342 Acres for Turkey Swamp Wildlife Area (NJ)

Toms River, NJ: The Trust for Public Land (TPL) announced today the acquisition of 342 acres that were then transferred to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the Ocean County Natural Lands Trust Program. This is the first of two purchases by TPL that will be managed as part of the state’s Turkey Swamp Wildlife Management Area. The land – 257 acres in Freehold Township and 85 acres in Jackson Township – was purchased from the United Talmudical Academy of Lakewood. The $2.5 million acquisition was made possible by funds from the Trust for Public Land, the New Jersey Green Acres Program, Ocean County, Freehold Township and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

“The Department of Environmental Protection is committed to continuing to work through partnerships like this to leverage our open space dollars so can we realize our goal of preserving an addition million acres in the Garden State,” said DEP Commissioner Robert Shinn. “The cooperation of all of the partners – including the sellers – has made this major expansion of the DEP’s wildlife management area possible. It will have lasting benefits for generations to come.”

Cindy Gilman, project manager for the Trust for Public Land, noted that the southern Monmouth County/northern Ocean County region is one of the fastest growing areas in the nation, yet much of it is also environmentally sensitive. TPL, a national nonprofit land conservation organization, used its legal, technical and real estate expertise to acquire the property on behalf of the consortium of agencies.

“This project includes the majority of the headwaters of the South Branch of the Metedeconk River and a portion of the headwaters of the Toms River,” Gilman said. “Both rivers contribute significantly to Ocean County’s surface water and groundwater quality. Since they also flow into the Barnegat Bay, this preservation project will help protect its sensitive watershed, where TPL already has done significant work.”

Non-point source pollution from development is a primary threat to the bay’s ecosystem and wildlife habitat and affects the drinking water supply taken from its tributaries, Gilman noted. Working in collaboration with other nonprofit and civic groups and local, state and federal agencies, TPL has made a long-term commitment to preserving and protecting the bay through land acquisition, public education and scientific research.

Plans call for the acquisition of an additional 1,335 acres by TPL this summer. The combined deals will expand the amount of preserved land in this area to more than 5,000 acres, linking to the state’s Turkey Swamp Wildlife Management Area and Monmouth County’s Turkey Swamp Park, as well as land being considered for preservation by the Ocean County Natural Lands Trust Committee, tying it to a county park.

“The preservation of our natural resources to ensure the protection of valuable lands transcends governmental boundaries,” stated Monmouth County Freeholder Director Harry Larrison, Jr. “This collaboration in particular – by state, county and local entities, a nonprofit agency and private citizens – demonstrates the best in public-private partnerships, with impacts for the public good reaching beyond any of our individual borders or interests.”

“Our residents made it clear that they support open space planning and are willing to fund land preservation,” said Freehold Township Committeeman David Salkin, referring to the November 2000 approval of a non-binding referendum to increase the township’s open space tax from 1 cent per $100 assessed valuation to 3 cents per $100. Township Mayor Dorothy Avallone added that, “This acquisition will give Freehold Township approximately 7,400 acres of permanent open space – a tremendous accomplishment. By acquiring the land today, we can be sure it will remain untouched, while almost doubling the size of Turkey Swamp Wildlife Management Area.”

“There’s no question that we’re getting maximum value for our land preservation dollar,” commented Ocean County Freeholder John C. Bartlett Jr. “While we’re pleased that people recognize what an attractive place Ocean County is to live, we are committed to maintaining our quality of life here by preserving the natural resources that attracted people in the first place.”

“We are pleased to provide support for this important conservation project,” said Peter Howell, program director for the environment at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. “This acquisition fulfills key goals of the Doris Duke Land Conservation Initiative by protecting key natural resources and helping to steer development into more appropriate places.”

“Preserving this tract provides a critical link in the state’s ‘Capital to the Coast’ initiative, an effort to create a protected greenway from Trenton to the Atlantic Ocean. It also helps protect the watershed of the Barnegat Bay,” noted Tom Wells, administrator of the Green Acres Program. “This open space helps to protect our water quality and valuable wildlife habitat.” Added DEP Commissioner Shinn, “With Green Acres monies providing $1.75 million of this $2.5 million project, we gratefully acknowledge Acting Governor Donald T. DiFrancesco and the other legislative leaders who made these funds available through passage of the Garden State Preservation Trust Act.”

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit organization that conserves land to improve the quality of life in communities and to protect the nation’s natural and historic resources for future generations. Since its founding in 1972, the Trust for Public Land has protected over one million acres nationwide, valued at $1.8 billion. In 1995, TPL published a study entitled “The Century Plan: A Study of One Hundred Conservation Sites in the Barnegat Bay Watershed,” which described 100 high priority conservation and public-access sites in need of protection and has guided land preservation efforts in Ocean County. With a state office in Morristown, TPL has protected more than 12,000 acres in New Jersey, including more than 6,500 acres in the Barnegat Bay.