NJ Farm Will Be New NWR Visitor Facility

Harding Township, N.J., 8/16/04 – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and the Trust for Public Land (TPL) announced today the purchase of the 16-acre Passaic River Farm in Harding Township, Morris County, N.J., as the site of a future visitor facility for Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.

>Due to the strong support of the New Jersey Congressional delegation, including Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11th), Senator Jon S. Corzine (D), and Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D), Congress allocated $1.5 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund for the project. Additional funding for the $2.5 million purchase was provided by TPL, grants from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Johanette Wallerstein Institute, an individual bequest, as well as other sources.

The Service intends to convert a renovated farmhouse, barn and several outbuildings on the former horse farm into a facility providing visitor services, exhibits, a gift shop, meeting rooms and offices, according to Marvin Moriarty, Northeast Regional Director for the Service. The property, formerly owned by the Kurdzialek family and called the Weatherlea Farm, is located on the south side of Pleasant Plains Road, abuts the Passaic River, and is bordered on two sides by existing refuge lands.

“The Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge is an oasis of serenity and wildness amid the congestion of northern New Jersey’s densely populated suburban areas. The Trust for Public Land is proud to be a partner in the protection of this property, which will offer an improved visitor experience,” said Angelou C. Ezeilo, project manager for TPL.

“There has been tremendous interest and desire for a visitor’s facility ever since the refuge was established in 1960,” said Rep. Frelinghuysen. “Today, with the purchase of the Passaic River farm, we’re taking an important step toward building a visitor’s facility and enhancing educational opportunities at the Great Swamp for our children and families. The visitor’s facility has been a long time dream of those involved with the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, and I’m honored to have led the effort in Congress to secure funding for the project.”

“The purchase of the Passaic River Farm was a top priority for the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, a precious New Jersey resource in Morris and Somerset counties,” said Sen. Corzine. “The refuge should be better able to serve the public with a new visitor center and improve public access to the great uniqueness that is our Great Swamp.”

“Protecting and enhancing New Jersey’s natural habitats is a top priority and I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to secure additional federal resources,” said Sen. Lautenberg. “This additional 16 acres will be a terrific addition to the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.”

Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge (http://greatswamp.fws.gov), established in 1960, lies 26 miles west of New York City’s Times Square and seven miles south of Morristown, N.J. The 7,620-acre refuge is managed to provide important habitats for migratory birds, threatened and endangered species, and other native wildlife. Recreational opportunities include hiking, wildlife observation, environmental education and interpretive programs, photography and deer hunting. The Trust for Public Land and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service teamed up last year to purchase 27 acres from the same landowner for an addition to the refuge.

“The Service will manage the property both to benefit wildlife and to serve visitors to Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge,” said Moriarty. “We are grateful for the leadership of the Congressional delegation and the dedicated efforts of TPL in working with the Kurdzialek family to further our shared conservation goals.”

Refuge manager Bill Koch said, “We are very excited about this acquisition, because it is a very big step towards our being able to provide better visitor services, promote the mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System, and, with our conservation partners, further our common goal of protecting the ecological integrity of the Great Swamp.”

“The Friends of Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge welcome this new opportunity to inform visitors about the history of the refuge and the National Wildlife Refuge System,” said Kathy Woodward of the Friends group.

The newly protected land includes important wetlands and forested river habitat. It boasts significant frontage along the Passaic River, a major tributary to the swamp that provides drinking water for areas downstream. Forested river habitat is critical to the Great Swamp watershed as it provides a buffer against runoff from surrounding development.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 544 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 63 Fish and Wildlife Management offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies. For more information visit www.fws.gov.

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 nearby New York – New Jersey Highlands for more than a decade, having protected more than 27,500 acres in the region. TPL depends on the support and generosity of individuals, foundations, and businesses to achieve our land for people mission.