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Old trees: ‘Stars’ of the forest

April 18th, 2014

RELEASE: April 18, 2014 – Volume XLVII, No. 16

Some things get better with age, and that’s especially true for trees. A recent study found that old trees beat younger trees hands-down – or maybe roots down – when it comes to removing carbon from the atmosphere.

That’s something to keep in mind on Arbor Day – our national day for celebrating trees – on April 25.

Published in the journal Nature, the study shows that, unlike people, mature trees don’t slow down after adolescence. They actually grow faster and absorb more carbon than younger, smaller ones. In fact, some older trees can pull in more carbon in a single year than a younger tree in all its years!

“It’s sort of like if you were paying attention to your favorite sports teams and it turned out that the 90-year-olds were the star players,” explained researcher Nathan Stephenson of the U.S. Geological Survey. “In human terms, that doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense, but it’s what’s happening with forests.”

In the study, scientists around the world measured more than 400 temperate and tropical tree species on six continents over a period of years. They learned that for the majority of trees, physical growth rate and ability to store carbon sped up with age.

These findings, Stephenson believes, will impact our understanding of the relationship between forests and climate change.

“If you’re interested in conserving old forests, a key piece of information is knowing which trees out there are the most important in the dynamics of the ecosystem services offered by the forests,” said Stephenson.

Other new research in the northeastern United States reveals that 120-year-old oak forests are rapidly accelerating carbon sequestration rates, not slowing down. These results take into account biomass accumulation in deep roots. The ecology of roots has been ignored by the wood products industry, which in modern publications still promotes the notion that young forests, created in the wake of logging, are most effective at storing carbon.

Speaking of old trees, did you know that New Jersey keeps track of its own behemoths for each species? Since the 1950s, the Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Parks and Forestry has run a “Champion Trees” program.

The state’s Forest Service maintains the “Big Tree List,” a registry of the Garden State’s largest native and naturalized tree species.  The metric used to rank the state’s biggest trees is trunk circumference about four feet above the ground. Many of the state’s Champion Trees have huge girths, are stout and rounded, but not always extremely tall or of immense age. Open-grown, non-forest trees – like those found in old farm landscapes or next to historic structures – often attain a huge girth relatively quickly.

New Jersey’s largest red oak – our state tree – has a circumference of more than 23 feet and is located on private property in Wyckoff, Bergen County. Our biggest sycamore stands almost 100 feet tall, with a circumference of more than 25 feet, and is located on private property in Belvidere, Warren County.

Environmental benefits of old trees don’t end with absorbing carbon and producing oxygen.  Old trees mitigate stormwater runoff with their massive root systems that absorb rainwater and hold together soil.  When in full leaf, they lower air temperature around them by up to 12 degrees by creating shade and releasing water vapor from their leaves. 

Some of New Jersey’s big trees also have immense historic value, having been around for hundreds of years.  With New Jersey celebrating its 350th anniversary this year, it’s amazing to think that some of our old trees were there when the British claimed our state as a colony in 1664.

A white oak next to the Presbyterian Church in Basking Ridge is said to have already been 300 years at the time of the American Revolution! And the famous Salem Oak, in a cemetery in the city of Salem, is over 500 years old and stands at the site where John Fenwick is believed to have signed a land treaty with the Lenape Indians.

Celebrate Arbor Day with a walk in an old forest, such as Little Woods in Moorestown, Sadler’s Woods in Haddon Township or Borg’s Woods in Hackensack. Or check out one of the many state many natural areas, such as Kuser Bog in High Point State Park, Ken Lockwood Gorge on the South Branch of the Raritan River in Califon, Bull’s Island State Park or the David F. Moore (Shinn’s Branch) Cedar Swamp in Brendan Byrne State Forest. These forests are doing more for us than we can imagine!

