Since its creation in 2013, Ducks Unlimiteds Southeast New Jersey Coastal Initiative has set into motion massive conservation efforts for coastal wetland habitat in Delaware Bayshore and the Atlantic Coast of New Jersey.

Numerous conservation organizations have partnered to attract $3 million in North American Wetland Conservation Act grants with matching funds of $10,477,949. The combined $13.5-million investment will protect, restore or enhance 9,385 acres of Atlantic Flyway habitat.

The initiative provides protection for a variety of declining wetland habitat types, which aid the life cycle requirements for American black ducks, green-winged teal, mallards and Atlantic population Canada geese, among other migratory waterfowl, said Jim Feage, Ducks Unlimited Regional Biologist in New Jersey.

Several projects have already improved waterfowl habitat and recreational access.

At Tuckahoe Wildlife Management Area, new infrastructure has enhanced 941 acres of habitat. This gives habitat managers the tools to control water levels, which encourages healthy vegetation for migrating waterfowl and other wetland-dependent species of waterfowl. See a video about work at Tuckahoe.

In 2017, Ducks Unlimited helped acquire two new properties. A 107-acre tract in Cumberland County adjacent to Dix Management Area will be acquired with the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife.

In addition, Ducks Unlimited helped acquire a 477-acre tract of land that will become part of the Cape May National Wildlife Refuge. Situated within two miles of the Delaware Bay shoreline, this achievement links more than 11,500 acres of previously existing U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Wildlife Refuge land.

Brian Braudis, Cape May National Wildlife Refuge manager, said connecting those lands will benefit hunters, hikers and birders.

Were really focused on public access and public use opportunities, he said. This was private land prior, and it was heavily restricted. That was the appeal with this land, as a way to bridge our pieces together.

Ducks Unlimited and partners are committed to growing the program, and have applied for a fourth NAWCA grant to continue conserving this important area.