TPL Praises Proposed Federal CELP Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C., 4/18/2007: Congressman Jim Saxton (N.J.-3rd) and Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) haveunveiled the bipartisan “Coastal and Estuarine Land Protection Act” – also called the CELP bill – to advancefederal efforts to protect coastal areas from development.

“Our coasts are being developed at a frightening pace,” said Saxton, a senior member of the HouseNatural Resources Committee who first introduced the bill in 2005, and reintroduced it Wednesday on theHouse floor. “Coastal lands available for preservation are becoming scarce. This bill will provide funding forcoastal land acquisition efforts for the next five years. Sen. Lautenberg and I will work to move this throughboth bodies of Congress and signed into law.”

“Our legislation would ensure a federal commitment to protect and preserve valuable coastal areas inour state and across the nation,” said Senator Frank Lautenberg, a member of the Senate CommerceCommittee and Environment and Public Works Committee and one of the Senate’s leading environmentaladvocates. “Conserving our coastal areas will help maintain water quality, wildlife habitat, flood protection andrecreational opportunities. The protection of New Jersey’s treasured natural resources, from the marshlandsof Barnegat Bay to the Meadowlands, is vital to the ecological and economic health of our state. “

In the House, Rep. Saxton is the sponsor of the CELP bill, H.R. 1907, with chief co-sponsor Rep. LoisCapps, (D-Calif.) In the Senate, Sen. Lautenberg introduced the bill with his colleague, Sen. Judd Gregg (RN.H.).

The legislation provides funds for land acquisition projects that are selected based on the priorities in astate’s Coastal Zone Management Plan. Coastal and estuarine land preservation projects that are identified ina management plan (like that for the Barnegat Bay National Estuary Program) are also eligible.

The bill would authorize the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to use federalfunds to assist land acquisition in fiscal years 2008 through 2012. The federal funds provided through thisprogram would be combined with state, local and private funding. The program would be administered by theOffice of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management in the National Ocean Service of the NOAA.

The Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge and the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine ResearchReserve (JCNERR), which is operated by Rutgers University at the mouth of the Mullica River in Burlington,Ocean and Atlantic Counties, are examples of entities that could benefit under the bill. The JCNERR hasseveral properties adjacent to its boundaries that merit CELP funding, according to Reserve officials.

“The current CELP Program, which will be vastly improved by the changes in the legislation introducedby Mr. Saxton and Senator Lautenberg today, is a proven success, having already provided funding for landswithin Ocean County,” said Sharon McKenna, Assistant Manager of the JCNERR, based in the Great Bay-Mullica River watershed. “This bill will turn CELP into a competitive program to ensure that critical coastal andestuarine lands under the threat of imminent development here in New Jersey receive acquisition funding.”

The Trust for Public Land, a land conservation group with offices in Morristown and Southampton, hasendorsed the bill.

“The Trust for Public Land applauds Senator Lautenberg and Representative Saxton for theirleadership in conserving our remaining coastal open spaces in New Jersey and across the nation,” said AlanFront, Sr. Vice President for The Trust for Public Land. “The CELP program has already provided nearly $10million to help New Jersey’s local communities protect vanishing coastal resources and create additional publicaccess to their waterfronts– from Raritan Bay to Barnegat Bay- and we look forward to realizing the benefitsof this new legislation to protect more public open space along the Jersey shore.”

New Jersey’s 130-mile coastline includes numerous bays, over 50 miles of barrier islands, multiplerivers and estuaries and the 1.1 million-acre National Pinelands Reserve.