To find out more about the international tree study, visit the Nature website at To learn more about New Jersey’s Champion Tree program – and how to measure and nominate a possible contender – go to

And for more information about preserving New Jersey’s land and natural resources, visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at or contact me at

Harbingers of a changing climate

April 11th, 2014

RELEASE: April 11, 2014 – Volume XLVII, No. 15

Chickadees aren’t signs of spring, since these cheery little birds are year-round Jersey residents. But they could signal a warming climate.

An interesting new study focuses on “hybrid” chickadees – the offspring of northern black-capped chickadees and their southern relatives, Carolina chickadees – in places where the two ranges overlap. Because the hybrid birds are infertile and can’t reproduce, they’re found only in a long, narrow strip of territory stretching from Kansas to New Jersey.

The so-called “hybrid zone” is an ever-shifting line, and tracking its movement turns out to be a fairly accurate way of measuring the progression of global temperature changes. A group of scientists found that the hybrid zone has recently moved north at a rate of about seven miles over the last 10 years. This matches the warming trend in winter temperatures.

In New Jersey, the hybrid zone crosses the southern edge of the Piedmont region – a narrow part of the state between Trenton and the Raritan Bay.

As reported in the journal Current Biology, scientists discovered that hybrid chickadees are found in areas where the average winter low temperature is 15 to 19 degrees Fahrenheit … and that zone is advancing northward. The study compares the location of hybrid chickadees during a three-year period from 2000 to 2002 to their location in 2010-2012.

Study findings:

  • The chickadee hybrid zone has moved north 11.5 kilometers over the past decade;
  • Climate change may be facilitating the northward movement of this zone;
  • Minimum winter temperature accurately predicts the location of the hybrid zone;
  • Minimum winter temperatures have gone up over the past decade.

To identify hybrids, scientists relied on blood samples drawn from chickadees in Pennsylvania during the two study periods, as well as postings by citizen scientists on the eBird internet database. Hybrid chickadees can be hard to distinguish by sight, but their songs are a mix of the distinctive songs of the parent species.

While the hybrid chickadee study might appear to have a bright side – the ability of birds to move northward as habitat parameters change due to global warming – it’s important not to read too much into it. Chickadees are “generalists,” meaning they eat a wide variety of foods. If one food source disappears, they simply find another.

The majority of animals and plants, unfortunately, aren’t so flexible. About three-quarters of all species have little or no ability to move as the climate warms.

Even many birds, which you might think could easily adapt by flying to new places, cannot. Many birds, butterflies and moths are “specialists,” adapted over millennia to depend on specific food sources. If the food sources decline as the climate changes, populations of these species will diminish.

Climate change is happening too fast for most species. Plus, habitats don’t migrate north in a predictable fashion. Most sensitive habitats will simply collapse and disappear, with new habitats dominated by common, weedy, vagrant species incapable of supporting a rich biodiversity.

The adaptability of chickadees gives them resilience, making them survivors. But the future of most other species is much less certain in the face of our changing climate.

To learn about preserving land and natural resources in New Jersey, visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at or contact me at

Climb a tree. And for extra credit, play in the mud!

April 4th, 2014

RELEASE: April 4, 2014 – Volume XLVII, No. 14

Here’s some homework! Explore the woods, climb a tree, race through a field, build a fort. Splash in the water, catch a fish, explore a city park, turn over a log. Sleep in a tent, gaze up at stars, follow a trail, listen to birds. Play in the mud, hold a frog, plant a garden, follow animal tracks.

These once-common activities – from back in the days when parents sent their kids outside and told them not to come home until dinner – may not be real school assignments. But they could be if some New Jersey legislators get their way!

Exploring, running, climbing and more are part of the “Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights,” introduced recently by the New Jersey Senate. The bill encourages children – and their parents and teachers – to spend more time outdoors, discovering the joys and wonders of the natural world.

Not playing outside, the Senate resolution noted, has been shown to have adverse physical, social and emotional consequences. Conversely, students who play outdoors perform better in the classroom, show increased interest in learning and are less likely to create disciplinary problems.

“Go outside and play” is a message that’s spreading across the nation.

In March, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced an ambitious federal initiative to reconnect America’s young people to the outdoors.

