BURLINGTON COUNTY, NJ (Sep. 8, 2023)—The Open Space Institute (OSI) and the New Jersey Conservation Foundation (NJCF) today announced the successful acquisition of a priority property for clean drinking water resources within the Delaware River Watershed. Located in New Jersey’s Pinelands region, the land’s acquisition more than doubles the size of the scenic Michael Huber Prairie Warbler Preserve.
The property, spanning 691 acres, was acquired by NJCF with grant support from OSI’s Delaware River Watershed Protection Fund (DRWPF). Made possible by the William Penn Foundation, the DRWPF strategically conserves land to protect sources of clean water within the Delaware River Watershed. Fifteen million people rely on the watershed for drinking water, including residents of Trenton, Philadelphia, Wilmington, and New York City.
“This project was a natural fit for the Open Space Institute’s Delaware River Watershed Protection Fund,” said Bill Rawlyk, OSI’s Mid-Atlantic Field Coordinator. “The Pinelands forests and wetlands filter and recharge water for the Kirkwood Cohansey aquifer, one of the largest underground reservoirs of clean drinking water on the East Coast.
“This successful conservation project exemplifies how conservation groups can achieve multiple, overlapping goals with a single property: preserving coastal plain forests and safeguarding the rich ecological benefits and heritage of the Pinelands,” Rawlyk continued. “OSI salutes the New Jersey Conservation Foundation for their tireless efforts to see this land protected, forever.”
Home to almost nine miles of streams and some 30 acres of open water, the property directly connects to approximately 40,000 acres of protected land, including the State Sooy Place Preserve and the Brendan Byrne State Forest. The property is also only a quarter mile north of 130,000 additional protected acres including NJCF’s Franklin Parker Preserve and the Wharton State Forest.
The Michael Huber Prairie Warbler Preserve, which now spans 1,918 acres with the addition of this newly protected property, is home to breeding habitat for the prairie warbler, a migratory songbird that spends summers in the northeast and winters in the islands of the West Indies. Conservation of the land also supports a rare stand of Atlantic white cedar — a native tree that has largely disappeared in New Jersey due to logging.
The preserve is named for the late Michael Huber, a lifelong resident of the area and champion of conservation, who served on the boards of NJCF, the Monmouth Conservation Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, the American Littoral Society, and the Pinelands Preservation Alliance.
Today, Michael Huber’s commitment to conservation lives on though his family, including his son, Sam Huber, a long-time Trustee of OSI.
“My father’s devotion to land conservation is undisputed, and his devotion to the Pinelands was equally strong,” said Sam Huber. “He was honored and delighted when the original Michael Huber Preserve was dedicated; he would be humbled and astonished by the extraordinary commitment of the many people who kept their eyes on this remarkable parcel. His family is thrilled by this wonderful acquisition, and grateful to OSI and NJCF for perpetuating his legacy.”