Murray Grove Property Will Be Added to Forsythe NWR

The Trust for Public Land today announced the purchase of a 242-acre wooded and wetlands property, one of the largest remaining unprotected bayfront properties on the west side of Barnegat Bay, in Lacey Township, Ocean County, N.J. In the next year the organization intends to transfer the property to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as an addition to the Barnegat Division of the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national conservation organization, has been working for the last year and a half to conserve the land, known as the Murray Grove property, for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). TPL was able to assemble private funding and interim loan capital to finance the purchase of the property and will hold ownership until federal funding is available to complete the transfer to the refuge.

“Because of the critical importance of this property to the health of Barnegat Bay and the Forsythe Refuge, TPL assembled funding to purchase and hold the property until federal funds are available for adding it to the refuge,” said Anthony Cucchi, New Jersey state director for TPL. “Our commitment to the richly wild and naturally significant Barnegat Bay is in its third decade, and we are grateful for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s stewardship of this important landscape.”

The tidal salt marsh property is the top conservation priority for the Forsythe Refuge and would link three previous conservation additions to the Barnegat Division of the refuge, which TPL completed in 1994 and 1995. USFWS and TPL have been partnering to protect property at this refuge since 1991and have completed 25 separate transactions, adding more than 2,700 acres.

“The Service is pleased that TPL has been able to respond rapidly to land acquisition opportunities within the approved refuge acquisition boundary,” said Steve Atzert, E.B. Forsythe Refuge Manager. “TPL has assured the protection of important natural capital and the continuation of valuable ecosystem services to fish, wildlife, and people, until the Service is able to obtain appropriated funding to purchase the properties and incorporate them in the National Wildlife Refuge System.”

This new addition would create an 821-acre conservation area, protecting the marshes of Murray Grove and Stouts Creek, a complex of, pools, embayments, mud flats, and natural waterways including Hancy’s Pond, Stumpy Pond Creek, Bony Creek, and Wire Creek Pond. State- and federally-listed threatened and endangered bird species-including peregrine falcon, bald eagle, northern harrier, osprey, red-shouldered hawk, American bittern, and grasshopper sparrow-have utilized the site for foraging or roosting.

TPL and USFWS are hopeful that federal funding for the $500,500 purchase price through the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act funding will allow for the conveyance of the land to the refuge in the coming months. The Act is funded from the sale of Federal Duck Stamps, which function as the federal licenses required for hunting waterfowl. TPL’s acquisition of the property was enabled through a grant from the William Penn Foundation and other philanthropic support.

TPL and Forsythe Refuge managers identified the property as a priority for conservation in The Century Plan, a 1995 study of 100 top conservation priorities in the Barnegat Bay watershed.

The wetlands of the E. B. Forsythe Refuge are one of only 26 Wetlands of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention. All of the Barnegat Division of the refuge is within the Environmental Protection Agency Barnegat Bay National Estuary, one of only 28 national estuaries in the US. The entire refuge is designated a unit of the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Network Reserve, one of only 52 in the US.

The Trust for Public Land 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. Since 1972, TPL has helped protect nearly 3 million acres nationwide, including more than 24,000 acres in New Jersey. TPL depends on the support of individuals, corporations, and foundations.