“If Americans are going to continue to have healthy lifestyles, healthy lands and a healthy economy, one of the steps we must take is to bridge the growing divide between young people and nature,” Jewell declared.

“The next generation of scientists, wildlife biologists, tribal experts, park managers and conservation leaders are now in school or just entering the workforce,” she added. “This is the time we need to invest in creating meaningful connections between young people and the great outdoors.”

Under Jewell’s initiative, the Department of Interior will create new opportunities for outdoor play for over 10 million youngsters, provide opportunities to bring information about public lands into the classroom, recruit a million new volunteers annually on public lands and provide 100,000 outdoor-related work and training opportunities for young people and veterans.

Nonprofit groups including Food Day and Youth Service America are also connecting more young people to the outdoors. This year, they’re encouraging kids, parents and teachers to plant a garden on Global Youth Service Days, April 11-13, and harvest their crops on or around Food Day on Oct. 24.

Richard Louv, author of the 2005 book Last Child in the Woods, coined the term “nature deficit disorder” to describe the affliction of kids who spend too much time glued to TVs, computer screens and electronic gadgets.

These new initiatives are great first steps toward putting more “Vitamin N” – nature, of course – into our children’s lives, improving their physical, mental and spiritual health!

But kids need places to play … ideally, parks and natural area close to home. Unfortunately New Jersey has run out of funding for park and open space preservation, and we need our legislators to take action.

Please urge your state Senators and Assembly representatives to support legislation that would allow voters to decide on a sustainable source of preservation funding. To find your legislators, go to

To see Sally Jewell’s video about engaging a new generation in the outdoors, go to

And to learn more about preserving New Jersey’s land and natural resources, visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at or contact me at

Walking the line

March 28th, 2014

RELEASE: March 28, 2014 – Volume XLVII, No. 13

Three hundred fifty years ago, a British royal decree created New Jersey’s first “subdivision,” the provinces of East Jersey and West Jersey. But the Duke of York, who gave the land to two loyal friends, didn’t explain how to divide it.

That job fell to Surveyor-General George Keith, who was charged with plotting the exact boundary – or Province Line – running diagonally from the Atlantic Ocean to the Delaware River in a northwesterly direction.

Keith started in Little Egg Harbor and got as far as Three Bridges in Hunterdon County in 1687 when it became clear that he was off by a couple of degrees, giving too much land to East Jersey. More surveys would be needed to divide the territory accurately, a process that took another 57 years.

But the original “Keith Line” remains as both an historic curiosity and actual boundary between several counties. Take a look at a map and you’ll see the line separating Burlington County (West Jersey) from Ocean and Monmouth (East Jersey).

To celebrate New Jersey’s 350th anniversary, Mount Holly resident Bill Bolger plans to “walk the line” later this year, following George Keith’s footsteps as closely as possible. Bill will walk approximately 150 miles over the course of three weeks.

“I’m excited. I think it’s going to be fascinating,” said Bill, who is taking time off from his job with the National Park Service to make the trek.

One aspect that excites Bill is that the route will cross nearly every type of New Jersey geography – from ocean beaches to pine forests to freshwater swamps to mountain ridges. “If you walked from Atlantic City to Philadelphia, you’d never leave the coastal plain,” he noted.

As a bonus, the line goes through extensive amounts of preserved land. “It involves almost every aspect of the state’s conservation history – farmland preservation, state parks and forests, wildlife refuges, the Pinelands. It’s an amazing sequence of conservation stories,” said Bill.

The Keith Line also serves as an unofficial cultural boundary in the Garden State, separating the “North Jersey” folk who root for New York sports teams from “South Jersey” residents who cheer for Philadelphia. Bill plans to test this cultural theory by asking people along the line whether their sports allegiance lies with New York or Philly.

Bill will begin his journey on the dunes at Holgate on Long Beach Island in late September and finish at Tocks Island in the Delaware River, averaging about seven miles a day. In between, he’ll stop at historic sites, tourist attractions, parks, farms, museums and other landmarks. He intends to take photos and videos, chat with locals, and post his discoveries on a blog.

