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New Jersey Land Conservation Organization
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Jump directly to a topic... Climate Change - Farm Bill - Forestry Bill
The Highlands - Regional Planning - Working to Protect the Palisades

Superstorm Sandy Response - Conservation Easement Revitalization

 

 

Sustainable State Funding for Preservation and Stewardship

 

Please urge the state Assembly to save our open space, parks, farmland and historic sites!

NJ preserved farmland sign

 

The New Jersey Senate recently approved legislation to sustainably fund open space, farmland and historic preservation (SCR84).  Now the Assembly must act before the summer recess.

With bipartisan leadership, New Jersey has dedicated an average of $200 million a year for open space funding since the creation of the Garden State Preservation Trust in 1998.

 

But funds from the most recent bond referendum in 2009 are gone. Immediate action is needed to continue New Jersey's legacy of open space, farmland and historic site preservation.

 

Ask your legislators to promptly pass a bill (SCR84/ACR130) to continue New Jersey's critical preservation efforts.  Please call or email your Assembly representatives today!

 

The legislation would provide funding for:

  • The incredibly successful Green Acres program
  • Blue Acres projects to purchase flood-impacted properties
  • Vital farmland preservation efforts
  • Historic preservation

Without immediate action, the bill won't make it onto the November ballot for voters to ultimately decide.  

 

We need your help!

 

EMAIL YOUR ASSEMBLY REPRESENTATIVES >> 

(This link will take you to New Jersey Audubon's automated email contact page.)

- OR -

FIND YOUR REPRESENTATIVES' TELEPHONE NUMBERS >> 

 

Background information and talking points for your calls:             

  •  SCR84/ACR130 would dedicate 4% of existing Corporate Business Tax (CBT) revenues to critical open space preservation and environmental protection programs through Fiscal Year 2019, and dedicate an additional 2% of existing CBT revenues from FY2020 going forward. This would provide a long-term, dedicated source of funding for land and water protection efforts without any fiscal impact until FY2020, when the additional 2% of CBT revenues (approximately $50 million) would be allocated for these purposes.
  • All Green Acres, Blue Acres, Farmland and Historic Preservation funds from the 2009 $400 million bond act are now fully allocated.  Without action, these critical efforts will come to a standstill while tens of thousands of acres of natural lands and farmland are in need of protection.
  • The legislation is a fiscally responsible solution and should be given a hearing and a vote in the Assembly as soon as possible. This legislation provides a long-term, dedicated source of funding for park and preservation efforts without any fiscal impact until FY2020.

See "A Legacy of Green: Celebrating 50 years of the Green Acres Program" >>

 

Learn more about the effort to secure a permanent funding source for the GSPT>>

 

 

Working to Protect the Palisades

 

Urge LG Electronics to redesign their proposed high-rise corporate headquarters in Englewood Cliffs!

 

 

New Jersey Conservation Foundation is working as a member of Protect the Palisades, a coalition of individuals and organizations from New Jersey, New York and around the nation, to protect the Hudson River Palisades from LG Electronics’ proposed high rise office building that would destroy the integrity of this beautiful natural feature.

 

One of the great landscapes of New Jersey and a scenic gateway to our state, the Palisades enjoys the rare dual designation as a National Natural Landmark and National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

 

As currently designed, LG’s proposed building would rise more than four times higher than the existing 35-foot limit that has been mandated in this area for decades. This building would not only interrupt the historic vista, but would also set a precedent for greater building heights stretching northward along the cliffs. 

 

There is a “win-win” alternative – a low-rise design that fully accommodates the company’s needs for new office space while ensuring the integrity of the Palisades ridgeline and parks.

 

The town of Englewood Cliffs granted a variance allowing the LG tower to exceed the historic 35 foot height limit along the cliffs based on LG’s assertion that the tall building was necessary to get certification under the US Green Building Council’s “LEED” program.  LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.  But Roger Platt, Senior Vice President, at the Green Building Council, testified before the New Jersey Senate Environment and Energy Committee in June, rejecting any suggestion that LEED certification would require a tall building.

 

NJ Conservation joined the court battle over the building this spring, filing an amicus brief along with Natural Resources Defense Council in an appeal of the LG variance.  We continue to seek the assistance of our U.S. Senators Menendez and Booker in finding a solution to the devastating high-rise proposal.  New York’s Senators have already lent their voices in support of a low-rise alternative, along with a number of other public officials.

