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Wilma Frey honored with Capstone Award


New Jersey Conservation Foundation
Wilma Frey, holding award, is surrounded by, from left, Alison Mitchell, Michele Byers and Julia Somers.
FAR HILLS - Wilma Frey, senior policy manager of New Jersey Conservation Foundation and a resident of Tewksbury Township, was honored by the New Jersey Highlands Coalition for her years of dedicated work to preserve and protect the Highlands region.

Highlands Coalition Executive Director Julia Somers presented Wilma with the Capstone Award on Oct. 11 in recognition of her "tenacious, uncompromising and continuing commitment to the long-term protection of the New Jersey Highlands region."

Wilma has been "essential and extraordinary for the success of the Highlands Act," Somers added.

Three of Wilma's New Jersey Conservation Foundation colleagues - Executive Director Michele Byers, Policy Director Alison Mitchell and Manager of Science & Stewardship Dr. Emile DeVito - praised her contributions.

Wilma is known for her passion for forests, wildlife and scenic and historic places, as well as her willingness to work long hours, including nights and weekends.

"Wilma is the truest, most dedicated conservationist I've ever known," said Byers, describing her as "an inspiration" and "a great role model for new, emerging conservation leaders." She noted that Wilma has the rare ability to read through 800 pages of proposed federal legislation "and pull out the most cogent pieces that we need to know about."

"When it comes to analyzing (a bill) and finding all the nuances, there's no one like Wilma," agreed DeVito. "She's my hero, she's just incredible." Many of the public lands in the Highlands were protected due in large part to Frey's efforts, he added.

Mitchell said that, in the nearly 30 years she's known Wilma, "there was never a project too big or too small that involved preservation." Wilma's ability to look at the larger picture as well as the tiny details, she added, has been an enormous asset to NJ Conservation's policy work.

This isn't the first time Wilma has been honored by the Highlands Coalition. In 2012, the Coalition established the "Wilma Frey New Jersey Highlands Volunteer Award," given annually to those who have made extraordinary volunteer efforts to preserve the environment and quality of life in the Highlands.

Wilma, who holds Masters' degrees in Landscape Architecture and Public Administration from Harvard, was hired by New Jersey Conservation Foundation in 1990 to staff regional protection projects and, specifically, to develop coalition efforts to protect the Highlands region.

New Jersey Conservation Foundation is a private nonprofit that preserves land and natural resources throughout New Jersey for the benefit of all. Since 1960, New Jersey Conservation has protected 125,000 acres of open space - from the Highlands to the Pine Barrens to the Delaware Bayshore, from farms to forests to urban and suburban parks. For more information about the Foundation's programs and preserves, go to or call 1-888-LAND-SAVE (1-888-526-3728).

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