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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 16, 2003

Contact: Peter Boger or
Elaine Makatura
(609) 984-1795

 

GARDEN STATE PRESERVATION TRUST SIGNS OFF ON LATEST GREEN ACRES AND FARMLAND PRESERVATION PACKAGES

New Funding Proposals Reflect Governor's Open Space Priorities

(03/150) TRENTON - The Garden State Preservation Trust today approved the latest round of funding proposals for farmland preservation and Green Acres open space acquisitions and grants and loans to local governments and nonprofit organizations. The two packages total almost $174.8 million of funding for Green Acres projects and $130.7 million for farmland preservation projects.

"We have worked hard to reverse the irresponsible ways of the past, and protect our open space, drinking water and farmland from the threats posed by sprawl," said Governor James E. McGreevey. "I am pleased that the Garden State Preservation Trust is supporting this Administration's renewed focus on protecting open spaces that are located near critical drinking water sources and those located within our older suburbs and cities. Whether we're preserving a farm, protecting a field or improving a park, we're ensuring that open space remains at the top of New Jersey's priority list."

In all, the $175 million in Green Acres projects recommended in this round includes:

$64 million in State Land Acquisition projects
$63 million for local government land acquisition projects,
$31 million for local parks development, and
$16 million for acquisitions and recreational development projects by nonprofit organizations.

As open space becomes more scarce and property values continue to increase, Green Acres has seen a measured increase in requests for funding. Applications from municipalities and non-profit groups for Green Acres funding totaled more than $500 million this round. Last year, the State could provide only $1 in Green Acres funding for every $8 requested by local governments to acquire and upgrade local parks. For this reason, the current round of proposals requests legislative approval for $55 million more than the existing $120 million annual allocation provided through the Garden State Preservation Trust Act.

"Every day in New Jersey, we lose 50 acres to development," Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell said. "In the battle to preserve our dwindling open space, this funding package aggressively promotes the Governor's goals of protecting drinking water and promoting community parks."

The $130.7 million approved for farmland preservation includes:

$45.2 million for grants to counties to purchase easements
$27.9 million for direct easement purchases by the State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC)
$44 million in planning incentive grants to counties and municipalities to preserve farms in designated project areas
$3 million in matching grants to nonprofits
$10.6 million for the SADC to purchase farms outright under its fee simple program

"This proposal funds new projects to preserve up to 814 farms covering 62,653 acres in 95 municipalities and 17 counties," noted Agriculture Secretary Charles M. Kuperus. "The Trust's approval of these projects is a major step forward in New Jersey's efforts to promote smart growth, strengthen agriculture and protect the quality of life in our communities."

Since Governor McGreevey took office, DEP's Green Acres program has acquired more than 43,000 acres of open space and the State Agriculture Development Committee has preserved 310 farms covering over 25,000 acres statewide. The Governor has helped to make New Jersey a leader in farmland preservation; more than 13.5 percent of New Jersey's farmland is permanently preserved - the highest percentage of any state in the nation.

A key component of the McGreevey Administration's continued efforts to save open space is Public Question No. 1 on the November 4 ballot. If approved, Public Question No. 1 would allow the Garden State Preservation Trust to issue an additional $150 million in bonds for the preservation of open space, farmland and drinking water in the Highlands, and for improvements to local parks-without costing taxpayers additional money. More information can be found at <http://www.nj.gov/dep/antisprawl/ballot/>.

The Garden State Preservation Trust was established in 1999 to oversee the preservation of open space and farmland, and the creation of recreational facilities. The Trust reviews funding proposal packages submitted by the Green Acres program, the State Agriculture Development Committee and the New Jersey Historic Trust. It then recommends them to the Legislature for passage, with the Governor retaining final approval over all packages.

The Green Acres program was created in 1961 to meet New Jersey's growing recreational and conservation needs. To date, Green Acres has protected more than 500,000 acres of open space and developed hundreds of public parks, bringing the statewide system of preserved open space to more than 1.2 million acres of open space and farmland.

The State Agriculture Development Committee administers New Jersey's Farmland Preservation Program, which was established in 1983. To date, 948 farms covering nearly 113,000 acres have been permanently preserved statewide.

 

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