Salem County is located at the southwestern end of New Jersey with extensive frontage along the Lower Delaware River. It is 338 square miles in size and is one of the most rural counties remaining in the state, with over 28,000 acres of preserved high-quality agricultural land comprised of more than 2,000 farms.
Salem County is truly the garden spot of the Garden State.
It also boasts many historic small downtown communities with abundant patterned-brick, early Quaker architecture, rare wildlife habitats, scenic beauty, cultural and historic points of interest. Popular natural areas include Mannington and Supawna Meadows in the west and the Maurice River and Parvin State Park in the east. A 14,000 thousand acre forest known as Burden Hill rises like an island above the county’s agricultural underbelly and serves as headwaters for six regional river-systems: the Salem River, Alloways Creek, Maurice River, Oldmans Creek, Stow Creek, and the Cohansey River. These rivers drain to the Delaware River and Bay and are tidal in their downstream reaches.
Although the County leads the state in farmland preservation, it lags behind similarly rural counties in the amount of natural open space protected. With 42% of land area dedicated to agricultural uses, many of the County’s numerous waterways, which provide critical habitat for many shell and finfish species, as well as to an incredible array of avian wildlife, are impaired due to an overabundance of nutrients from non-point sources of stormwater pollution. Fecal coliform bacteria from both human and animal sources is also excessively high in many river segments and contributes to the almost routine closure of many oyster beds hugging the Delaware Bay shoreline on the New Jersey side.
In addition, the Maurice, Cohansey and Salem River Watersheds are part of state Watershed Management Area 17. According to the state Water Supply Master Plan, these watersheds, primarily located in both Salem and Cumberland Counties, are the most severely stressed in the state with respect to current and projected surface water depletion. Loss of freshwater inputs into these rivers severely threatens several economically significant shell and fin-fish fisheries. The worsening issue of overuse of ground and surface water supplies also has serious implications for the agricultural industry.
In 2007, the Littoral Society ran a successful campaign to defeat a proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter within the federally designated boundaries of Supawna Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in Pennsville Township. The 80-acre site has since been added to the Refuge with financial assistance from the Society. The Refuge supports the nearby Pea Patch Island Rookery, which is home to over 6,000 pairs of Colonial Wading Birds comprising nine different species. It is the largest rookery on the east coast north of Florida.
In addition to protecting and defending lands important to our federal refuges, the Society also works closely with state and non-profit land trust partners to identify and preserve areas important to safeguarding and enhancing water quality, aquatic resources and public access along the County’s many rivers and frontage along the Delaware River.