New Jersey's Atlantic Coast is a major rest stop for waterfowl on the Atlantic Flyway. The state's wetlands are a critical connection between breeding grounds in Canada and wintering grounds further south.

Since 2013, the Ducks Unlimited Southeast New Jersey Coastal program has protected, restored and enhanced this habitat for geese, ducks and other shorebirds. And 2017 is shaping up to be a big year for conservation efforts.

Enhancement work began this summer at Tuckahoe Wildlife Management Area in southern New Jersey. The 941-acre project has plenty of benefits for waterfowl. But the enhancement has advantages for residents, too. Much of New Jersey is heavily urbanized. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, it's the most densely populated state with nearly 1,200 people living per square mile.

"Being coastal, this project has benefits for marsh migration but also flood control," said Jim Feaga, Ducks Unlimited's regional biologist in New Jersey. "It's also a well-visited wildlife management area, and this work will provide habitat to attract a lot of waterfowl for hunters and shorebirds for bird watchers."

The enhancement project follows a land protection effort at Tuckahoe in 2016, when Ducks Unlimited helped the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection acquire a 125-acre tract in Atlantic County adjacent to the wildlife management area.

Land protection continues throughout New Jersey. Ducks Unlimited helped acquire a 107-acre tract in Cumberland County adjacent to Dix Management Area with the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife. And a 474-acre tract in Cape May County will be acquired with the help of several partners and added to Cape May National Wildlife Refuge by end of 2017.

Ducks Unlimited remains committed to New Jersey and the Atlantic Flyway and has submitted a North American Wetlands Conservation Act proposal to continue the Southeast New Jersey Coastal program. If approved this year, the grant will permanently protect another 1,772 acres.