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June and open space: Perfect together
5/25/2017 Volume XLVII, No. 21

“And what is so rare as a day in June? Then, if ever, come perfect days.” So begins James Russell Lowell’s poem extolling the beauty and restorative powers of nature during this magical month when spring blossoms into summer, with the longest days of the year.

June also happens to be New Jersey’s inaugural Open Space Month! These long “perfect days” are perfect for discovering the rich variety of lands our state has permanently preserved.

How about getting out in June to hike, fish, bike, kayak, connect with nature and unwind - while appreciating the beauty of these preserved open spaces?

Open Space Month kicks off on Thursday, June 1, when several of New Jersey’s legislative environmental champions will speak at the State House in Trenton about New Jersey’s progress toward preserving open space and the challenges ahead.

New Jersey Keep It Green is leading this campaign, which includes events throughout June - hikes, festivals, walks, tastings, bike tours, camping and more. To see the full calendar, visit https://www.facebook.com/NJKeepItGreen/.

You can also celebrate Open Space Month by entering the Instagram photo contest. Photographers of all levels are invited to follow the @njkeepitgreen page on Instagram, take photos of favorite natural places in New Jersey and post them under the hashtag #shareyourspacenj. Keep It Green will award cash prizes to the winners’ favorite conservation groups in random drawings … helping to promote the preservation of even more land!

Did you know that the Garden State has nearly 1.5 million preserved acres, including over 1.2 million acres of open space and more than 200,000 acres of preserved farmland? That’s a lot of photo ops!

Yet, New Jersey is the nation’s most densely populated state, with an average of about 1,200 people per square mile. Preserving land for the health and enjoyment of current and future generations – and for the wide diversity of animals and plants that make New Jersey their home – is critical for our state.

The good news: In 2014, in a major victory for preservation, voters approved a constitutional amendment to permanently fund open space by dedicating a portion of the state’s corporate business tax revenues. Last year, the state Legislature and Governor Christie reached an agreement on how to allocate the funds among the state’s Green Acres, farmland preservation, historic sites preservation and Blue Acres programs.

Earlier this month, the money was released when the governor signed a bill appropriating nearly $60 million from the open space fund to support a wide range of projects. Under the bill, $26.6 million will be spent on land acquisition, $26.5 million will go toward capital projects in state parks and wildlife refuges, and the remaining $6.4 million will fund the Blue Acres initiative, in which the state buys and razes homes in flood-prone areas.

The land acquisition list includes:

  • $4.3 million for properties on the Cape May Peninsula, including additions to Cape May Point State Park and Higbee Beach Wildlife Management Area;
  • $3.7 million for properties in the Ridge and Valley Greenway, including linkages between public lands like the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, Stokes State Forest, High Point State Park and Jenny Jump State Forest.
  • $3.3 million for “Crossroads of the American Revolution” properties, including Revolutionary War battlegrounds, encampment sites, barracks and soldier footpaths;
  • $3.5 million for the Delaware Bay Watershed Greenway, especially lands that protect the corridors of major rivers draining into the bay;
  • $5 million for land in the Highlands Greenway, which is critical to ensuring the integrity of New Jersey’s water supplies and maintaining biodiversity; and
  • $1.5 million for land in the Pinelands, to ensure water quality, ecosystem integrity and continued recreational activities like canoeing/kayaking, camping and hunting.

Celebrate Open Space Month by visiting beautiful preserved lands near you – New Jersey’s parks, forests, waters, natural areas, historic sites and farms!

And be sure to let your elected officials – and candidates for public office - know that you support land preservation. New Jerseyans will elect a new governor and a new Legislature this November, and it’s critically important that the successful candidates are committed to continuing New Jersey’s open space and environmental legacy.

Keep it Green is a coalition of over 175 conservation and outdoor groups who have successfully worked together to secure permanent funding for the preservation and stewardship of New Jersey's waterways, forests, natural areas, farmland, wildlife habitat, parks and historic sites for New Jersey residents and future generations. To learn more about Keep It Green, go to http://www.njkeepitgreen.org/.

To find preserved lands and trails, go to the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference website at www.nynjtc.org or visit the New Jersey Trails Association at www.njtrails.org.

And for 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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