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101-acre donation protects rare species habitat in Ocean County


New Jersey Conservation Foundation

LACEY AND OCEAN TWPS. – The recently-dedicated Candace McKee Ashmun Preserve at Forked River Mountain has grown by more than 100 acres, thanks to a land donation to New Jersey Conservation Foundation.

A 101-acre property on Bryant Road was transferred to New Jersey Conservation Foundation in late December by Evergreen Environmental LLC to mitigate for environmental impacts associated with the widening of the Garden State Parkway. Evergreen is an environmental consultant on the Parkway project.

“This is another step in preserving the entirety of the forest in the Forked River Mountains,” said Chris Jage, assistant director of New Jersey Conservation for South Jersey. “It’s definitely great endangered and threatened species habitat.”

The property contains mature pitch pine upland forest, a known habitat for threatened species, especially the Northern Pine Snake.

In addition to saving endangered species habitat, permanent preservation of the property fills a preservation gap in New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s Forked River Mountain Project area in Ocean County.

“Ownership of this property will enable us to better manage the forest as a whole for both ecological and public access purposes,” noted Jage. New Jersey Conservation Foundation has been protecting land in the Forked River Mountains since the 1980s.

Preservation of the property also protects the headwaters of the Oyster Creek and Forked River watersheds, whose wetlands contain significant populations of rare orchids and lilies.

The 101-acre tract expands the nearly 4,000-acre Candace McKee Ashmun Preserve at Forked Mountain, which was named in October for the dedicated environmentalist who has spent more than six decades helping to protect New Jersey’s environment. A member of the state Pinelands Commission since its founding in 1979, Ashmun is a resident of Basking Ridge, Somerset County. The preserve is jointly managed with the state Division of Fish & Wildlife.

The 101-acre tract is valued at about $173,000 and comes with a $5,000 stewardship endowment.

New Jersey Conservation Foundation has protected more than 120,000 acres of open space - from the Highlands to the Pine Barrens to the Delaware Bayshore, from farms to forests to urban and suburban parks – since its founding in 1960. For more information or to become a member, go to or call 1-888-LAND-SAVE.

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