|Game Warden M. Loveless (seated) with Deputy Warden Michael Bobera, circa 1912|
The NJDEP Division of Fish and Wildlife is marking 125 years of conserving wildlife and providing recreational opportunities for future generations of hunters, anglers and wildlife enthusiasts. Throughout the year, the Division will highlight historical information and conservation success stories on its website and Facebook page. It will also mark the anniversary during its annual special events, beginning with the Pequest Open House this weekend, Saturday, April 1, and Sunday, April 2, in Oxford, Warren County. This free event features exhibits, fishing, a beginner archery range, wildlife artists, taxidermists, woodcarvers and a sportsmen’s flea market.
The Division of Fish and Wildlife, which today manages nearly 350,000 acres of wildlife management areas, is one of the oldest state wildlife management agencies in the nation. The division traces its beginning to March 8, 1892, with legislation calling for the appointments of three fish and game commissioners and a paid “game protector” for the “better protection of the fishing interests and of the game birds and game animals of this state, and for the better enforcement of the laws relating thereto.”
This structure evolved into the New Jersey Division of Fish and Game, which was integrated into the DEP when the agency was formed on the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970. In 1979, the agency became the Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife, and in 2000, the name was changed to the Division of Fish and Wildlife to encompass its mission of managing all wildlife.
“During this 125th anniversary, we rededicate ourselves to our mission of protecting, conserving and managing our wildlife resources for the benefit and enjoyment of many generations to come,” said Acting Division Director Larry Herrighty. “It is my sincere hope that residents and visitors take a few minutes to learn about our history, and all of the great work that we do and, most important, to take advantage of the many wildlife-related recreation opportunities that New Jersey has to offer.”
New Jersey has ecosystems that support an amazing diversity of wildlife: the wooded and rocky ridges of the Highlands, home to bears and bobcats; the vast pitch pine forests of the Pinelands that provide habitats for unique amphibians and reptiles; the coast’s beaches, dunes and salt marshes that teem with osprey, shorebirds and wading birds; the Delaware Bay region, boasting the state’s largest concentration of bald eagles; and Cape May, known worldwide for its hawk and butterfly migrations.
Today the division has a role in managing all wildlife species in New Jersey, including game animals; freshwater and marine fish; managing shellfish; birds, amphibians and reptiles; and endangered and nongame species. Division of Fish and Wildlife staff also educate the public about wildlife-related issues, and its conservation officers enforce the laws that protect wildlife.
The division’s many success stories and ongoing work includes:
- Preservation and management of 122 state wildlife management areas encompassing 349,000 acres for hunting, fishing and enjoyment of nature;
- An award-winning hunter education program that stresses safe and ethical hunting, and culminates in required attendance at a field session to demonstrate knowledge and skills;
- Special youth hunting and free fishing days to introduce novices to these activities;
- A comprehensive management and education program to maintain a healthy and sustainable population of black bears;
- The impressive restoration of bald eagles, ospreys and peregrine falcons once threatened with extirpation in the state because of past use of the pesticide DDT;
- Development and implementation of plans to assess the health of wildlife and their habitats, and to take actions to improve or stabilize potentially at-risk species;
- Efforts to restore and protect populations of endangered species, such as two shorebird species – the piping plover and the red knot;
- Ongoing implementation of the latest methodologies to track wildlife populations and identify their habitats;
- Partnering with leading universities on research projects to better inform decisions on conservation and recovery strategies;
- Management of freshwater fish stocking programs for popular game fish such as trout, muskellunge, channel catfish and walleye;
- Identification and protection of high-quality freshwater fish habitats;
- Management of recreationally and commercially important saltwater fish such as flounder, sea bass, striped bass and bluefish;
- Management of more than 720,000 acres of estuarine and ocean beds for the harvest of clams and oysters;
- The construction of boat ramps, launches and other public fishing access across the state;
- Annual events such as the Pequest Trout Hatchery Open House, the Governor’s Surf Fishing Tournament, the NJ WILD Outdoor Expo and Garden State Deer Classic;
- A successful Hooked On Fishing Not On Drugs program, a unique and nationally recognized program that encourages school-aged children to fish and appreciate the outdoors instead of turning to drugs, alcohol or tobacco;
- Construction of a network of artificial reefs to enhance saltwater fishing;
- Operation of the Hackettstown State Fish Hatchery, Pequest Trout Hatchery and Natural Resource Education Center, and the Rockport Pheasant Farm.
- The division provides scientific analyses and advice to various state councils and committees, including the New Jersey Fish and Game Council, the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council, the Shellfisheries Council, the Endangered and Nongame Species Advisory Committee, the Wildlife Rehabilitators Advisory Committee and the Waterfowl Stamp Advisory Committee.
“We can always count on the Division of Fish and Wildlife to provide us with the scientific data and other information we need to make sound decisions on behalf of everyone in the state,” said New Jersey Fish and Game Council Chairman David Burke. “I congratulate the Division of Fish and Wildlife on this milestone and look forward to continuing to work with the division toward our shared goal of conserving our fish and wildlife resources for all to enjoy.”
For information on the division, a history timeline, upcoming events, or to apply for a hunting or fishing license, and a link to the division’s Facebook page, visit: www.njfishandwildlife.com
The New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife Pocket Ranger mobile app guide to fishing, hunting and wildlife is available through Google Play and the iTunes Store.