While the Keith Line is arrow straight, Bolger’s route won’t be … and can’t be! Some pieces of original “Province Line Road” exist, but in most places there’s no trail to follow. So Bill is cobbling together an indirect route along local roads and hiking trails that parallel and cross the line. His route won’t deviate from the line by more than a mile, but the zigzagging adds 40 miles to what would otherwise be a 111-mile as-the-crow-flies path.

Long treks are nothing new to Bill. On three occasions, he’s walked the full length of Manhattan Island, from the Bronx to the Battery. And he once walked 220 miles through Pennsylvania. As he walks, he’ll keep conservation forefathers like Henry David Thoreau and John Muir in mind. “They thought nothing of walking a couple of hundred miles,” he pointed out.

Bill is still in the process of plotting his exact stops along the Keith Line and how he will document them in a blog. Stay tuned for more!

And for more information about preserving New Jersey’s land and natural resources, visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at or contact me at

Conservation Trailblazer: Mark Becker

March 21st, 2014

RELEASE: March 21, 2014 – Volume XLVII, No. 12

The swan is a fitting mascot for the Bergen Save the Watershed Action Network, otherwise known as Bergen SWAN, a grassroots organization that’s achieved huge gains in water protection.

“Swans are a graceful but very tough bird,” pointed out Lori Charkey, co-founder of the group. “If you mess with them, they’ll bite you.”

Bergen SWAN’s combination of grace and toughness can be traced to Charkey and her partner of 30 years, Mark Becker, who died tragically in a highway crash in February. For 26 years, they served together as co-directors of Bergen SWAN.

Mark and Lori were a team, but Mark was often the group’s public face. He fought tenaciously – but always with a gentle, respectful demeanor– against those who would destroy forest buffers around northern New Jersey’s drinking water supply reservoirs.

“He was involved in very, very contentious situations, but everyone from the other side liked him – you couldn’t help liking him,” recalled David Epstein, executive director of the Land Conservancy of New Jersey and a longtime friend.

“He didn’t make enemies, but he was very persistent” added another longtime friend, Greg Remaud, deputy director of the NY/NJ Baykeeper Network. “He had a lot of intensity and a lot of dedication, but he was kind and thoughtful – never aggressive.”

Mark’s calm manner and refusal to give up helped Bergen SWAN with a major victory after a local water company wanted to develop land around the Oradell Reservoir, Lake Tappan and Woodcliff Lake in the late 1980s.

Mark and Lori joined with Ramapo College students to form Bergen SWAN. In its first year, the group succeeded in convincing the New Jersey Legislature to pass the landmark Watershed Protection Act of 1988 – a law that’s still on the books today.

“It says there needs to be a compelling need for the transfer (of land to another party). It says there has to be consideration for open space and water quality needs,” explained Lori.

Much of the watershed land transferred to a real estate subsidiary was returned to water company ownership and was not developed. Later, Mark and Lori were instrumental in establishing Bergen County’s Open Space Trust fund, which allowed the county and municipalities to buy threatened watershed lands.

Mark’s environmental activism may have begun with Bergen SWAN, but it grew far beyond. His environmental activities expanded to fill every waking moment.

A high school dropout, Mark not only earned his GED but went on to earn his bachelor’s and master’s degrees when he was in his 30s. He became an earth scientist and teacher.

He joined the staff at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, dividing his time between the Lamont-Doherty Observatory in Palisades, N.Y., and the Manhattan campus. He specialized in Geographic Information Systems and traveled all over the world teaching people how to implement this mapping and data-management tool.

Mark was also an adjunct instructor at Bard College’s Center for Environmental Policy. School officials said his class inspired dozens of senior projects and master’s theses, and was the basis for much student work after graduation.

After Mark’s death, Lori received messages from friends, colleagues and students all over the globe. “It’s a huge loss to thousands of people whose lives he touched. He was so much everyone’s right hand man,” said Lori.

