Understanding Land Use Decisions in New Jersey
Role of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) in Project Review
- The Service reviews proposed projects only under certain circumstances, for example when:
- a Federal permit, license or other authorization is required (e.g., an Army Corps permit), Federal funding will be used in project implementation, and/or a Federal agency will carry out the project (pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, and sometimes the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act);
- a State freshwater wetland permit is required in a municipality that is known to support federally listed species (pursuant to NJDEP's Memorandum of Agreement with the Service);
- a State freshwater wetland permit is required and will involve Federal review (e.g., wetland fill over 5 acres, channelization of over 500 feet of stream) (pursuant to NJDEP's Memorandum of Agreement with EPA);
- an applicant/project proponent or authorizing/implementing government agency requests the Service’s input as technical assistance; or
- proposed activities may affect a federally listed species, National Wildlife Refuge, bald eagles, other migratory birds or fish, and/or are located in a unit of the Coastal Barrier Resources System (pursuant to, respectively, the the Endangered Species Act, the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration and Improvement Acts, the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, various laws dealing with inter-jurisdictional fish, and the Coastal Barrier Resources Act).
- The Service provides information and recommendations to ensure compliance with applicable Federal laws, and to conserve Federal trust resources including migratory birds and fish, federally listed species, and Federal lands such as National Wildlife Refuges.
- The Service requests that Federal action agencies, consultants, and others conduct pre-screening before submitting projects for our review under the Endangered Species Act; see our page on Consultation.
- The Service provides input or review of local/regional/State-wide natural resource and land use plans upon request and as possible within limits of staff time.
- For more information, see our Endangered Species and Conservation Planning Assistance pages.
Other Government Agencies Affecting Land Use in New Jersey
- Under the New Jersey Municipal Land Use Law (N.J.S.A. 40:55D-1 et seq.), municipalities have primary jurisdiction over land use decisions.
- Municipal officials are likely to consider environmental factors along with many others in encouraging, approving, or denying proposed development (e.g., conformance to current zoning and design standards; effects on traffic, taxes, and municipal services; economic growth).
- Relevant environmental factors may include the classification of a property under municipal, county, regional, and State master plans; presence of wetlands, floodplains, or endangered species; environmental contamination; steep slopes; importance of a property as a source of clean surface or groundwater; potential of a project to affect off-site flooding; and value of a property as open space.
- Citizen participation opportunities include elections; council, zoning board, planning board, and environmental commission meetings; and comment periods during the development and revision of municipal master plans.
Municipal and County Information
New Jersey League of Municipalities
Association of New Jersey's Planning Boards and Zoning Boards of Adjustment
Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions
NJ-GeoWeb (interactive mapping including wetlands, wildlife habitat, and rare plants)
- The New Jersey Division of Land Use Regulation has permitting authority over specific geographic areas dictated by State law including open waters, floodplains, wetlands, transition areas, waterfront areas, the Highlands Region, and the Coastal Zone. (Land use regulation in the Pinelands Area is administered by the Pinelands Commission.) In addition to State permits, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permits (and sometimes U.S. Coast Guard permits) are required for work in navigable, tidal, and inter-State waters and their associated wetlands, and for work in jurisdictional wetlands or open waters within the Hackensack Meadowlands District.
- These agencies make decisions to approve, conditionally approve, or deny permit applications based on conformance of a project to applicable sets of substantive and procedural regulations.
- Citizen participation opportunities include public meetings and comment periods, often announced via public notices.
New Jersey Division of Land Use Regulation
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Philadelphia District
U.S. Coast Guard Bridge Permits
Counties and Regional/State Planning Entities
- These entities influence municipal land use decisions through larger-scale policies and plans.
- Citizen participation opportunities include meeting attendance, comment periods, and county elections.
Municipal and County Information
New Jersey Association of Counties
New Jersey Meadowlands Commission
New Jersey Highlands Commission
New Jersey Pinelands Commission
Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission
New Jersey Coastal Management Program
New Jersey Office of Smart Growth
New Jersey Division of Watershed Management
Regional Plan Association
American Planning Association
- Transportaton Agencies influence municipal, regional, and State-wide land use decisions through planning and building expansions of road and mass-transit infrastructure.
- Citizen participation opportunities include public meetings and comment periods, often under the procedures of the National Environmental Policy Act and/or New Jersey Executive Order 215.
U.S. Department of Transportation
New Jersey Department of Transportation
New Jersey Transit
New Jersey Turnpike Authority (including the Garden State Parkway)
South Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (including the Atlantic City Expressway)
Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
Delaware River Port Authority
Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations
North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (Metropolitan Planning Organization)
Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (Metropolitan Planning Organization)
South Jersey Transportation Planning Organization (Metropolitan Planning Organization)
National Environmental Policy Act (President's Council on Environmental Quality)
New Jersey Executive Order 215
The New Jersey Audubon Society provides more detailed information about citizen participation in land use decisions in the New Jersey. As indicated in our disclaimer, links to external servers do not imply any official U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service endorsement of the opinions or ideas expressed therein, or guarantee the validity of the information provided.