VINELAND, NJ – August __, 2011 – The Open Space Institute (OSI) and The Nature Conservancy today announced a grant made in New Jersey by the Bayshore Highlands Fund, a multi-million dollar OSI initiative that funds the conservation of important ecological, watershed, recreational and agricultural lands in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. This new initiative provides grants and loans for the purchase of land and permanent conservation easements.
The $200,000 grant announced today will help fund The Nature Conservancy’s acquisition of 325 acres of forested lands in southern New Jersey, the final two phases of a three-phase land preservation project. The project, which has spanned three years, aims to protect 493 acres of forest land previously owned by the Diocese of Camden and encompassing the headwaters of the federally designated Wild and Scenic Maurice River. It will protect habitat supporting a variety of rare plants and animals and provide numerous recreational opportunities.
The Conservancy’s Diocese project is one of eight projects that the Bayshore Highlands Fund will support in its first grant round, which is expected to protect more than 1,700 acres through total contributions of $1,184,175. The Diocese project is among the first of the eight projects to reach completion.
“TNC’s efforts in the Bayshore to protect important natural resources will be advanced significantly by this initiative,” said Bob Allen, director of conservation for The Nature Conservancy. “The support of William Penn and the Bayshore Highlands Fund was critical to our closing this phase and puts us on track to completing the entire Diocese project.”
The Bayshore Highlands Fund was created in 2011 with a $5 million seed grant from the William Penn Foundation. The Fund focuses on these two regions because of their economic and ecological importance to the northeastern U.S. The New Jersey Bayshore contains significant habitat for plants and animals and a strong agricultural economy, while the Pennsylvania Highlands is the source of drinking water for 14 million people in Philadelphia and southeastern Pennsylvania, contains numerous trails for hiking, and supports a viable farm economy as well.
“Each of these projects contributes to the health of the greater Philadelphia region,” said Andrew Johnson, program officer of the William Penn Foundation. “In protecting our green infrastructure, we are protecting natural resources that create and sustain economic value and the livelihood of the region’s residents.”
In both the Bayshore and Highlands, the new Fund will support land conservation transactions that conserve wildlife habitat, provide new and expanded outdoor recreational access, protect clean water, or preserve farm and forestland. The Fund also seeks to raise visibility about both regions while promoting innovative conservation financing tools and practices. Every dollar provided by the OSI fund will be matched 5 to 1 by public and private funding sources.
The Bayshore Highlands Fund is administered by the Open Space Institute with the help of an advisory committee (see link) that is guided by criteria designed to provide funding for the most regionally and nationally important landscapes.
“With public and private funding harder to come by, it’s critical to target acquisition dollars to achieve impact. Only the best projects merit support, and TNC’s Diocese is such a project,” said Peter Howell, OSI's executive vice president.” Leverage is also essential in this environment, and we are pleased to partner with New Jersey’s Green Acres program, which has been essential to conservation in the state and will be needed in the years to come to help protect New Jersey’s incomparable green infrastructure.”
The Diocese project was supported with a $250,000 grant from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Green Acres Program, an initiative celebrating its 50th anniversary as one of the most successful land conservation efforts in the nation. The Green Acres program has directly protected 650,000 acres of open space and provided hundreds of outdoor recreational facilities in communities around the state.
The Diocese property lies in the heart of the Maurice River watershed, one of the state’s most pristine freshwater systems and home to a significant variety of rare plants, reptiles and amphibians and an array of migrating and breeding birds.
The property was nearly developed in 2009 by a residential developer who intended to build 980 homes and a golf course on the lands. When the developer’s option to purchase expired, the Conservancy stepped in to protect the area.
The Nature Conservancy must raise another $653,393 to conserve the full 493 acres of habitat. It anticipates raising this amount from a mix of public and private sources.
The William Penn Foundation seeks to improve quality of life in the Greater Philadelphia region through efforts that foster rich cultural expression, strengthen children’s futures, and deepen connections to nature and community. In partnership with others, we work to advance a vital, just, and caring community. Please visit www.williampennfoundation.org for more information.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. To date, the Conservancy and its more than one million members have helped protect 130 million acres worldwide. Please visit www.nature.org for more information.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Green Acres Program strives to achieve, in partnership with others, a system of interconnected open spaces, whose protection will preserve and enhance New Jersey's natural environment and its historic, scenic, and recreational resources for public use and enjoyment. Together with public and private partners, Green Acres has protected almost 650,000 acres of open space and provided hundreds of outdoor recreational facilities in communities around the State. Please visit www.nj.gov/dep/greenacres for more information.
Bill Rawlyk, Middle Atlantic Field Coordinator
Open Space Institute
62 Hampton Road
Pittstown, NJ 08867