New Jersey’s conservation community will miss Mark, along with his toughness, persistence, kindness, intelligence and dedication. 

For more information about preserving New Jersey’s land and natural resources, visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at or contact me at


Oh, deer, what’s going on?

March 14th, 2014

RELEASE: March 14, 2014 – Volume XLVII, No. 11

New Jerseyans know deer. They’ve hit them while driving, come down with Lyme disease, or had their gardens ravaged by hungry deer. They also take beautiful pictures of deer and are awed by the spectacular fawns.

White-tailed deer are literally everywhere. They’re abundant in all 21 counties, and have been spotted on beaches, city streets and even inside stores!

So it’s hard to believe that in the late 1800s, deer were virtually absent from New Jersey’s landscape. Their meat and hides were valuable commodities, and unregulated hunting for personal and commercial purposes left hardly a doe or buck to be seen.

In the past century, though, deer have made a huge comeback. Between restocking, state policies that encourage healthy populations and game laws banning commercial sale of deer products, deer numbers have skyrocketed … especially since our sprawling suburbs serve as safe havens with their smorgasbords of landscape plantings.

Deer are a resilient “edge” species, thriving along the edges of woods, hedgerows, farms and lawns. Suburbia is especially alluring habitat, with all-you-can-eat backyard banquets and lush corporate lawns around every corner. Deer are probably one of the most adaptable creatures to living around humans.

The northeastern United States now has about three times as many white-tailed deer as there were when European settlers first set foot in a vast wilderness of forest, where sunlight and squirrels seldom reached the ground.

The New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife just launched an online survey, “Living with Deer in New Jersey,” to find out what’s happening with the state’s burgeoning deer population.

Take the survey at It’s anonymous and takes only about 10 minutes. Among the questions:

  • Have you or any member of your household had Lyme disease, an automobile collision with a deer, or experienced garden and landscaping damage from deer?
  • Does anyone in your household feed deer, or hunt deer?
  • Do you allow deer hunting on your property?
  • Who do you feel is responsible for taking action to reduce damage and accidents caused by deer? 

What will the survey’s “upshot” be? Perhaps new hunting rules, or new approaches to decreasing deer density in places where hunting can’t happen due to suburban sprawl? Perhaps hunting for commercial purposes in key forest areas, since recreational hunting alone has not been sufficient to reduce the population?

Overabundant deer are now the primary cause of forest degradation in New Jersey. More deer are browsing each acre of native vegetation than at any time in evolutionary history, and our forests and 850 species of rare plants cannot tolerate their appetites.

A 2011 article in the Wildlife Society Bulletin argues that a regulated commercial harvest of over-abundant white-tailed deer is consistent with conservation values and would meet market demand for venison. To read this article, go to

For additional information on deer biology and ecological impacts, visit the Rutgers Cooperative Extension website at

And to learn more about preserving New Jersey’s land and natural resources, go to the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at or contact me at

Green parks bring in the ‘green’

March 7th, 2014

RELEASE: March 7, 2014 – Volume XLVII, No. 10

Most park benefits are obvious. Glorious green spaces for playing and relaxing outdoors boost our physical and mental health. They provide shelter for wildlife and places where we can connect with nature, and they teach us about our history and heritage. Parks can serve as large swaths of open space that safeguard drinking water and mitigate flooding from storms.

But parks – non-commercial by their very nature – are also powerful economic engines, contributing millions of dollars to local economies.

According to a new study by the National Park Service, national parks across the country drew more than 280 million visitors in 2012, generating $26 billion in economic activity in “gateway” communities and supporting 243,000 jobs.  If you’ve visited Great Smoky Mountains National Park and stopped in Gatlinburg, you get the picture!

More than 5 million visitors flocked to national parks in New Jersey in 2012, spending $153 million at nearby businesses and supporting 2,275 jobs.

National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis said the study shows that for every dollar invested by taxpayers in national parks, $10 is returned to the economy. “That’s a successful formula we can all embrace,” he said.

