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Freeholders, New Jersey Conservation Foundation & Hillsborough Township Announce Key Addition to Sourland Mountain Preserve


New Jersey Conservation Foundation
Photo by Martin MacCollum
HILLSBOROUGH - A Sept. 23 closing was held on 74 acres of land being deeded to the Somerset County Open Space program by land owner John Higgins. The acquisition was completed through a partnership with New Jersey Conservation Foundation and Hillsborough Township.

New Jersey Conservation Foundation secured an option agreement to purchase a total of 78 acres from Mr. Higgins, which was transferred to the County. Hillsborough Township has committed to contributing $500,000 toward the county's preservation of the land. The county anticipates closing on the remaining four acres later in the year, which will include the demolition of two dilapidated structures.

The property will remain largely in its natural state. The county and New Jersey Conservation Foundation will work together to develop a management plan that will outline planning and management activities most appropriate for the health and public enjoyment of the land.

The property, which is located near the intersection of Wertsville and Montgomery roads, is contiguous to other open space lands acquired by Somerset County in recent years and will encourage the expansion of the Sourland Mountain Preserve to the Hunterdon County border, where many local, county and nonprofit preservation initiatives are currently underway.

"We are pleased to have worked with New Jersey Conservation Foundation and Hillsborough Township toward the common goal of preserving this property," said Freeholder Director Mark Caliguire. "The acquisition adds key acreage to the county's growing Sourland Mountain Preserve, providing opportunities for connections with preserved lands in Hunterdon County. The ongoing partnership with the Conservation Foundation to maintain the property will ensure that this significant environmental resource is protected for future generations."

"The Sourlands are central New Jersey's largest unbroken forest and a true ecological treasure," said Michele S. Byers, executive director of New Jersey Conservation Foundation. "We're thrilled to work with Somerset County and Hillsborough Township to permanently preserve another 78 acres."

"Hillsborough Township has a very successful record of preserving land within the township and preservation remains a top priority," said Hillsborough Mayor Doug Tomson. "We will continue to proactively seek opportunities to further preserve land with our partners, the New Jersey Conservation Foundation and Somerset County."

The Sourland Mountain region is an expansive green swath of intact forest and farmland spanning parts of three largely developed central New Jersey counties. It extends from the central part of Hillsborough Township southwest to the Delaware River in West Amwell, Hunterdon County, and Hopewell Township, Mercer County.

The Sourlands contain over 20,000 contiguous forested acres, which protect the water supply to the headwaters of several significant streams flowing to the D&R Canal, Millstone, Raritan and Delaware rivers. The Sourlands support many rare plant and animal species and provide nesting and migratory stopover habitat for over 100 species of migratory birds.

Somerset County began the preservation of the Sourland Mountain in Hillsborough and Montgomery townships in the early 1970s. With the addition of the Higgins property, the preserve will exceed 6,000 acres, making it the largest park in Somerset County's 14,000-acre park system.

Hillsborough Township has been very active with preservation efforts in the Sourlands. Township and county officials have worked together on several open-space acquisitions in the Sourland region, creating linkages between county and local preserved lands.

The Far Hills-based New Jersey Conservation Foundation, which preserves open space and farmland throughout the state, is working to protect additional acreage in the Sourland Mountains.

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