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New Jersey Conservation Foundation receives water protection grants
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE/ 04/03/14
FAR HILLS - New Jersey Conservation Foundation has received two grants totaling nearly $715,000 toward its work in protecting water resources in the Highlands, the Pine Barrens and the Delaware Bay watershed.
The grant is the first phase of a $35 million multi-year initiative by the Philadelphia-based William Penn Foundation to protect and restore drinking water for 15 million people in the Delaware River watershed. The Delaware River watershed covers more than 13,500 square miles, spanning New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware.
The grants fund an unprecedented collaboration of leading conservation groups, including New Jersey Conservation Foundation, who have aligned their work to protect land, restore streams, test innovative approaches and monitor results.
"Clean water is essential for life and we can't take it for granted," said Michele S. Byers, executive director of New Jersey Conservation Foundation. "We are proud and excited to be part of this initiative, and we thank the William Penn Foundation for its leadership in designing this comprehensive and collaborative program."
For more than 50 years New Jersey Conservation Foundation has been a leader in the preservation and conservation of lands throughout the state, a focus in the Highlands and Pinelands. Most remarkable is the Franklin Parker Preserve in Chatsworth, which contains approximately 5,000 acres of wetlands habitat and 4,400 acres of contiguous upland pine oak forest, as well as 14 tributaries that cross the preserve and eventually unite in the Wading River, one of the most popular sites for canoeing in the Pine Barrens.
New Jersey Conservation Foundation projects funded by the grants include:
- Preserving thousands of acres of priority lands in the Delaware Bayshore, core Pine Barrens and Highlands regions to protect water resources;
- Increasing best management practices on farmland to protect soils and water quality, and increasing the use of state and federal farmland protection programs;
- Designing and implementing model municipal conservation easement programs in partnership with Byram Township in Sussex County and Hammonton in Atlantic County to protect the public interest in existing and future easements,
- Restoring streamside habitat along three branches of the Forked River at New Jersey Conservation Foundation's Candace McKee Ashmun Preserve in Lacey and Ocean townships, Ocean County;
- Ensuring implementation of sound rules and policies statewide to protect watershed lands and their underground and surface waters;
"New Jersey Conservation Foundation has been privileged to work with the William Penn Foundation for many years, and this significant commitment comes at a crucial time," said Byers. "New Jersey is slated to be the first state to reach build-out and it's critical to protect priority landscapes while we still can."
In the Highlands, which supplies water to 5.4 million people, New Jersey Conservation Foundation will focus on critical forests, headwaters and farms to ensure that the Musconetcong River and Lopatcong Creek are protected. New Jersey Conservation Foundation will continue to partner with the federal Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program to preserve key farms.
In Byram Township - known as the "Township of Lakes" - and in Hammonton, New Jersey Conservation Foundation will partner with these municipalities to establish statewide models for maintaining conservation easements to protect critical natural resources. Conservation easements are routinely used by municipalities as part of the development application process to protect resources deemed necessary for the health of the municipality but they must be mapped, monitored and maintained if they are to function for their intended public benefit.
In South Jersey, the William Penn Foundation grant will continue to support New Jersey Conservation Foundation's work to protect the Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer, a vast underground reservoir that provides more than 35 billion gallons of clean water each year to residents, farmers, businesses and industry.
In Lacey and Ocean Townships, New Jersey Conservation Foundation will significantly reduce illegal off-road vehicle traffic in the 4,000-acre Candace Ashmun Preserve at Forked River Mountain, to reduce erosion, stabilize stream corridors and restore habitat. The headwaters of three watersheds - the Cedar Creek, Forked River and Oyster Creek - originate in the Forked River Mountain area and flow into Barnegat Bay.
"This grant enables conservation groups across the entire watershed to align their work to be more effective and efficient," said Byers, "and we welcome this opportunity to work together and protect the environment for future generations. The William Penn Foundation has brought experts and academic institutions together with conservation groups to support this initiative; their commitment is indicative of the importance of this work."
Andrew Johnson, Senior Program Officer for Watershed Protection at the William Penn Foundation, stated, "We look forward to making this work and data available to the public and hope to identify new evidence-based methods for avoiding or mitigating key stressors threatening water quality in major metropolitan areas, specifically urban storm water runoff, agricultural pollution, loss of forests in essential headwater areas, and aquifer depletion."
New Jersey Conservation Foundation, based in Far Hills, is a private nonprofit that has preserved nearly 130,000 acres throughout the state since 1960. From the Highlands to the Pine Barrens to the Delaware Bayshore, New Jersey Conservation Foundation has protected farms, forests, wetlands and urban and suburban parks. For more information, go to www.njconservation.org.
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