New Jersey Meadowlands

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Image:Meadowlands NJ late summer.jpg
New Jersey Meadowlands from Route 7
This article is about the wetlands. For the sports complex, see Meadowlands Sports Complex. For the Russian song, see Meadowland

New Jersey Meadowlands, also known as the Hackensack Meadowlands after the primary river flowing through it, is a general name for the large ecosystem of wetlands in northeast New Jersey in the United States. The Meadowlands are known for being the site of large landfills and decades of environmental abuse. The Meadowlands stretch mainly along the terminus of the Hackensack and Passaic Rivers as they flow into Newark Bay; tributaries of the Hackensack include Berrys Creek and Overpeck Creek. The Meadowlands consist of roughly 8,400 acres (34 km²) of open, undeveloped space in addition to the vast developed areas that previously were part of the natural wetlands.

Image:Meadowlands Lyndhurst.jpg
A marsh in Lyndhurst, New Jersey.

Before European settlement, the area consisted of several diverse eco-systems based on fresh-, brackish-, and saltwater environments. Large areas were covered by forests. Considered by residents of the area through the centuries as "wastelands," the Meadowlands were systematically subject to various kinds of human intervention. These can be categorized into four major categories<ref>The Meadowlands Before the Commission: Three Centuries of Human Use and Alteration of the Newark and Hackensack Meadows, accessed July 19, 2006</ref>:

  • Extraction of natural resources - such resources have included fish, game, etc. In addition, farmers harvested salt hay for feed. Over time, the resources were either depleted or contaminated by pollution.
  • Alteration of water flow - the rising of water is not good due to the fact that the waterfowl will have to move their nests to higher ground in order to protect their eggs
  • Reclamation, land making, and development - a significant portion of Newark and Elizabeth were built on land that has either been reclaimed, added, or drained from wetlands. In addition to landfill from garbage, landmass generated from dredging was also used to create new land.
  • Pollution by sewage, refuse, and hazardous waste - various types of waste have been dumped legally and illegally in the Meadowlands. During World War II, refuse generated by the military during the war was dumped in the Meadowlands, including rubble from London created by the Battle of Britain used as ballast in returning ships. After the war, the Meadowlands continued to be used for civilian waste disposal, as the marshes were seen simply as wastelands that were not good for anything else. The opening of the New Jersey Turnpike in January 1952 only amplified the continuing environmental decline of the Meadowlands, as both spurs of the Turnpike travel through the region from the Passaic River to just past North Bergen.

The state of the Meadowlands arguably hit an all-time low with the creation of the Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford, finished by September 1976 and originally containing the Meadowlands Racetrack and Giants Stadium. The construction of the Meadowlands Sports Complex inevitably increased vehicle traffic in the area as well as all forms of pollution associated with motor vehicles.

[edit] New Jersey Meadowlands Commission

Image:Lyndhurst 2.jpg
DeKorte Park in Lyndhurst in the meadowlands
Inevitably, the location of the New Jersey Meadowlands to the greater New York City metropolitan area and its outgrowth into New Jersey make conservation of the vast wetland a difficult proposition. In spite of this, the New Jersey Legislature, led by Richard W. DeKorte, created the Hackensack Meadowlands Development Commission (since renamed New Jersey Meadowlands Commission) in 1968 to attempt to address both economic and environmental issues concerning the wetland region. Even under grave environmental circumstances, the Meadowlands contain many species of fish, crustaceans, and mollusks and is considered to be an important bird habitat.

Congressman Steve Rothman has secured millions of dollars from Congress to protect and preserve the Meadowlands and establish organizations to research the unique animals and their interaction with the ecosystem. The ecosystem is a very fragile environment that waterfowl along with many other species of animals depend on to survive.

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New Jersey Meadowlands

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