New Jersey’s wetlands, lakes, and streams are among the most important and environmentally valuable areas in our state. Yet, they are also some of the most threatened areas in New Jersey, owing to the constant pressures of development and sprawl. For example, since the pre-developed era, New Jersey has lost forty-five percent of its wetlands as of the last accounting3, 4. A the same time, streams have been filled or channelized, lakes have become polluted, and groundwater reserves have been depleted – all due to intensive human use and development.
There are a number of ways that community members and local governments can work together to protect their watershed (refer to Local Policy Tools for Protecting Freshwater Resources). But first, it is important to understand how these complex systems create value for communities, and how New Jersey’s legal system works to regulate their protection. Note that the benefits discussed below are in no way an exhaustive list; rather, they represent objective values can be quantified using standard economic models.