Bird watching in Cape May County is bringing in millions of dollars to New Jersey. 

Dan Kitwood, Getty Images

A new study conducted by the  Nature Conservancy of New Jersey directly links a recent restoration project in Lower Cape May Meadows to tourism dollars.

According to the study, $313 million in tourism revenue comes from Cape May County each year. "This is birders spending money on restaurants, hotels, retail and other things associated with their birding trip," said Elizabeth Schuster, an environmental economist with the New Jersey chapter of the Nature Conservancy, who authored the study.

The 465 acres of the Lower Cape May Meadows were restored from 2005 to 2007, and the project consisted of upgrades to the beaches, dunes and wetlands. "We really wanted to link the improvement in habitat quality to more birds.  By creating three new habitat types, we found that there were direct links to new habitat for birds, including the piping plover which is an endangered species," Schuster said.

In order to have an impact on the county, many of the tourists had to come from outside the state. The New Jersey Department of Tourism surveyed visitors and found that 10 percent of total tourists who came to Cape May County chose the county specifically because of the birding. "It's bringing new birders to the region who would have otherwise chosen another region, like the beaches of Maryland," Schuster said.

The study also found that the county will save $9.6 million over 50 years by avoiding the costs associated with flooded homes.