New Jersey national parks include the Sandy Hook unit of Gateway National Recreation Area, Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, Morristown National Historical Park, Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park, Thomas Edison National Historic Park and the Statue of Liberty National Monument.

“Our national parks help propel our nation’s economy, drawing hundreds of millions of visitors every year who are the lifeblood of the hotels, restaurants, outfitters, and other local businesses that depend on a vibrant and reliable tourism and outdoor recreation industry supported by our public lands,” said Secretary of the  Interior Sally Jewell.

Although the economic study covered only national parks, its implications are far broader.  In addition to national parks, New Jersey’s public lands include five national wildlife refuges, 39 state parks and recreation areas, 12 state forests, 50 state historic sites, and countless county and local parks … and they all provide similar economic benefits.

Oh, and don’t forget the Crossroads of the American Revolution Natural Heritage Area, 57 National Historic Landmarks, 11 National Natural Landmarks and 1,657 sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places. And dozens of nature preserves operated by nonprofit groups.

Visitors to all these sites need food, drinks, gasoline and, often, overnight lodging. They buy hiking boots, fishing equipment, bicycles, kayaks, surfboards, binoculars and other gear.  They take home T-shirts and souvenirs.

According to the National Park Service’s economic analysis, 39 percent of visitor spending supports jobs in restaurants, grocery and convenience stores; 27 percent supports hotels, motels and bed & breakfasts; and 20 percent goes to other amusement and recreation.

Without national parks, these business sectors would suffer, as demonstrated by the federal government shutdown last October.

Jewell and Jarvis said the 16-day shutdown resulted in 7.88 million fewer national park visitors in October 2013, compared to a three-year average (October 2010, 2011 and 2012). This led to an estimated loss of $414 million in visitor spending in gateway and local communities across the country, using the same three-year comparison.

Take some time to visit the parks in and around your community, and support local businesses at the same time!  In addition to keeping the landscape green, our parks are doing their part to power the Garden State’s economy.

As New Jersey moves closer to full build-out – the point when all land within our borders will be either preserved or developed – it’s critical that we continue programs to expand our parks and preserve natural areas and farmland.  Please urge your state representatives to renew funding for open space preservation.

To find out more about national parks in New Jersey, visit  To read the National Park Service economic report, go to

And to learn more about preserving New Jersey’s land and natural resources, visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at or contact me at

A ‘rock of ages’ vista at risk

February 28th, 2014

RELEASE: Feb. 28, 2014 – Volume XLVII, No. 9

With New Jersey is celebrating its 350th anniversary – in a nation that’s only 238 years old – it’s hard not be in awe of the 200 million-year-old Palisades cliffs over the Hudson River.

We should be celebrating this incredible landmark, which amazed early explorers and inspired generations of artists. But, instead, 2014 could mark the Palisades cliffs’ demise … and the theft of this cherished natural and historic vista from future generations.

A public outcry has erupted over plans by LG Electronics to build a 143-foot office tower that would rise high above the tree line, more than four times the height of existing buildings next to Palisades Interstate Park. And now the National Park Service has weighed in with a plea for a low-rise alternative.

“Over the past century, in spite of quarrying and the growth of the communities along the Palisades, no significant intrusive development has occurred in or along the ridge behind the park lands, which has protected its significant elements and allowed the magnificent view of the cliffs and the wooded ridge to remain intact,” noted William C. Bolger, manager of the park service’s National Historic Landmark program, and Kristina M. Heister, chief of natural resources for the park service’s northeast region.

Indeed, perhaps the most remarkable thing about the Palisades is that the view from the Hudson River north of the George Washington Bridge has remained unchanged over centuries, even as New Jersey has become the nation‘s most densely populated state.

More than 100 years ago, when the Palisades were threatened by rock quarrying, citizens fought to preserve them. The Palisades Interstate Park Commission was formed, and prominent families of the day bought lands along the cliffs and donated them for conservation.

Towns north of the George Washington Bridge respected this natural wonder by establishing height restrictions: No building could exceed 35 feet and climb above the tree line of Palisades Interstate Park.

