiles. These species are impacted by many human activities with the greatest threat coming from sprawling patterns of development that lead to fragmentation of habitat. Wildlife requires habitat extensive enough to successfully reproduce, connected enough to allow safe and easy travel and productive enough to meet nutritional needs of adults and young.
I have been involved with CWF of NJ for over 10 years, first as a volunteer and now as a board member. The work they do to protect endangered and threatened species in NJ and to educate the public and elected officials about them, is critically important. The foundation directly supports the efforts of the NJ Div. of Fish & Wildlife's Endangered and Nongame Species program. CWF has it own small staff of biologists, fund raisers and educators, that operate on a very high level on a shoe string budget.
The CWF website has been recently updated. More than a year in the making, the new site features an interactive Field Guide, Video Channel, Eagle and Peregrine Cams, a new Online Store, Wildlife Protection Stories, Resources for Educators and Students and much more.
One of the accomplishments of CWF that I am most proud to be associated with is our Species on the Edge Art & Essay contest. The contest is CWF’s flagship education program. Its purpose is to raise awareness for New Jersey’s endangered and threatened wildlife species among New Jersey fifth graders. Using art and writing as a focus, the contest encourages educators to teach about NJ’s endangered and threatened species across disciplines such as science, reading and writing, art, and technology. With guidance from their teachers, students write an essay detailing the needs of the species and the challenges to its future existence. They then create artwork depicting the species in its natural habitat.
A winner and a runner up are selected from each of New Jersey’s 21 counties. The winners become ambassadors for wildlife and their artwork and essay are used throughout the state to raise awareness about New Jersey’s endangered wildlife and their struggle for survival.
I was fortunate enough to attend the 2009 awards ceremony in Trenton and hand out the awards to the 21 winners. Meeting these future wildlife protection ambassadors and their teachers was a proud and rewarding moment for me.