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Freeholders & NJ Conservation Foundation announce addition to Sourland Mountain Preserve


New Jersey Conservation Foundation
Photo by Tom Boccino
An Oct. 23 closing was held on 29 acres of land in Montgomery Township being deeded to the Somerset County Open Space program by landowner Bryce Thompson. The acquisition was completed through a partnership with New Jersey Conservation Foundation.

"We are excited to be working once again with New Jersey Conservation Foundation," said Somerset County Freeholder Director Mark Caliguire. "The preservation of Mr. Thompson's property continues the county's aggressive preservation efforts of environmentally significant lands within the Sourland Mountain region."

New Jersey Conservation Foundation secured an option agreement to purchase a total of 30 acres from Mr. Thompson, which was transferred to the county. The county anticipates closing on the remaining 1-acre parcel by the end of the year.

"We're delighted to partner with Somerset County to preserve land in the Sourland Mountains," said Michele S. Byers, executive director of New Jersey Conservation Foundation. "The Sourland Mountain Preserve is a wonderful place to hike and enjoy nature, and we're happy to see it expanded with these 30 additional acres."

The property will remain largely in its natural, wooded state and the county will consider passive uses most appropriate for the health and public enjoyment of the land.

Located along County Route 601, the property is contiguous to other open space lands acquired by Somerset County in recent years and continues the preservation of environmentally sensitive lands within the Sourland Mountain region. Cruser Brook, a 1-mile long stream within the Raritan River drainage basin, traverses the property.

Preservation of Cruser Brook and other water courses is critical for the enhancement of surface-water quality and for preserving the environmental health of water bodies, many of which feed public drinking-water supplies. In addition, there are the scenic and recreational opportunities that the region's streams and rivers provide.

The Sourland Mountain region is an expansive, 20,000-acre continuous 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, Somerset County, southwest to the Delaware River in West Amwell, Hunterdon County, and Hopewell Township, Mercer County, supporting many rare plant and animal species, and providing nesting and migratory stopover habitat for over 100 species of migratory birds.

Somerset County began preservation in the Sourland Mountains region in Hillsborough and Montgomery Townships in the early 1970s. With the addition of the Thompson property, the Preserve is nearing 6,000 acres, making it the largest park in Somerset County's 14,200-acre park system.

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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