Armstrong Bog Property Protected for Wallkill Refuge

December 23, 2010
Frankford Township, New Jersey

The long-anticipated conservation of Armstrong Bog within the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge was completed today, The Trust for Public Land, Frankford Township, 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 157 acres in Frankford Township known as Armstrong Bog, and conveyed the land in two transactions, including 116 acres to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) and 41 acres to the Town of Frankford. TPL supported the establishment of the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge in 1990.

The New Jersey congressional delegation has been a strong supporter of this project and worked to secure $873,500 in federal funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) to protect the 116-acre portion of the property.

For more than a decade 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. In the last year TPL has worked with many partners and the landowner to purchase and conserve the entire 324 acres in three separate transactions. In December 2009, 166 acres were conveyed to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection as an addition to the New Jersey Natural Lands Trust's Papakating Creek Preserve.

"We are grateful to all the partners that made this important expansion of the magnificent Wallkill Refuge possible," said Anthony Cucchi, TPL state director for New Jersey. "Thanks to this group effort, Papakating Creek and critical habitat for the bog turtle and other species are now in safe hands."

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 157-acre, $1,198,500 acquisition from several sources. In addition to the $873,500 in LWCF funding, $203,000 was granted from the Sussex County Open Space Trust Fund, and $122,000 was secured from a Township of Frankford Green Acres Planning Incentive grant.

"Today, we have completed an important expansion of the Wallkill Refuge to help protect this natural treasure," said Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee who helped establish the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge almost 20 years ago. "I was proud to help secure federal funding to complete this project and preserve a critical wetland that will provide habitat for threatened animals and plants. We must continue to protect and conserve New Jersey's natural resources like Armstrong Bog."

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.

"We greatly appreciate the support of the Trust for Public Land, the New Jersey Congressional delegation and the conservation community in protecting this important habitat for bog turtles and other wildlife species. It is a significant addition to the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge," said Tony Léger, regional chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System.

"The open space preservation of Armstrong Bog is a conservation milestone for New Jersey, Sussex County and Frankford Township," said Janet Lyons-Fairbanks, chairwoman of the Frankford Open Space Committee. "This unique natural resource will continue to be a critical source of diverse habitat, pure water and clean air and will be another step in saving the formidable but threatened biosystems of the state. Frankford Township and its citizens are committed to the preservation of vital open space because of the current and future ecological, human health and economic benefits it provides."

"This is a milestone for protecting the bog turtle and its habitat," said Marie Springer, land acquisition specialist and former president of Friends of Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge. "Armstrong Bog is a rare and prime landscape and I am grateful to all the organizations and partners that came together to protect it."

"Preservation of the Armstrong Bogs has been Frankford's Township's number one priority since the inception of its open space program," said Bob Canace, Land Preservation Specialist, The Land Conservancy of New Jersey. "The project protects one of the most important ecological sites in the State, along with prime farmland. Through the efforts of The Trust for Public Land this unique and sensitive property will remain part of the rural landscape of Frankford Township. This acquisition is a great example of what can be accomplished through partnership like the one forged between TPL, Frankford Township and Sussex County."

Congress created the LWCF in 1965 to reinvest revenue from offshore oil and gas royalties - rather than use taxpayer dollars - to fund the protection of land and water resources, ensuring outdoor recreation opportunities for all Americans to enjoy. The LWCF program is authorized to receive up to $900 million each year. However, in the program's 45-year history, that level of funding has been reached only once. TPL and other groups, including many in New Jersey, are advocating for legislation to fully fund the LWCF this year and U.S. Senators Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez have cosponsored a bill, S. 2747, which authorizes full funding.

In addition to important conservation efforts at the Wallkill Refuge, LWCF expenditures have helped to protect important lands at E.B. Forsythe and Cape May National Wildlife Refuges, the Pinelands Preserve and many other local, state and federal recreation lands in New Jersey.

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 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.

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