1,200 NJ Highland Acres Protected

HARDYSTON TOWNSHIP, NJ, March 22, 2004:The Trust for Public Land announced today the conservation of a 1,200-acre property known as Gerard Woods in Hardyston Township, New Jersey (Sussex County). The land will be managed by the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife along with nearly 10,000 acres of protected lands in the immediate vicinity-including the 2,200-acre Sparta Mountain Wildlife Management Area consisting of land protected by the Trust for Public Land (TPL) and the Green Acres Program in 1998 and the 5,000-acre Hamburg Mountain Wildlife Management Area.

The acquisition represents the culmination of five years of diligent efforts by the Trust for Public Land to acquire one of the crown jewels in the New Jersey Highlands.

“We acted on a rare opportunity to protect such a large parcel of land in the Highlands. This protection is being celebrated for its role in the preservation of key watershed land, habitat, and recreational open space,” said Terrence Nolan, project manager for the Trust for Public Land.

Funding for the $4 million purchase was made available through a combination of funds from the U.S. Forest Service Forest Legacy Program ($2.981million), New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Green Acres Program ($319,000 general acquisition funds and $250,000 nonprofit grant to TPL), and a donation to the Trust for Public Land from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation ($450,000).

The federal funds were secured through a congressional appropriation with the strong support of the New Jersey Delegation, especially Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee; Senators Jon Corzine and Frank Lautenberg; and Rep. Scott Garrett. In addition to the efforts of the Trust for Public Land, the Highlands Coalition played a significant role in rallying support for the project’s federal funding.

“Gerard Woods and the entire Highlands region sit at the center of the most densely populated area of the country. This funding we have secured is a major victory for preserving the pristine land and natural beauty of Gerard Woods. It further demonstrates our commitment to taking every step necessary to protect open space in the Highlands,” said Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen.

“New Jersey’s Highlands provide everything from drinking water and habitat protection to magnificent open space for recreational and contemplative enjoyment. Having worked hard over the last decade to support numerous local, state and federal projects designed to conserve and protect the Highlands, I am thrilled that this swath of precious forestland in Sussex County will also be protected by yet another successful public-private partnership,” said Senator Lautenberg.

“I was proud to work with Senator Lautenberg, Congressman Frelinghuysen and Congressman Garrett to secure $3 million in federal funding to help preserve this property. I am committed to obtaining additional funding to preserve land in New Jersey’s Highlands and will work hard to see that legislation I have introduced-the Highlands Stewardship Act-is enacted to help provide this funding,” said Senator Jon Corzine.

“This important funding makes the dream of protecting the pristine land and natural beauty of Gerard Woods a reality,” said Rep. Scott Garrett. “This fast developing region of New Jersey must be saved, to ensure that the quality of life in the area is preserved for future generations to enjoy.”

“The Gerard Woods property is a shining example of how the Forest Legacy Program, through public and private partnerships, can protect working forests so they can continue to provide clean air and water, forest products, critical wildlife habitat and an abundance of recreation opportunities,” said Joel Holtrop, Forest Service’s deputy chief for State and Private Forestry. “The Forest Service is delighted to be a part of this conservation action to protect the Highlands for future generations.”

“Protecting this land in the New Jersey Highlands is critical to our goal of protecting our water resources,” said Bradley M. Campbell, Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. “Under Governor McGreevey’s leadership we are working through the new Highlands Task Force, local communities, and the legislature to take bold steps to preserve that area which supplies drinking water to half of New Jersey’s families.”

The Gerard Woods property surrounds Lake Gerard and includes a hiking trail to the lake. The land also includes contiguous forested mountain terrain, significant streams, and critical wildlife habitat, including that of the great blue heron, barred owl, neotropical migratory birds, and coldwater trout. The property represents one of the largest remaining tracts of land in the fast-developing New Jersey Highlands Region. Located immediately adjacent to the Newark Pequannock Watershed, acquisition of the property is crucial to ensuring quality drinking water for millions of New Jersey residents.

“This transaction’s success is a testimony to the benefits of having local government, citizens, the State of New Jersey and environmental organizations working together from start to finish. We appreciated the opportunity to be so involved and share in the enthusiasm,” said Marianne Smith, Hardyston Township manager.

“Once again NJ’s Congressional Delegation, led by Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen and Senators Corzine and Lautenberg, has delivered significant federal funding to protect this nationally significant region of water, beauty and life. We congratulate the Trust for Public Land for adding this critical treasure of the Highlands to the thousands of acres of open space they have helped to preserve in the Highlands,” said Tom Gilbert, executive director of the Highlands Coalition. The Coalition, comprised of more than 100 local, state, regional and national conservation organizations that seeks to protect and enhance the sustainability of natural and human communities in the Highlands region of PA, NJ, NY and CT, played a major role in supporting the federal funding request.

Still largely consisting of forests and pasturelands, the New Jersey-New York Highlands are virtually in the backyard of the Nation’s largest metropolitan area, providing outdoor recreational opportunities for the 20 million people who live in northern New Jersey and New York City. There have been increasing Federal efforts to see more of land conserved, including the recent introduction of the Highlands Conservation Act, which would make additional funds available to the Highlands states for land conservation efforts. The New York-New Jersey Highlands have been losing roughly 5,000 acres to development each year over the past decade.

With a state office in Morristown, TPL has been active in the protection of the Highlands for more than a decade. To date, TPL has helped protect approximately 26,000 acres in the New York-New Jersey Highlands. Earlier this month, TPL protected the 43-acre Sparta Fields property in partnership with Sparta Township.

The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and other natural places, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. The Trust for Public Land depends on the support and generosity of individuals, foundations, and businesses to achieve our land for people mission.