 

The Palisades were recently included on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 2014 annual list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places, as well as Preservation New Jersey’s 2014 “10 Most Endangered Historic Places” list. The cliffs are on the 2014 watch list of the World Monuments Fund, an organization devoted to saving important architectural and cultural heritage sites around the world.

 

New Jersey Senator Bob Smith has spearheaded state legislation to protect the Palisades – a measure that is co-sponsored by Senators Bateman and Codey and Assemblyman McKeon. If successful, this legislation would impose a height restriction of 35 feet in the Palisades viewshed, from the northern boundary of Fort Lee north to the New York State border – and includes a retroactive provision that would prevent the LG high-rise design. 

 

Despite these efforts, the outcome for the Palisades remains uncertain! Please urge LG Electronics to redesign their proposed high-rise headquarters.  

 

To take action, visit the Protect the Palisades Coalition website >>

Read more about it in Michele Byers' column, The State We're In >>

See press release, and letter to LG's CEO written by four former New Jersey Governors >>

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Addressing Climate Change and Energy Policy

The rapidly growing focus on energy and climate change at the state and national levels creates both challenges and opportunities for land conservation. We are encountering threats to preserved land posed by global warming, as well as proposals to divert preserved land for alternative energy development.

At the same time, we are defending land from threats posed by transmission lines and pipelines, and trying to protect our water resources from natural gas drilling. On the positive side, our work on forest protection and restoration presents an opportunity to promote carbon sequestration.

In recognition of the enormous role energy conservation can play in decreasing energy use, we advocate for a much greater focus on conservation and efficiency in the state's energy master plan.

Read about how "Saving Energy Saves Land" >>

"Energy Efficiency and Economic Opportunity" >>
  
-American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy

Superstorm Sandy Response

In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, New Jersey Conservation Foundation has been working together with other environmental organizations to advocate for restoration and rebuilding strategies that will leave New Jersey communities more resilient to future storms and sea level rise.

Read more about the concerted efforts of several environmental agencies...

Community Letter_Congressional Funding >>    

Community Principles >>

Community Press Release_Sandy Recovery >>


Sandy-related topics featured in Michele Byers' column,
"The State We're In"

Blowin' in the Wind
Slow Moving Waves of Sand (Barrier Islands)
Storms Could Benefit Forest Biodiversity   

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Protecting the Land that Grows Our Food

 

Farm Bill Passes – Why it Matters to New Jersey

 Picking crops at New Jersey farm

Congress passed the long delayed Farm Bill in early February 2014. The good news for conservation includes $1.3 billion over 10 years for land preservation programs. The Conservation Foundation advocated for this funding, which greatly benefits our farmland preservation work. 

Without the federal Farm Bill, natural resource conservation programs - particularly the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP) - New Jersey would not have been able to preserve over 170 farms across 15 counties in our state. New Jersey Conservation Foundation alone has received nearly $30 million to protect Garden State farmland!

  

The Conservation Foundation plays a special role in Farm Bill policy, working to ensure that federal funds protect soils by limiting the amount of farm structures that can be built on the land. This helps protect important agricultural soils from large scale greenhouse operations and commercial development such as cell towers (which are only permitted on land preserved with state and local funds). New Jersey has some unique and valuable agricultural soils, and they need to be protected!

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NJ Conservation Foundation's farmland preservation works!

Through our farmland preservation work, New Jersey Conservation Foundation is working toward a day when an abundance of locally grown New Jersey food, produced in a healthy, environmentally sustainable manner, will be available to feed the region.

As part of that vision, large concentrations of preserved farmland will not only support the local food system, but will also protect the state’s water supply and wildlife habitat, combat global warming by sequestering carbon, and connect with other preserved lands – parks, trails, and natural areas – as part of an interconnected system of public and private open space, with all of the benefits associated with preserved, open land.

To fulfill this vision, we lobby Congress for New Jersey's fair share of federal farmland conservation funding. NJCF is New Jersey's leading non-profit recipient of USDA Farm and Ranchland Protection Program funds. We have been recognized by the State Agriculture Development Committee as New Jersey's leading non-profit organization for both acres of farmland and total farms preserved.

