The Stewardship Subcommittee identified three strategic priority issues concerning stewardship along the Raritan that will encourage the protection and preservation of the area’s natural resources:
- Habitat and Biodiversity Protection
- Restoration, Rehabilitation, & Regeneration
- Property Maintenance and Management of Open Space
In order to provide habitat and biodiversity protection along the Raritan, the Subcommittee proposed the development of a regional planning process that contributes to: downstream water quality by preserving upstream land; determining habitat scale based on natural boundaries rather than on artificial municipal or county divisions; and supporting preservation decisions based on the regional importance of specific land parcels. A regional approach, as opposed to many small local approaches, will provide for more effective management and preservation efforts in the Raritan Basin.
The 3 R’s (restoration, rehabilitation, and regeneration) involve identifying ecologically beneficial reuses for currently degraded sites along the River. In order to rehabilitate specific sites, determinations about the level of rehabilitation needed and management practices must be coordinated, along with funding and project plans. Information from the State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP) and the American Water Resources Association (AWRA) has been utilized by the Subcommittee, and is valuable in determining appropriate rehabilitation efforts. The Subcommittee proposes a detailed list of tasks to promote restoration efforts, including: securing volunteers to verify the status of critical habitats, assembling a comprehensive habitat rehabilitation plan, developing rehabilitation evaluation criteria, and coordinating stewardship efforts with the Hudson-Raritan Estuary Comprehensive Restoration Plan.
In order to promote stewardship, it is imperative that we turn our attention to the question of managing and maintaining preserved and protected lands in New Jersey. The Subcommittee points out in their 2009 report that there is currently a lack of focus on maintaining already preserved habitats within the Raritan River Basin. In order to combat this issue, the Subcommittee proposed: requiring a site management and maintenance funding plan for Green Acres and open space funding reports, integrating best management practices (BMPs) in the State Wildlife Acton Plan with both protected and critical wildlife habitats, identifying opportunities for public-private partnerships, and developing model management and funding plans.
Steps taken towards restoring and protecting the natural resources of the Raritan Basin not only benefit the residents of the watershed, but also the State of New Jersey, and provide the country as a whole with urban models to emulate. With support from Rutgers University, environmental stewards, residents, and government officials throughout the watershed, critical habitats in the Raritan Basin can be preserved and rehabilitated to provide the highest ecological functions possible within this highly urbanized watershed.
Reports and Links
- White Paper: Stewardship of the Raritan River. 2009. Sustainable Raritan River Initiative, Rutgers University