But more than a century of preservation was reversed in 2012, when Englewood Cliffs granted a variance allowing the LG office tower, and opening up a larger area for more high-rise development.   The NJ Federation of Women’s Clubs sued to stop the project, along with Scenic Hudson and the NY-NJ Trail Conference – a case that’s still before the courts.

National Park Service leaders have pointed out that the Palisades have the rare distinction of being both a “National Natural Landmark” and a “Natural Historic Landmark.”

“We commend your municipality (Englewood Cliffs) and your neighbors for their zoning and planning regulations that have protected the Palisades for so long,” wrote Bolger and Heister to officials in Englewood Cliffs. “The restraint of development here stands in stark contrast to the development to the south, where the many high-rise structures have significantly lessened the grandeur of the great formation.”

But the LG proposal, they added, “threatens the integrity of the scene in a startling and major way. If built, this tower will introduce a massive incompatible feature that will be visible for miles along the river … While such a tower might provide some occupants of the building with spectacular views, it will be at the expense of everyone else’s experience of the Palisades.”

We hope the voice of an agency that has protected awe-inspiring vistas all across America – including the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park and Yosemite National Park – will convince LG to take a broader view of what this nation, and the world, will lose if the office tower is built.

To read more and to add your voice, visit the Protect the Palisades website at


And for more information about preserving New Jersey’s land and natural resources, visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at or contact me at

How our state got its first subdivision

February 21st, 2014

RELEASE: Feb. 21, 2014 – Volume XLVII, No. 8

Had things gone differently, this state we’re in might have been called New Netherland, New Sweden, Nova Cesarea or even Albania. But we ended up as New Jersey, a name that honors the Isle of Jersey in Great Britain … and gives us our famous “Jersey” attitude.

This year marks the 350th anniversary of the birth of New Jersey, when the English seized control in 1664.

The story of how this little peninsula between the Delaware River and the Atlantic Ocean became New Jersey starts with early European explorers and colonists, and their quest for control over lands that had been inhabited for millennia by Native Americans.

The true colonial era began in 1609 with Henry Hudson, who sailed for the Dutch East India Company. Hudson explored the Delaware and Raritan Rivers, the Hudson River valley and the Newark and New York bays. Dutch mapmaker Adriaen Block subsequently surveyed the coast from New England to Delaware, naming it New Netherland.  Dutch colonists settled throughout New Jersey, Manhattan, Staten Island and the Hudson Valley.

Meanwhile, Swedish settlers migrated to southern New Jersey, what’s now Salem and Gloucester counties. In 1638 the colony of New Sweden was founded, straddling the Delaware River. It was short-lived, eventually taken over by the Dutch.

In 1660, King Charles II was restored to the throne in England and resolved to bring the New Netherland colony into the dominion of the British crown.

In 1664, he issued a patent giving extensive lands in the New World to his brother James, Duke of York. James, in turn, granted land between the Hudson and Delaware rivers to two loyal friends, Sir George Carteret, who had served as governor of the Isle of Jersey, and Lord John Berkeley.

The document recording this land grant, now housed at the New Jersey State Archives in Trenton, proclaims that “said Tract of Land is hereafter to be called by the name or names of New Cesarea or New Jersey.”

But making a royal gift of New Jersey was a bit hasty, since the Dutch still held sole power over New Netherland.

The Duke of York remedied that “problem” by sending a squadron of war ships. Dutch governor Peter Stuyvesant surrendered in September 1664, New Amsterdam was renamed New York, and New Jersey was called Albania by the local English … a name that obviously didn’t stick.

Over the next decade, war broke out between England and Holland. New Jersey once again fell under Dutch control, nullifying the land grants to Berkeley and Carteret.  A peace treaty in 1674 returned New Jersey and New York to the British, and it was time to divvy up New Jersey once again.

