600 Acres in NJ Highlands Protected

Mount Olive Township, NJ, 5/10/04: New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell and the Trust for Public Land (TPL) today announced the preservation of the Crown Towers property, approximately 600 acres in Mount Olive Township, Morris County. The protection of this Highlands property will protect wildlife habitat, provide public recreation opportunities and preserve drinking water resources for New Jersey residents. The DEP Division of Parks and Forestry will manage Crown Towers as an addition to the 7,770-acre Allamuchy Mountain State Park.

“The protection of these 600 acres is testament to the success that occurs when public and private groups unite behind a common goal,” said Governor James E. McGreevey. “The Crown Towers property is one of the many natural treasures found in the Highlands region. By preserving this land we help ensure that the region continues to be a source of clean drinking water for generations to come.”

“Preserving open space in the Highlands region is our gift to today’s New Jersey residents as well as future generations who will rely on the Highlands for drinking water and recreational opportunities,” said Commissioner Campbell. “This partnership reflects Governor James E. McGreevey’s leadership in the fight to protect critical natural resources and to save the vulnerable Highlands region.”

the Trust for Public Land negotiated the purchase of Crown Towers, which was slated for subdivision, from a private developer.

“If it weren’t for the partnership of every level of government, this landscape-so critical for habitat, recreation, and perhaps most importantly, our drinking water-would have been converted to development,” said Terrence Nolan, project manager for the Trust for Public Land. “They would be digging right now if we hadn’t signed it up.”

The acquisition was announced with the New Jersey Congressional delegation, Morris County Freeholder Director Jack Schrier, and Mount Olive Mayor Richard De La Roche at Budd Lake Union Chapel in Mount Olive.

The $7.7 million property was purchased with funding from the USDA Forest Legacy Program, which contributed $3.2 million; the Morris County Open Space Trust Fund, which provided $2 million; the DEP Green Acres Program, which gave $1.3 million; Mount Olive Township, which contributed $1 million; and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, which provided $200,000 through a grant to the Trust for Public Land. The Federal government’s recent efforts to conserve land include the 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 lost roughly 5,000 acres to development during each of the last ten years.

“The purchase of Crown Towers was a genuine partnership of federal, state, local and private interests serving the public good, and I’m pleased to have been able to lead the effort in Congress to secure this funding,” said Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11). “Crown Towers can now be a national model for what can be accomplished when all sides come together and work cooperatively, in the name of open space preservation. It also can be a model for my how my federal, more comprehensive, Highlands Conservation Act will work.”

“This is a property of enormous environmental significance,” said Senator Jon Corzine (D-NJ). “Preserving it will protect water quality and biodiversity as well as preserve open space and provide recreation opportunities for millions of New Jerseyans. I was proud to work with my colleagues, Senator Lautenberg and Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen, in securing federal funding to help preserve it for future generations to enjoy.”

“Protecting Crown Towers from private development in order to preserve it for the public good exemplifies governmental action at its very best,” said Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ). The spirit of bipartisanship in Congress which made the funds for this project available is a model I hope we can repeat for future land acquisition efforts.”

“The USDA Forest Service Forest Legacy Program has been supporting forest conservation in New Jersey for a number of years. Since 1997, the Forest Legacy Program has provided $2.26 million to New Jersey to protect five tracts that amount to 2,597 acres,” said Kathryn Maloney, Northeastern area director for the USDA Forest Service.

“In New Jersey, it is only through partnerships involving all levels of government as well as private groups that we can hope to preserve treasures like Crown Towers for the future,” said Mark Shaffer, director of the Environment Program for the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, a major contributor to land conservation in the New Jersey Highlands region for many years.

“Morris County-for more than a decade a state leader in open space preservation-is delighted to be playing a key role in protecting this important property. Now, instead of losing this valuable natural resource to development, it will be forever protected. We commend everyone involved in this unique public/private partnership,” said Freeholder Director Jack Schrier.

“Local participation and support was key to this project. Our partnership in such a large project highlights how private citizens, government, and nonprofit groups can work together for such a positive result. Four years of hard work and intricate negotiations will benefit the public forever. It is the policy of this administration to preserve as much land as possible,” said Mayor De La Roche.

Crown Towers is located in the Upper Delaware watershed on the ridge between the Musconetcong and Raritan River watersheds. The tributaries in the Upper Delaware Watershed are among the Delaware River’s most pristine, making this section of the river one of its most crucial segments and a priority area for preservation in the New Jersey Highlands. The Crown Towers property consists mainly of forest cover and includes mountainous terrain with steep slopes, freshwater wetlands and headwater streams.

The eastern portion of Crown Towers contains the headwaters of the South Branch of the Raritan River, a noted native trout stream. The Raritan River provides drinking water to residents of 48 municipalities in Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Morris, Somerset and Union Counties. Fifty-five percent of the Raritan River’s source water area is located in the Highlands region.

Preserving open space in the Highlands is one of the State of New Jersey’s top priorities. During Governor James E. McGreevey’s first term in office, the state has preserved an estimated 7,200 acres of farmland in the Highlands, protected approximately 22,000 acres of open space in and around the Highlands, and applied C1 designation to seven waterbodies in the region. In November 2002, voters approved Public Question No. 1, which will provide $150 million toward the purchase of open space and farms in the Highlands region and throughout the state.

The New Jersey Highlands is a 1,250 square mile area in the northwest part of the State noted for its rugged hills, lush forests and scenic lakes. It stretches from Phillipsburg in the southwest to Ringwood in the northeast, and lies within portions of 7 counties (Hunterdon, Somerset, Sussex, Warren, Morris, Passaic and Bergen) and 87 municipalities. The larger Highlands region runs from Connecticut through New York and New Jersey into Pennsylvania.

The Highlands region is a critical source of drinking water. Surface and ground water sources in the Highlands supply water to 292 municipalities and 16 counties in New Jersey. The region produces one-third of the state’s potable water and supplies some or all of the drinking water to approximately 64% of New Jersey residents.

In addition to water resources, the Highlands region contains exceptional natural resources such as contiguous forests, wetlands, pristine watersheds and plant and wildlife species habitats. Approximately 110,000 acres of agricultural lands are in active production in the New Jersey Highlands region. The region contains many sites of historic significance and provides abundant recreational opportunities.

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. 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 year, TPL protected the 1,200-acre Gerard Woods property in Sussex County and 43 acres in Sparta Township. The Trust for Public Land depends on the support and generosity of individuals, foundations, and businesses to achieve our land for people mission.