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State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 22, 2004

Contact: Erin Phalon
(609) 984-1795

DEP Green Acres Preserves 1,198-Acre Highlands Property

(04/22) TRENTON - Reiterating Governor James E. McGreevey's commitment to preserving open space in the Highlands region, Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell today announced the purchase of a 1,198-acre property known as Gerard Woods in Sparta, New Jersey. Gerard Woods, which is adjacent to the Newark Pequannock watershed and the Sparta Mountain and Hamburg Mountain wildlife management areas, will be managed by the DEP Division of Fish and Wildlife.

"The Highlands are critical to the future of New Jersey," said Governor McGreevey. "If we are going to protect the region and its vital supply of drinking water from the dangers of development, we must act now. By preserving the Gerard Woods, we are taking an important step forward in our continued efforts to protect New Jersey's drinking water."

The Gerard Woods acquisition complements Governor McGreevey's efforts to protect the Highlands region from encroaching development. The Governor established the Highlands Task Force through Executive Order on September 19, 2003 and charged it to provide recommendations on how best to advance conservation efforts, smart growth, regional planning and water resource protections in the region. The Task Force presented its Recommendations to Preserve New Jersey's Highlands to the public on March 13, 2004.

"The preservation of properties such as Gerard Woods is vital to the protection of our water resources," said Commissioner Campbell. "Under Governor McGreevey's leadership, the DEP is working closely with the Highlands Task Force, local communities, and the legislature to preserve the Highlands, which supplies drinking water to more than half of New Jersey's families."

Preserving open space in the Highlands is one of Governor McGreevey's top priorities. During his first term in office, the Governor has preserved an estimated 4,600 acres of farmland in the Highlands, protected approximately 17,000 acres of open space in and around the Highlands, and applied C1 designation to seven waterbodies in the region. In November 2003, voters approved Public Question No. 1, which will provide $150 million toward the purchase of open space and farms in the Highlands region and throughout the State.

The Gerard Woods property surrounds Lake Gerard and Beaver Lake and includes hiking access to Gerard Lake. The land includes forested mountain terrain and several streams. It serves as a habitat for wildlife including the barred owl, cold water trout, great blue heron and neotropical migratory birds.

The $4 million property was purchased using funds from the U.S. Forest Service Forest Legacy Program, the DEP Green Acres Program and the Trust for Public Land (TPL). The U.S. Forest Service Forest Legacy Program contributed $2.981 million, the DEP Green Acres Program contributed $319,000 in general acquisition funds and a $250,000 nonprofit grant, and the TPL contributed a donation from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation in the amount of $450,000.

The U.S. Forest Service Forest Legacy Program funds were secured through a congressional appropriation supported by members of the New Jersey Delegation including Representatives Rodney Frelinghuysen and Steven Rothman and Senators Jon Corzine and Frank Lautenberg.

"Each year, we lose thousands of acres of highlands to development," said Senator Corzine. "Open space purchases, like the Gerard Woods initiative are critical to our quality of life in New Jersey. Governor McGreevey and Commissioner Campbell have done admirable work in the effort to preserve our drinking water and natural habitat of our local wildlife. I am proud to aid in this effort at the federal level and to help preserve the balance between development and protecting our open spaces."

The New Jersey Highlands is a 1,000 square mile area in the Northwest part of the State noted for its rugged hills, lush forests and scenic lakes. It stretches from Phillipsburg in the Southwest to Ringwood in the Northeast, and lies within portions of 7 counties (Hunterdon, Somerset, Sussex, Warren, Morris, Passaic and Bergen) and 87 municipalities. The larger Highlands region runs from Connecticut through New York and New Jersey into Pennsylvania.

"Gerard Woods and the entire Highlands region sit at the center of the most densely populated area of the country," said Frelinghuysen. "This funding we have secured is a major victory for preserving the pristine land and natural beauty of Gerard Woods. It further demonstrates our commitment to taking every step necessary to protect open space in the Highlands."

"Preserving the Highlands region will protect the water supply for millions of New Jerseyans and save one of the largest remaining areas of open space in our very densely crowded state," said Rothman. "I am proud to have worked with my New Jersey colleagues in Congress to secure these federal funds, which will spare state taxpayers from the cost of these preservation efforts. These federal funds complement the leadership that Governor McGreevey has exhibited on the state level to save the Highlands for future generations of New Jerseyans."

The DEP Green Acres Program purchases land to protect environmentally sensitive open space, water resources and other significant natural and historical open space. Land acquired becomes part of the statewide system of parks and forest, wildlife management areas and natural areas.

Since Governor McGreevey took office, the Green Acres Program has acquired 51,428 acres of open space -32,923 acres for state projects, 10,232 acres for local projects and 8,273 acres for nonprofit groups. To date, the Green Acres Program has protected more than 533,434 acres of open space and provided funding to develop hundreds of parks statewide. The statewide system of preserved open space and farmland totals more than 1.24 million acres.

For more information about the Green Acres Program, visit the website at www.nj.gov/dep/greenacres.

 

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