Berkeley had sold his interest to a group of Quakers, and Carteret pressed to have his land grant reinstated. Rather giving Carteret a half interest in the entirety of New Jersey, a decision was made to slice the state in half diagonally, forming the provinces of East Jersey and West Jersey – the first subdivision of our state.

In 1676, a “Quintipartite Deed” was executed between Carteret, who held East Jersey, and the trustees of West Jersey. A division known as the Province Line was proposed, starting at Little Egg Harbor on the Atlantic and extending northwest to the Delaware River.

Creating the Province Line was easier said than done due to squabbles over the boundary. The first survey was done in 1687, but it took until 1743 to establish the Lawrence Line, the final and legal boundary between the two provinces. East and West Jersey existed until 1702, when they were reunited as a royal colony under the reign of Queen Anne.

Since that first subdivision into East and West Jersey, New Jersey has been subdivided further into millions of blocks and lots, perhaps more so than any other state!

Most of these blocks and lots have been paved or preserved, but what will happen to those remaining? Without a stable source of state funds to continue preserving these lands, many more will be further subdivided. This does not have to happen!

Please urge your representatives in the General Assembly to renew New Jersey’s preservation funding this year, before we lose even more of our farms and natural areas.

To learn more about New Jersey’s history and the 350th anniversary celebrations planned this year, go to

And for more information on preserving New Jersey’s land and natural resources, visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at or contact me at

The Farm Bill: What’s in it for New Jersey farms?

February 14th, 2014

RELEASE: Feb. 14, 2014 – Volume XLVII, No. 7

After more than two years of debate, Congress has finally passed the Agricultural Act of 2014, better known as the Farm Bill. So what does it mean for the Garden State?

The quick answer is that the Farm Bill affects us all, farmers and city dwellers. This five-year, $958 billion behemoth has been described – quite accurately – as impacting “everything we eat, wear and drive.”

Perhaps one of its biggest benefits to New Jersey is the “Farm and Ranch Lands” conservation funding to permanently preserve working farms: $1 billion nationwide over the next 10 years. The bill also renews funding for other important conservation and organic agriculture programs.

Through the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program, more than 170 farms – most of them small and family-owned – already have been preserved throughout the Garden State. More can now be put into the preservation pipeline.

Farmland preservation is vital here in the nation’s most densely populated state. New Jersey’s agricultural industry hinges on a critical mass of land dedicated to farming.  Each year, an estimated two million acres of America’s farms, ranches, forests, wildlife habitat, and other open spaces are fragmented into smaller parcels or lost to development, according to the President’s 2013 Annual Economic Report to Congress.

Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program funds are used to buy and retire the development rights on prime farmland, keeping the land open and affordable for the next generation of farmers. That, in turn, ensures New Jerseyans’ access to fresh, locally grown and raised foods.

New Jersey has its own state Farmland Preservation Program, with funding that can match the federal funds. But without the state match, New Jersey will have a tough time using the federal money. That would be a huge loss, given the hundreds of thousands of acres of prime farmland still to be preserved.

In addition to the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program, the Farm Bill includes a myriad of conservation programs to help farmers transition to organic agriculture, protect water quality and quantity, and restore wetlands and grasslands.

And the new Farm Bill restores a commitment to the continued growth and success of organic and sustainable farmers, including much needed support for the next generation of farmers who will need to confront a changing climate, higher input costs, less reliable water resources, more regionalized food markets, and increased demand for sustainable and organically produced foods.

Another key program includes $100 million for new farmer training and education programs through the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. New farmers are essential to sustaining a viable farming industry in New Jersey.

For more information on the Farm Bill, visit the National Sustainable Agriculture Campaign at:

To help ensure we take full advantage of the Farm Bill’s farmland preservation funds, please urge your representatives in the New Jersey Assembly to pass long-term funding for land preservation. The state Senate has already taken action. To find your district’s Assembly representatives, go to

And to learn more about preserving New Jersey’s land and natural resources, visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at or contact me at

New Jersey Conservation Foundation           Bamboo Brook, 170 Longview Road, Far Hills, NJ 07931           908-234-1225 

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