The USFWS, within the Department of the Interior, is the federal agency responsible for the protection and management of federal trust resources which includes endangered or threatened species, migratory songbirds, waterfowl, eagles and other associated wildlife resources and their habitats. In this role, the agency manages federal wildlife refuges, conducts habitat restoration programs, monitors trade in wildlife species and coordinates with other federal agencies on issues that may affect federal endangered or nongame species and/or federal trust resources.
In New Jersey, the USFWS has an active role in the management of federal trust resources. This includes the operation of several National Wildlife Refuges, implementation of habitat enhancement and restoration efforts through their Partners for Wildlife Program and the provision of funding for endangered or threatened species status surveys and habitat protection. The USFWS also serves as a federal oversight consultant to the DLUR on regulated activities that may have impacts on federal trust resources, including the 23 federally listed species that occur in New Jersey’s forests, fields, wetlands, beaches and waterways.
From a land use perspective, the USFWS’s most prominent role is the protection of species listed as endangered or threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA). Under this law, the USFWS is empowered to regulate activities that may result in the “take” of species and also required that all federal agencies conduct their activities in a manner consistent with the intent of the ESA to protect listed species. As a result, DLUR will often coordinate with the USFWS when projects regulated under the Coastal Area Facility Review Act, the Waterfront Development Act or the Flood Hazard Protection Act have the potential to adversely affect a federally listed species and seek their guidance on how to minimize, avoid or mitigate such impacts.
Due to New Jersey’s assumption of the federal Clean Water Act’s wetland regulation authority, the USFWS plays a more formal role in the review of permit applications requested under the New Jersey Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act (FWPA). Under a Memorandum of Agreement between the USFWS, United States Environmental Protection Program and the NJ Department of Environmental Protection, any proposal to place fill in freshwater wetlands must obtain a USFWS sign-off as well as approval by DLUR. As a result, landowners proposing to place fill in a freshwater wetlands are encouraged to coordinate with the USFWS early in the permitting process to ensure that their activity will not adversely affect federal species like the bog turtle, Indiana bat or swamp pink. Such coordination may assist to minimize review time by identifying the need for season surveys or habitat assessments at an early stage in the review process.
Additional information on federally listed species and the protection they receive may be found at the UFWS Pleasantville Field Office’s website for additional information.