Lester G. MacNamara (Tuckahoe) Wildlife Management Area
Ecology and ManagementLester G. MacNamara Wildlife Management Area (WMA) is a state-owned refuge encompassing 34,000 acres of saltmarsh along the Tuckahoe and Great Egg Harbor Rivers. Two groups of three impoundments, about 40 to 300 acres each in size, are located along the landward edge of the marsh. A sand road along the top of the dike makes them a highlight for wildlife viewing opportunities in the refuge. The WMA is on the New Jersey Audubon Important Bird Area list due to its concentrations of state-listed marsh bird species. For example, both King Rail (NJ threatened) and Black Rail (NJ endangered) have been documented in the marshes in or near the impoundments (the latter in 2015). Waterfowl can be abundant during migration with high counts of 3,000 Green-winged Teal and 1,000 Northern Pintails reported to eBird.org. Tundra Swans commonly winter in the impoundments. Shorebirds are common too, especially in units that are open to the tides and therefore have exposed mudflats. The site has participated in the Integrated Waterbird Management and Monitoring (IWMM) program.
The impoundments were constructed to benefit migratory waterfowl in 1943 under the direction of New Jersey’s Superintendent of Wildlife Management, Lester G. MacNamara (MacNamara 1949). In recent years the eight 1990’s-era water control structures in the impoundments have ceased to function, so water levels are kept full or allowed to rise and fall with the tides. A major phragmites control effort was undertaken in 2003 along with partners including the US Fish and Wildlife Service and Ducks Unlimited. There are plans for major repairs to the dikes and water control structures, and for the resuming of multi-species water level management, in the near future.
The current dikes are fairly low (about 3 feet above mean high water level), so sea level rise is a major concern. One of the six impoundments (the southernmost) had been breached since before 2000 and remains so. Otherwise, only minor erosion had been encountered before Hurricane Sandy in 2012 which caused unprecedented damage. Two of the impoundments in the northern (“Corbin City”) cluster were breached in three locations. Temporary repairs were put into place. The full cost of repairing and reinforcing the dikes and replacing the water control structures was estimated at $1.5 million (ALS 2012). Some of these upgrades are scheduled to occur in the near future.
The impoundments and the refuge are in a fairly remote and rural area, but they are nevertheless visited often by birders and photographers drawn to the rare species found on the site. Fishermen and drivers looking for general scenery also travel the sand road along the dike.
We are grateful to Dave Golden and Jason Hearson (NJDEP DFW) for providing information used on this page.