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The greening of New Jersey
8/15/2014 Volume XLVII, No. 33

Much of the Garden State is green and leafy, thanks in large part to land preservation.

Check out a new interactive map to see the green in your community! You can find out if your town has been building new parks, protecting natural areas, preserving farms or saving historic sites.

For most New Jersey towns, the answer is a big yes!

New Jersey got serious about preserving land in the early 1960s with the passage of the first Green Acres bond, and for more than 50 years this state we’re in has been a national model. Preservation efforts accelerated following a 1998 vote creating the Garden State Preservation Trust.

Nearly 390,000 acres of open space and farmland were preserved through the Trust between 2000 and 2013. The excellent new interactive map showing where land was preserved can be found at www.njspotlight.com/stories/14/08/07/garden-state-preservation-trust.

The color-coded map illustrates New Jersey’s green places, with darker shades indicating towns with the most preserved acres. Hover your computer’s cursor over a town to see its total size (in acres) and the amount of acreage that was preserved from 2000-2013. 

Much, but not all, land preservation activity is in rural areas. After all, these places have large undeveloped fields, forests, meadows and farms – all needed to protect our state’s clean drinking water and grow local, healthy foods.

The map shows numerous preservation hot spots. The darkest green is reserved for towns with more than 2,500 acres preserved with Garden State Preservation Trust funding – and there are quite a few towns in this color!

For example, two North Jersey towns along the New York border – West Milford in Passaic County and Vernon Township in Sussex County – stand out as preservation leaders. Vernon Township preserved 10,738 of its 44,769 acres, while West Milford preserved 11,388 of its 51,848 acres. Surrounding dark green towns include Jefferson, Rockaway and Kinnelon townships in Morris County; and Hardyston and Wantage townships in Sussex County.

At the opposite end of the state, check out the dark green cluster in the Delaware Bayshore region, representing the fertile farmland of the area known as New Jersey’s “breadbasket.”

Towns like Upper Pittsgrove, Mannington, Pilesgrove, Quinton, Alloway, Pittsgrove and Lower Alloways Creek townships in Salem County; and Hopewell and Fairfield townships in Cumberland County all show up in dark green.

Try clicking on a town.  A box will pop up showing a breakdown of open space, farmland and historic preservation. Here you’ll find deep data on farmland preservation, with records going back to 1985. In some towns, the total amount of preserved land may be even higher than shown on the map.

Urban municipalities like Newark, Jersey City, Secaucus, Lyndhurst, East Rutherford, Clifton and Elmwood Park preserved land through the Garden State Preservation Trust. And, though not reflected on the map, from 2000-2012 the state provided over $76 million for park projects in Essex County, over $55 million in Hudson County and over $30 million in Camden County.

As Election Day in November approaches, the interactive map is a handy tool to remind us about the huge impact of preservation. With two million acres in New Jersey not yet preserved or developed, the open space race is still on and we cannot stop preserving now!

A Nov. 4 ballot question will ask voters to approve a constitutional amendment to establish a permanent funding source for preservation through an existing tax. Initially, the measure would earmark about $70 million a year for preservation, and beginning in 2019 the amount would rise to at least $117 per year.

If you want the nation’s most densely populated state to remain the Garden State, vote “yes” in November!

To learn more about preservation funding, visit the Garden State Preservation Trust website at http://www.state.nj.us/gspt or read the NJ Keep It Green coalition’s report at

www.njkeepitgreen.org/documents/KIG_GAlegacybook_FINAL.pdf .

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

 

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