528 Acres in NJ Highlands Protected

Rockaway Township, NJ, 6/29/05: Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell today announced the preservation of the 528-acre Herman J. Koehler III property in Rockaway Township, Morris County. The protection of this Highlands Preservation Area property will conserve water resources, threatened and endangered species habitat, and scenic views. The Trust for Public Land purchased the property on behalf of the DEP, working in partnership with the Morris County Open Space Trust, the Morris Land Conservancy, and the Rockaway Township Open Space Trust.

“Protecting our drinking water and open space remains among the State of New Jersey’s highest priorities,” said Acting Governor Richard J. Codey.

“The preservation of the Koehler property complements DEP’s preservation of the nearby Wildcat Ridge Wildlife Management Area and reinforces our commitment to work with local and nonprofit partners to protect open space in the Highlands Preservation Area,” said Commissioner Campbell.

“The Trust for Public Land has worked for more than two decades to protect the watersheds of the Highlands. We are pleased to have played a role in preserving this land with the state, adding to the more than 27,500 Highlands acres we have protected to date,” said TPL New Jersey Director Terrence Nolan.

The H. J. Koehler tract is heavily wooded and provides critical habitat for threatened and endangered species including the bobcat, barred owl, bald eagle, Indiana bat, red-shouldered hawk and wood turtle.

Preservation of the property protects the Split Rock Reservoir watershed, which supplies drinking water to more than three million New Jersey residents. The property is adjacent to the Split Rock Reservoir and contains a tributary of the Beaver Brook, which serves as the headwaters for the Rockaway River. The property also includes Category One-designated streams and associated wetlands.

“This is the kind of preservation project that Morris County is proud to be part of-bringing together a generous, visionary landowner; a strongly conservation-minded town; two exceptional land organizations; plus the State of New Jersey and the federal government,” said Morris County Freeholder Director Jack Shrier. “With Morris County’s contribution of $2 million, one-third of the total, we are delighted we could make this a reality.”

DEP will manage the land as an addition to the adjacent 3,100-acre Wildcat Ridge Wildlife Management Area. The property contains two miles of the 40-mile Farny Highlands Trail Network, a regional trail system connecting area state, county, and municipal parks. “The Koehler Estate property is a vital missing link in our long-term plan to preserve a connected series of open spaces in the northern Morris County region known as the Farny Highlands,” said Morris Land Conservancy Executive Director David Epstein. “It is exciting to complete this project with the Koehler family which helped us design the original preservation plans for this region nearly 15 years ago.”

DEP purchased the $6.12 million H. J. Koehler property in partnership with the Trust for Public Land, Morris County Open Space Trust, the Morris Land Conservancy, and the Rockaway Township Open Space Trust. The DEP Green Acres program contributed $3.4 million in state acquisition funds and nonprofit grants to TPL and the Morris Land Conservancy. The Morris County Open Space Trust contributed $2 million, the Rockaway Township Open Space Trust contributed $600,000, and TPL contributed $120,000 from a grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, a major contributor to land conservation in the New Jersey Highlands region for many years. The Federal Forest Legacy fund is expected to reimburse DEP $1 million for the purchase of the property.

“The Koehler property and the entire Highlands region sit at the center of the most densely populated area of the country,” said Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen. “The purchase of the Koehler tract is a major victory for preserving pristine land, and it further demonstrates our commitment to taking every step necessary to protect open space in the Highlands.”

The New Jersey Highlands is a 1,000 square mile area in the Northwest part of the state, stretching from Phillipsburg in the Southwest to Ringwood in the Northeast. It lies within portions of seven counties and 87 municipalities. Sixty-four percent of New Jersey residents, about 5.4 million people, receive their water from the Highlands. Those residents live in 292 municipalities in 16 counties.

“Rockaway Township is proud to be a part of a large group that has worked very hard for the past decade to preserve a 528-acre portion of the Koehler land,” said Rockaway Township Mayor Louis S. Sceusi.

The DEP Green Acres Program purchases land to protect environmentally sensitive open space, water resources and other significant natural and historical open space. Land acquired becomes part of the statewide system of parks and forest, wildlife management areas and natural areas. In 2005, the Green Acres Program has preserved over 11,188 acres of open space. To date, Green Acres has protected over 569,000 acres of open space and provided funding to develop hundreds of parks statewide. The statewide system of preserved open space and farmland totals almost 1.3 million acres.

With a state office in Morristown, the Trust for Public Land has been active in the protection of the Highlands for more than a decade. To date, TPL has helped protect more than 27,500 acres in the New York-New Jersey Highlands, including 395 acres added to the Wildcat Ridge Wildlife Management Area in two transactions in 2000 and 2001. 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. For more information visit www.tpl.org.