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First project for OSI initiative helps add 550 acres to Delaware River Watershed and Recreation Area

PHILADELPHIA, PA—April 20, 2015—A purchase of ecologically significant land alongside the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area will go towards expanding the celebrated scenic destination for hikers, bikers, hunters and others to enjoy. The land, formerly targeted for development into a major complex of townhouses and residences, is also the first in a series of land preservation projects intended to protect the drinking water supply for residents in the Delaware River Watershed. 

The suite of projects are all part of the Delaware River Watershed Initiative (DRWI), a multi-year, $35 million preservation plan, capitalized one year ago by the William Penn Foundation. The is the first of 10 projects to receive support in this inaugural round of grants from the Open Space Institute, which received $9 million as part of the Initiative.

The projects, all situated within the Delaware River Watershed in Pennsylvania or New Jersey and located on lands that protect drinking water supply for millions of residents in the region, will collectively conserve approximately 7,200 acres of land in the watershed.

“Forests play a critical role in ensuring a reliable supply of clean water, in turn helping to meet human needs and strengthen our communities,” said Peter Howell, OSI’s Executive Vice President of Capital & Research Programs. “These projects protect important forestland and showcase the value of innovative and thoughtful collaborative initiatives in preserving water quality for millions of residents in the region.”

“The protection of land is critical to ensuring the future water quality of the Delaware River,” said Andrew Johnson, Watershed Protection Program Director at the William Penn Foundation. “Significant progress is being made, and it is exciting to see the momentum continue with this latest announcement.”

“The Trust for Public Land is dedicated to protecting land for people to enjoy, so we are extremely pleased to have been able to help expand a highly visited natural treasure like the Delaware Water Gap,” said Greg Socha, senior project manager at The Trust for Public Land. “Without the unique collaboration that came together to get this done, protecting a property of this magnitude would not have been possible.”

Over the next three years, the Delaware River Watershed Initiative will permanently protect more than 30,000 acres, implement more than 40 restoration projects, pilot new incentives for landowners and businesses, provide replicable models for other locations in the watershed, and develop long-term water quality data for the watershed at an unprecedented scale. 

Just this inaugural round of grants will conserve 35 miles of stream bank, 2,000 acres of stream buffer, 4,300 acres of forests that are highly-capable of efficiently recharging depleted drinking water sources, and 1,000 acres that were highly vulnerable to development. Conserving land to protect the region’s water supply is one important strategy for protecting the region’s drinking water quality. Deforestation from commercial, residential, and energy development, chemical runoff from farms, and storm water runoff in cities severely threaten the health of the watershed.

Mosiers Knob lies almost directly in the mid-section of the Delaware River’s 300-mile long corridor, along an area that is designated as a National Scenic River. The purchase of Mosiers Knob is also vital to protecting scenic views from the Appalachian National Scenic Trail and unique habitat, which is home for several rare species.

The property is also a highly climate-resilient landscape that will provide a refuge for wildlife in the face of a changing climate: in fact, OSI’s support for the project derived from two funds, with $240,000 from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation to protect climate-resilient landscapes, and $350,000 from the Delaware River Watershed Initiative.

The purchase, which includes steep slopes above the Delaware River culminating at a 1,120-foot point known as Mosiers Knob—and visible from the Appalachian Trail—was led by The Trust for Public Land. The Conservation Fund provided assistance in a variety of ways, including helping to secure funding to support the $4,330,000 purchase price. A lead grant supporting the acquisition has been awarded by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Additionally, the William Penn Foundation and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation are supporting the acquisition through grants administered by the Open Space Institute.

The Delaware River Watershed covers more than 13,500-square miles spanning portions of New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. In addition to being a major source of drinking water, the watershed supports an array of water-related economic enterprises valued at $25 billion per year, as well as hemispherically significant habitat.

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