The Cape May Peninsula harbors some of the most important real-estate for avian wildlife in North America. Its global importance to a wide variety of migratory birds is recognized by host of governmental and non-governmental organizations. The two major factors in the peninsula’s importance to migratory bird species and other wildlife is its strategic location along the Atlantic Flyway at the mouth of the Delaware Bay, as well as the myriad of exceptional habitats.
In May, when horseshoe crabs flock to Delaware Bay beaches by the thousands, the County's eastern shore is transformed into a moving mass of life as thousands of shorebirds including the red knot, ruddy turnstone and sanderling converge on area beaches to gorge on horseshoe crab eggs before continuing onto their nesting grounds in the Arctic Circle.
In the fall, the Peninsula becomes a migratory super-highway, as an incredible assortment of songbirds, raptors and woodcock funnel south to Cape May Point where various species concentrate in huge numbers as they await favorable wind conditions to make the 12-mile crossing over the Bay.
These natural spectacles make Cape May County the eco-tourism capital of New Jersey and it benefits greatly from it. According to a recent report by the Atlantic County Community College, from wildlife watching activities to kayaking along tidal creeks, eco-tourism generates over $522 million annually in Cape May County.
The Society's Role: Whether it was leading the 1979 effort to protect Stone Harbor Point for the Black Skimmer and other nesting shorebirds, or fighting in court for 17 years to protect the 78-acre Sewell Tract in Cape May City, the Society has a long history of defending and preserving the County’s most significant open spaces from inappropriate development. The County is a major New Jersey battle between the forces that want to replace dwindling farms and woodlands with more sprawling development and those who instead want to preserve such areas. Over the past decade, the County saw unprecedented growth and development that has impacted its rural character, water quality and critical habitat.
During this time, the Society also won many important battles, including passing legislation that placed a moratorium on harvesting horseshoe crabs for bait in New Jersey and defeating a number of major sand mining, asphalt and cement operations proposed within priority conservation areas established by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
As a result of our work, some of these lands are currently being pursued for conservation as open space. If successful, these projects could see hundreds of acres added to the Cape May National Wildlife Refuge, which has only acquired 11,800 acres of the 21,820 acres that congress envisioned was necessary to protect wetlands and wildlife resources of international importance.
In 2007, Defenders of Wildlife, a national non-profit environmental group designated the Cape May National Wildlife Refuge among America’s ten most endangered National Wildlife Refuges. To increase visibility of and attention to issues affecting the Refuge, including the need to more effectively advocate for federal funding to help complete its acquisition goals, the Society founded the Cape May Refuge Friends Groups in 2007. Today, this group is a new voice for the refuge and is completing projects that have languished for years due to lack of funding.