Three Organizations Join Forces to Benefit National Urban Wildlife Refuge and Surrounding Communities

June 22, 2015

The Nature Conservancy, in partnership with the National Park Service (NPS) and the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy (JBRPC), announced today the beginning of groundwork at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in Gateway National Recreation Area in Queens, New York, as part of a collaborative project to improve the ecological health of habitats, increase resiliency, and enhance visitor experience at the Refuge.

As part of this collaborative project, The Nature Conservancy and NPS will reduce invasive plants and restore native plant communities, including flood and salt-tolerant plants, to create better habitat for migratory birds and improve the site’s ability to recover from future floods.

“This project will have implications beyond Jamaica Bay by demonstrating how land management strategies on coastal parklands and natural areas can enhance their resilience to climate change,” said Emily Nobel Maxwell, Director of The Nature Conservancy’s New York City Program. “With more frequent flooding, sea level rise and severe storms predicted for New York City, this work has potential applications for the City’s 520 miles of coastline and beyond.”

“We must do everything possible to help make sure the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is better protected from invasive species and storm surges that pose serious threats to the habitat,” said U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer. “I am pleased that the National Park Service, The Nature Conservancy, and the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy are working together to help preserve the plants and animals that are native to this land. Overall, this collaborative project will create a healthier habitat that is both beautiful and a guard against flooding and storm surges.”

In addition to the native plant and coastal resiliency work, hundreds of volunteers will be engaged in re-planting the site, and others will join in monitoring butterflies and pollinators to track the project’s success.

"The JBRPC is proud to be working with The Nature Conservancy on this key restoration project that advances our goal to expand public access, increase recreational and educational opportunities, and preserve and restore natural areas, including wetland and wildlife habitat in Jamaica Bay,” said Tom Secunda, Chairman, Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy. “The technical expertise provided by The Nature Conservancy, working hand-in-hand with the National Park Service, will help ensure the long-term sustainability of the site."

The initial idea for this collaborative project began early last year, when a capital investment donation from the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy for a restoration project on federal land began a conversation between The Nature Conservancy and the National Park Service about the need for ecological restoration in the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.

“The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge provides a home to many of New York City’s animal and plant-life that deserve to live in a secure environment that is free of invasive species and resilient to future storm surge flooding,” said Council Member Donovan Richards. “With our continuously growing city, we need to ensure that our marshes and wildlife sanctuaries remain protected and maintained to mitigate the harmful effects on native species. I would like to thank Commissioner Laird from National Parks, the Nature Conservancy of New York and the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy for their dedicated work on this necessary restoration project.”

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, part of Gateway National Recreation Area in Queens, is a true urban gem. It’s home to an impressive array of birds—more than 330 species have been sighted—and other wildlife. The Refuge is accessible by public transportation and offers an essential connection to nature in New York City. Its location near JFK Airport and the Rockaways makes it a destination for New Yorkers and tourists alike, attracting more than 500,000 visitors each year. The Nature Conservancy and NPS will also create interpretive materials at the project site for visitors.

"As we head into the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, we can think of no better way to celebrate than through the restoration of this national treasure,” says Jen Nersesian, Superintendent of Gateway National Recreation Area. “Its impacts will undoubtedly have ripple effects -- from how the knowledge gained will contribute to urban ecological restoration more broadly, to the strength of the partnership between the National Park Service, The Nature Conservancy and the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy, and the potential that holds for the future of Jamaica Bay."

The Nature Conservancy and the National Park Service are optimistic that the site work will begin in Fall 2015 and continue through 2017. TNC and NPS will rely on volunteers to help plant over 20,000 native trees and shrubs at the site over the next several years. The baseline biological monitoring, including surveys of birds, soils, vegetation, and insects, will take place in spring and summer of 2015. Post-restoration monitoring will occur seasonally in the fall and spring, until at least 2017. NPS crews and volunteer stewards are anticipated to take on site maintenance after restoration crews conduct the initial invasive species removal. For more information about our work at Jamaica Bay, please visit