We promote natural resource protections – especially soil protections - for farmland preserved with public money, so that the agricultural soils of today will be available to grow food tomorrow. And while we support clean renewable energy sources, we are working to ensure that these sources don't come at the cost of our most productive farmland.

We are working to strengthen farmland preservation and agricultural viability in our Delaware Bay Watershed project area. This region is rich in natural resources, and is truly the bread basket of New Jersey agriculture. We are developing pilot projects, including marketing initiatives, to assist sustainable farm operations in the region and connect local food with urban centers.

Agriculture comprises one of the most important sectors of New Jersey's economy, while also providing a host of public and community benefits that cannot be fully measured. NJCF is committed to keeping the garden in "The Garden State."

 

Read more about soil protection efforts in Michele Byers' column, "The State We're In" >>

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Advocating Sound Stewardship of Public and Private Lands


New Jersey Conservation Foundation advocates for state policies that give high priority to protection and restoration of biodiversity on public and private lands, urges the use of modern ecological principles in developing management plans for New Jersey’s public lands, and defends preserved land from improper diversion to other uses.

Take action now to stop industrial park on Green Acres land!

 

Last summer, the state’s Green Acres Program purchased 80 acres of forest in Cumberland County, expanding the Menantico Ponds Wildlife Management Area to 474 acres. This land – the former Durand Glass property – contains prime breeding habitat for several state threatened species, including Northern Pine Snakes.

 

The land had been preserved for less than a year when the City of Millville protested, arguing that it was needed instead for economic development. The city, along with Cumberland County, has convinced the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to overturn the Green Acres purchase and sell it to the city for an industrial park.

 

Sometimes the state diverts small pieces of preserved land that are needed for public purposes, like road widening, schools, hospitals or fire stations. The proposed Millville sale would be the largest in Green Acres’ almost 60-year history – all for a private company’s gain.

 

If allowed to go through, this proposal would set a terrible precedent for the Green Acres Program and our public lands. Any municipality could now claim the need for economic development to justify further diversions of public trust Green Acres properties for private commercial use. This would severely undermine nearly 60 years of public support for Green Acres funding.

 

Take Action!

 

Please contact Governor Christie and ask him to put a halt to this sale and stop trading away our citizens’ investments in open spaces and parks. 

 

Click here to send an email to Governor Christie >>

 

Read more about this issue in a "State We're In" column by Michele S. Byers, Executive Director >>

 

 

 

Conservation Easement Revitalization Project

A conservation easement is a legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust or government agency that permanently limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values. Easements are a widely used tool for preserving land.  Yet because the land itself generally remains in separate, private ownership, ensuring that easements continue to fulfill their original promise as time passes and land changes hands is often a challenge.

New Jersey Conservation Foundation recently took part in a national project called the Easement Revitalization Research Project. The project was sponsored and funded by the Open Space Institute in New York and funded by the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the Kohlberg Foundation and Resources Legacy Fund.

 

New Jersey Conservation Foundation was one of six case study partners nationally working with consultant Marc Smiley from Solid Ground to obtain a comprehensive understanding of the extent to which land trusts are encountering situations where conservation protections on private lands are not being honored, and to focus on how land trusts can remedy or otherwise manage these troubled easements.

A subsequent report evaluated the case study easements and gave options for addressing the challenges that have arisen. NJCF staff provided feedback on the report, which has been finalized in the form of a general guidebook, “Easement Revitalization Guidebook,” for land trusts across the country.  

Download a copy of the guidebook >>

On a state level New Jersey Conservation Foundation, as the state’s leading private holder of conservation easements, has launched an initiative to ensure the long-term viability and integrity of conservation easements throughout the Garden State. Working with conservation partners from all sectors, we are developing strategies to ensure that easements remain an effective preservation tool and that preserved land is truly protected in perpetuity.

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Advancing and Defending Environmentally Sound Regional Plans


New Jersey has a strong history of adopting comprehensive regional plans. Regional planning that incorporates environmental protection is critical to protecting the land and water supplies on which we depend. Other important benefits of such planning includes stabilizing local property taxes, retaining the character of rural areas and established communities, and generally promoting growth in places where it is less environmentally damaging and more cost-effective to build, because of the presence of existing infrastructure like roads, sewers and public water systems.

