Watershed Management Area 8 (WMA08) consists of the Raritan River’s North Branch and South Branch and their tributaries. It includes large parts of Somerset, Hunterdon, and Morris counties. The South Branch’s land use is mostly agricultural, with suburban and industrial development on the increase. The North Branch’s land use is primarily rural, woodland, and agricultural, with scattered areas of commercial and residential. Intense development is concentrated along the major road corridors of Routes 24 and 206, and interstate highways 22, 287, and 78. Over the past twenty years, development has grown more diffuse and sprawling throughout the area. As for water quality, consistent with the overall trend of New Jersey, the decline in farm activity and rapid increase in suburban non-point sources contributes to excessive loading of nutrients and sediments to the waterway through stormwater runoff and seasonal flooding.
WMA08’s forests provide habitat for approximately 23 threatened and endangered species and 120 resident bird species. The forests also provide critical nesting habitat and migration corridors for migratory songbirds and other bird species. Wetlands, lakes, and streams provide habitat for endangered and threatened species, like the bog turtle and wood turtle. The region also supports large populations of small mammals, butterflies, moths, and dragonflies.
The Raritan Headwaters Association is a key organization of the region, providing services in science, water quality, education, advocacy, land preservation, and stewardship.