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State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 29, 2004

Contact: Erin Phalon
(609) 984-1795

DEP GREEN ACRES PROGRAM PRESERVES 130 ACRES
OF DELAWARE BAYSHORE WETLANDS

(04/26) TRENTON - Emphasizing the importance of preserving New Jersey's wetlands, Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell today announced the acquisition of a 130-acre salt hay farm on the Maurice River in Commercial Township, Cumberland County. The property, which the DEP Green Acres Program acquired from a private owner at a cost of $75,000, serves as habitat for a diverse resident and migratory bird population.

"Our Administration has worked hard to make New Jersey a national leader in environmental protection," said Governor James E. McGreevey. "The 130 acres along the Maurice River is just one example of how we're protecting environmentally sensitive areas, farmland and open spaces throughout the state. By placing these lands 'off-limits,' we will build a better New Jersey for our children and generations to come."

"Two years ago, Governor McGreevey enacted legislation that established the protection of water resources and lands with endangered or threatened species habitat as high priorities under the DEP Green Acres Program," said Commissioner Campbell. "The acquisition of this salt hay farm reflects DEP's commitment to pursuing those priorities. By purchasing this land, the State of New Jersey will preserve critical wetlands, protect the vital water resources of the Maurice River and ensure that a diverse bird population's habitat remains healthy for future generations."

The 130-acre parcel contains approximately 113 acres of coastal wetlands, 11 acres of freshwater wetlands and six acres of uplands. The preservation of this property will enable these wetlands to continue to provide critical natural resource services to New Jersey residents. Wetlands filter out chemicals and pollutants from drinking water, release stored floodwater during droughts and provide flood control by soaking up runoff from heavy rains and melted snow.

For several generations, the property has been farmed for salt hay, which is used to produce garden mulch and packing material. The parcel is predominantly a healthy salt marsh hay habitat and includes salt meadow hay, spike grass, black rush and highwater cord grass. The portion of the property that is located at a higher elevation level is dominated by early successional species including Sweetgum, Red Maple, and other native species. Remnants of an earthen dike surround the land.

Like much of the Delaware Bayshore area, the property is rich in bird life. The salt hay farm provides habitat for resident and migrant waterfowl, shorebirds and neo-tropical passerines for breeding, feeding, nesting and resting including the endangered northern harrier, egret, heron, clapper rail, and redwing blackbird. The property is a nesting habitat for one of the largest black duck populations along the Atlantic Flyway.

The acquired property lies in an oxbow formed by the federally designated Wild and Scenic Maurice River, which connects the Pineland National Reserve and the Delaware Estuary. The Maurice River and its tributaries, the Manamuskin, the Muskee, and the Menantico, drain the southern portion of the Pinelands National Reserve. The Maurice River is also an important habitat for endangered species and plant life. It supports 53 percent of the New Jersey's non-marine endangered animal species and the largest stand of wild rice in the state.

Since Governor McGreevey took office, the Green Acres Program has acquired 54,688 acres of open space - 34,226 acres for state projects, 10,615 acres for local projects and 9 847 acres for nonprofit groups. To date, the Green Acres Program has protected more than 535,877 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 1.25 million acres.

DEP's 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.

DEP is also committed to providing parks and outdoor recreation facilities, urban wildlife preserves, and quality open spaces in cities, suburbs, and other developed communities throughout the state.

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

 

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