New Jersey Conservation Foundation has been integrally involved in the passage of many landmark New Jersey regional planning laws, including the Pinelands Protection Act, the Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act, the Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park law, and the State Planning Act. Constant vigilance is required to ensure these laws and their regional plans aren't weakened over time.

 

Help Protect the Highlands

Pyramid Mountain, Morris CountyThe Highlands are part of the great sweep of the Appalachian Mountains that shadows the East Coast from Maine to Georgia. The Highlands Region extends from southeastern Pennsylvania through northwest New Jersey into New York and Connecticut. With forested ridges, pastoral farmland, and pure streams, lakes and reservoirs, the Highlands form a greenbelt surrounding the most populous metropolitan area in the US. The Highlands provide an essential source of drinking water, clean air, critical wildlife habitat, historic resources, recreational opportunities and scenic beauty for both its residents and the millions of people who live within an hour’s travel.

 

About the New Jersey Highlands Act

New Jersey’s 2004 Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act passed by overwhelming majorities in the State legislature after two decades of focused citizen and governmental efforts to protect the New Jersey Highlands Region. The 860,000 acre Highlands, with only 17 percent of the land in the State, provides drinking water to 5.4 million – nearly two-thirds – of the State’s residents, who live in fifteen counties in northern central and southern New Jersey. If you are either a Highlands water-drinker or a Highlands resident, there is good reason for you to become involved in the region’s protection.

If you are either a Highlands water-drinker or a Highlands resident, there is good reason for you to become involved in the region’s protection.The New Jersey Highlands Coalition has an outreach program directed to Highlands water-receiving areas outside the region. To find out more visit the Highlands Coalition website.

The Highlands Act affects 88 municipalities in parts of seven counties:  Bergen, Passaic, Morris, Somerset, Hunterdon, Sussex and Warren. The Highlands Water Protection and Planning Council (Highlands Council) and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) are both charged with implementing the Act. The DEP has rule-making authority over the Preservation Area, about half the region, much of which is preserved state and county lands. The Highlands Council completed the required Regional Master Plan (RMP) for the 88 municipalities in 2008. 

Highlands Plan Conformance

Conformance with the Plan is mandatory for the Preservation Area, but voluntary for the Planning Area.  Since the Plan is based on scientific assessments of available water supply and septic capability in each watershed, its build out scenario, along with required environmental ordinances, offers a blueprint for sustainable, capacity-based development for all Highlands municipalities in both the Preservation and Planning Areas. Implementation is achieved through municipal conformance with the Plan, which benefits substantially from the involvement and support of local residents. 

Conformance Update

As of December 2012, 43 municipalities and two counties (Passaic and Somerset) have had their Plan Conformance Petitions approved by the Highlands Council. Of the 88 Highlands municipalities, 60 have submitted Plan Conformance Petitions. You can check the status of specific municipalities on the Highlands Council website - www.highlands.state.nj.us.

You can help move Plan Conformance along! The New Jersey Highlands Coalition, of which NJCF is a founding member, has a Highlands Advocate Program that you can join to take action. Please visit the New Jersey Highlands Coalition website to find out more. 

Let's Not Let Politics Trump Water

New Jersey Conservation Foundation is working to defend the Highlands from efforts by the Christie Administration to weaken the Highlands’ protections.

Damaging steps already taken include the appointment of anti-conservation individuals to the Highlands Council. At the Council, the progress of plan conformance by municipalities has slowed dramatically. 

We and other environmentalists are concerned about potential weakening of the Regional Master Plan during an upcoming review process. Also, it is feared that strongly protective DEP Highlands rules may be revised. Without gubernatorial leadership committed to Highlands protection, New Jersey faces the serious risk of damage to the watersheds that represent the State’s primary source of drinking water.

The Highlands Council meets monthly at 5 p.m. on Thursdays at the Council headquarters at 100 North Road (Route 513) north of Chester Borough in Morris County. New Jersey Conservation Foundation regularly monitors and comments at these meetings.

We also periodically post action alerts on Highlands issues, so please sign up for our email alerts and stay tuned!

Read statement by former Governors about the importance of protecting Highlands, Pinelands >>

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