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June 28, 2004

Contact: Erin Phalon
(609) 984-1795

DEP Green Acres Program Preserves 480-Acre Forest in Sussex and Warren Counties

(04/72) TRENTON -- Emphasizing the importance of conserving open space, Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell today announced the preservation of the 480-acre Blair Creek Preserve in Warren and Sussex Counties. The purchase of this property through the DEP Green Acres Program will protect water resources and threatened and endangered species habitat.

"The Blair Creek Preserve is an important asset to our state and is critical to protecting New Jersey's water supply," said Governor James E. McGreevey. "By preserving environmentally-sensitive areas such as this, we are keeping our promise to protect open spaces and maintain the high quality of life New Jersey residents enjoy."

The Blair Creek Preserve, which is located at the base of Kittatinny Ridge and borders Fairview Lake, is habitat to species requiring interior forest habitat such as bobcats, black bears, red fox, gray fox and coyote. The forest also provides habitat for migratory neo-tropical birds and threatened and endangered species including the timber rattlesnake, the barred owl, the wood turtle and the red-shouldered hawk.

"The preservation of this forested area advances Governor McGreevey's goal to protect New Jersey's water quality and provides habitat for threatened and endangered species," said Commissioner Campbell. "In addition, DEP's collaboration with the Ridge and Valley Conservancy and The Nature Conservancy underscores the importance of partnerships to save New Jersey's open space."

The tract consists of contiguous forests that span the border of Hardwick Township, Warren County and Stillwater Township, Sussex County within the Upper Delaware Watershed Area and the Paulinskill River drainage basin. The property contains an open aquifer that provides recharge to groundwater aquifers.

The Blair Creek Preserve is adjacent to several significant parcels of protected open space, including 71 acres owned by the Bergen Council Boy Scouts, 163 acres owned by Stillwater Township and the 495-acre Orange YMCA Camp. The forest is also connected to the 70,000-acre Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.

The New Jersey Natural Lands Trust, The Nature Conservancy and the Ridge and Valley Conservancy will jointly manage the Blair Creek Preserve as a passive recreation area to maintain the site's biodiversity. A trail system and parking will be developed to enhance public access to the site for activities such as hiking, bird watching, photography and scientific research.

"We are delighted to be a part of the agreement to preserve the land and to share in the stewardship of this valuable natural treasure," stated RVC President Bob Canace. "I would like to acknowledge Blair Academy's foresight in ensuring the permanent protection of the land and thank The Nature Conservancy and the Green Acres Program for making the acquisition a reality."

The Green Acres Program purchased the $1.5 million Blair Creek Preserve through a partnership with Ridge and Valley Conservancy (RVC). The Green Acres Program contributed $500,000 through the State Land Acquisition Program and an additional $500,000 through a local assistance nonprofit matching grant to Ridge and Valley Conservancy. The Nature Conservancy ($302,250), Warren County ($170,000), and Hardwick Township ($27,750) provided funding for the matching contribution required of RVC. In addition, the Johanette Wallerstein Institute provided a stewardship donation to The Nature Conservancy. RVC negotiated the purchase of the property from Blair Academy.

"This partnership project will help preserve New Jersey's rich biodiversity and conserve valuable water resources," said Barbara Brummer, Ph.D., Executive Director of The Nature Conservancy in New Jersey.

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 57,914 acres of open space -37,064 acres for state projects, 10,362 acres for local projects and 10,488 acres for nonprofit groups. To date, the Green Acres Program has protected more than 540,214 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 1.26 million acres.



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