OSI and Partners Save Largest Privately-Owned Property Remaining on Cape May Peninsula

Image Credit: The Nature Conservancy

CAPE MAY COURTHOUSE, NJ—The Open Space Institute, along with various federal, state and private partners, helped to support the protection of a Cape May parcel by The Nature Conservancy that contains sensitive habitat and buffers against sea level rise. The property was immediately transferred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to be added to the Cape May National Wildlife Refuge.

The project protects a critical large patch of forest that helps recharge groundwater and facilitates the migration of salt water marshes inland as climate change intensifies on the fragile Cape May peninsula. Negotiations to protect the land from being developed or used for sand mining began with the original ownership group in 2005.

“By protecting both drinking water and shoreline habitat, this addition to Cape May National Wildlife Refuge is terrific for wildlife and residents in the region alike,” said Peter Howell, OSI’s executive vice president. “This project is an astounding achievement, and it shows what dogged pursuit of conservation, and successful public-private partners, can achieve together.”

OSI supported the project with a $285,500 grant through its Bayshore-Highlands Fund, which is made possible by the William Penn Foundation and which seeks to accelerate strategic land conservation in the New Jersey Bayshore and the Pennsylvania Highlands. Since its inception in 2010, the Bayshore-Highlands Fund has protected more than 7,000 acres on the Bayshore and in Pennsylvania’s Schuylkill Highlands.

“This is a particularly satisfying achievement because it is the culmination of more than ten years of effort by many dedicated people and organizations,” says Barbara Brummer, State Director of The Nature Conservancy in New Jersey.

The land, previously owned by Cape Viking LLC, a subsidiary of South State Inc. General Contractors of Bridgeton, N.J., provides important ecosystem functions, including recharging freshwater, protecting against impacts of climate change and providing habitat for migratory birds.

Chip Ottinger, Principal at South State Inc., says, “My team and I were evaluating the property for potential development opportunities. However, when we learned of interest in the property from The Nature Conservancy and other conservation organizations, we agreed that it would serve the greatest good as a protected site.  Some properties make sense to develop, others are simply best left alone.” 

Cape May Wildlife Refuge is a protected area on the Cape May Peninsula that provides habitat for 317 bird species, particularly during migration season. Some threatened and endangered species, such as the piping plover and the swamp pink lily, also call the land home.

The western border of the acreage is located less than a mile from Delaware Bay and less than a quarter-mile from adjacent salt marsh, meaning that the protected expanse will also provide space for the salt marshes to move as they migrate inland.

In total, the acquisition cost $1,332,500. Other partners on the project included the American Littoral Society, NJDEP Green Acres Program, Ducks Unlimited, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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