Armstrong Bog Property Protected

January 4, 2010
Frankford Township, New Jersey

The first of two long-anticipated conservation projects within the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge was completed today, The Trust for Public Land, Frankford Township, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, New Jersey Natural Lands Trust, and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced.

The New Jersey office of The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national conservation organization, spearheaded the purchase of more than 166 acres in Frankford Township known as Armstrong Bog, and conveyed the land to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. The property is an addition to the New Jersey Natural Lands Trust's Papakating Creek Preserve and will be managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) as part of an expanded Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge, which TPL helped establish in 1990.

For several years the property-part of a larger, 324-acre parcel within the recently expanded boundary of the Refuge-has been a conservation priority for the township, USFWS, and the State. In 2007 the property was slated for a 35-lot subdivision, but that conceptual plan by Orleans Development was abandoned as the real estate market faltered. Several attempts were made to secure the property for conservation, and in 2008 TPL approached the landowner with a new conservation solution. Including today's purchase, TPL is working with the many partners and the landowner to conserve the entire 324 acres in two separate transactions.

"We are grateful to all the partners that made this important addition to the Papakating Creek Preserve within the magnificent Wallkill Refuge possible," said Anthony Cucchi, TPL state director for New Jersey. "This conservation effort ensures wetlands, the creek, and existing habitat for the bog turtle and other species are well cared for."

Armstrong Bog is a rare calcareous fen wetland site in northern New Jersey, important for recovery of the federally threatened, and state endangered, bog turtle. The lands also protect Papakating Creek, a New Jersey-classified Category One stream corridor, and preserves plant habitat for the rare Fraser's Saint John's wort.

TPL assembled funding for today's 166-acre, $1.1 million acquisition from several sources. New Jersey state programs contributed nearly $1 million through the Department of Environmental Protection Green Acres Program and a federal grant applied for by the New Jersey Natural Lands Trust. This includes $500,000 the New Jersey Natural Lands Trust received under the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund's Recovery Land Acquisition Program, a USFWS grant program to protect threatened and endangered species habitat. Frankford Township contributed more than $87,000 from its Open Space Trust Fund, and The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation contributed more than $70,000.

"The New Jersey Natural Lands Trust is delighted to see this spectacular natural area preserved, and it has been a pleasure to partner with The Trust for Public Land and Frankford Township in the effort," said Michael Catania, Chair of the New Jersey Natural Lands Trust.

The 5,100-acre Wallkill Refuge is a key nesting and foraging point for local and migratory birds. The Refuge also protects a wide variety of threatened and endangered species, including black bear, bobcat, river otter, and short-eared owl. The diverse topography of the refuge contains wetlands and forests that yield to open farmlands and grasslands at the higher elevations. Oak-covered limestone ridges parallel the Wallkill River, sometimes directly bordering the river's edge.

"This is great news," said Marie Springer, President, Friends of Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge. "Armstrong Bog is a prime piece of rare habitat that is important to species like the bog turtle. I am glad we are a step closer to protecting the whole property."

TPL and partners hope to complete the final 158-acre addition of Armstrong Bog soon. This future addition will also be managed by the USFWS as part of the Wallkill Refuge. Of the remaining addition, 42 acres will be acquired by the Township with a combination of Green Acres funds, Township Open Space Trust funds, and a grant from the Sussex County Open Space Trust fund. The protection of the remaining 116 acres of Armstrong Bog will be funded by an appropriation from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), secured with the full support of members of the New Jersey congressional delegation. Also, efforts are underway in Congress now to permanently fund the LWCF at its fully authorized annual level of $900 million.

"Protecting this natural treasure is a boost for preservation efforts in New Jersey and a benefit to the environmental quality of our state," said Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which helped establish the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge. "This acquisition will help preserve a rare wetland area that provides critical habitat for threatened plants and animals. We must continue to protect and conserve natural resources like Armstrong Bog."

"I strongly support the expansion of the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge, as I believe that preserving New Jersey's natural splendor is of the utmost importance," said U.S. Representative Scott Garrett. "The Refuge conserves the biological diversity of the Wallkill Valley so future generations of New Jerseyans can enjoy its beauty. As an active member of the Congressional Wildlife Refuge Caucus, as well as the Land Conservation Caucus, I have a strong legislative record that favors environmental protection."

The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Since 1972, TPL has helped protect nearly 3 million acres nationwide, including more than 24,000 acres in New Jersey. TPL helped establish the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge and has protected twelve properties totaling more than 2,100 acres to date.

The mission of the Green Acres Program is to achieve, in partnership with others, a system of interconnected open spaces, whose protection will preserve and enhance New Jersey's natural environment and its historic, scenic, and recreational resources for public use and enjoyment. www.state.nj.us/dep/greenacres

The mission of the New Jersey Natural Lands Trust is to preserve land in its natural state for enjoyment by the public and to protect natural diversity through the acquisition of open space. The Trust acquires open space primarily by donations of land and easements. In creating the Trust, the Legislature's goal was to establish an agency with the protective power of the State that would have the support of private-sector open space preservation and conservation organizations. www.njnlt.org

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.