85 Acres Added to Wallkill Refuge (NJ)

Vernon and Hardyston Townships, NJ, January 5, 2006: The nonprofit Trust for Public Land (TPL) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today the purchase of 85 acres in Vernon and Hardyston townships for addition to the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge. To date, TPL has assisted with the protection of 1,665 acres for the 5,000-acre refuge. The refuge surrounds approximately nine miles of the Wallkill River on the New Jersey (Sussex County)-New York (Orange County) border in the Highlands region of the state.

“As development pressures increase in this quiet corner of the state, the Wallkill River NWR provides a critical respite for wildlife and humans alike,” said Kathy Haake, project manager for the Trust for Public Land.

The property sold for $675,000, which was provided by an appropriation through the federal Land & Water Conservation Fund, secured by U.S. Senators Jon Corzine and Frank Lautenberg and U.S. Congressman Scott Garrett.

“This preserves another important parcel in our Highlands region,” said Senator Jon Corzine. “The region is a vital source of drinking water supplies that must be preserved and protected.”

“I was pleased to play a role in the creation of the Wallkill Refuge and continue to work hard for its expansion. Here in NJ, we all know the value of protecting our natural areas from development and preserving them for future generations to enjoy,” said Senator Frank Lautenberg.

“As representative of an urban state like New Jersey, the preservation of open spaces is one of my top priorities in Congress,” said Congressman Scott Garrett. “Wallkill National Wildlife Refuge is an open space that should be preserved, protected, and enjoyed by the people of New Jersey for generations to come. Further additions to Wallkill such as this are simply additions to the health of New Jersey’s natural environment.”

“This property, which we have hoped to acquire for a number of years, is also important because it connects the hilltop portion of the refuge with the wetlands by the river,” said Edward Henry, refuge manager. “We are pleased that the refuge can work with TPL in these challenging budget times to increase the amount of land available for wildlife habitat.”

TPL is a longtime refuge partner and has added a dozen properties to the refuge since its inception in 1990. The Wallkill River area is a key nesting and foraging stopover point for migratory birds and a breeding area for songbirds and grassland birds. The newly protected property includes forested wetlands and two small manmade ponds as well as drier upland areas. A variety of threatened and endangered species depend on this corridor, including black bear, bobcat, river otter, beaver, mink and the snowy owl.

The Wallkill River NWR is within an hour’s drive of New York City and offers exceptional recreational opportunities for the public including access to the Appalachian Trail and access to the river, and it is a key link in the planned greenway system for northern New Jersey’s 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.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) 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. With its state office in Morristown, TPL has protected approximately 23,000 acres throughout New Jersey. TPL’s work in the Wallkill NWR is part of its New York-New Jersey Highlands program, where the group has helped protect more than 30,000 acres.