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OSI helps create new nature preserve, protect drinking water in New Jersey Pine Barrens

PEMBERTON TWP., NJ—Feb. 29, 2016—One of the largest undeveloped private properties left in New Jersey’s Pine Barrens is now protected forever. The 811-acre forested property will now become a nature preserve protecting the region’s vital drinking water resources, thanks to the Open Space Institute (OSI), the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, and other partners.

The new preserve is next to Brendan Byrne State Forest and includes pitch pine uplands; crystal-clear wetlands that were an important fresh water resource for the earliest Pine Barrens inhabitants; and the pristine headwaters of Mount Misery Brook—a tributary of the Delaware River and one of the highest-quality streams in the New Jersey Pine Barrens.

The new preserve was supported with a $125,000 grant through OSI’s Delaware River Watershed Protection Fund, which is made possible with funding from the William Penn Foundation. The Delaware River Watershed Protection Program seeks to ensure abundant, clean water within the 13,000-square-mile drainage area of the Delaware River, and adjoining areas of the Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer, by conserving tracts of forest along the Delaware River Basin. When kept intact, forests play a critical role in recharging and filtering groundwater and maintaining sensitive ecosystems.

“This is a model project that protects the unspoiled forests helping to provide millions in the Delaware River Watershed with water for drinking and agriculture,” said Peter Howell, executive vice president of OSI. “OSI congratulates our partner NJCF on fulfilling the decades-long vision of protecting and maintaining the unspoiled Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer.”

Until last week’s purchase, the property was owned by a family corporation that acquired it in 1956 in anticipation of a Pine Barrens development boom that never materialized. The sellers made few changes to the property during their 60 years of ownership; as a result, the site shows little evidence of human disturbance.

The property contains known habitat for over 100 rare, threatened and endangered species, including barred owls, Pine Barrens tree frogs, red-headed woodpeckers and northern pine snakes. It is also home to a large diversity of plants, including endangered swamp pink, a variety of orchids, sphagnum moss and many carnivorous plants, including pitcher plants and sundews.

“This is one of the largest undeveloped private properties in the Pine Barrens, and it provides an unspoiled habitat for rare plants and wildlife,” said Michele S. Byers, executive director of New Jersey Conservation Foundation, which purchased the property.

The property’s wetlands, fed by upwelling groundwater, were an important water and game resource for the Lenni Lenape people. Because of the wetlands’ unique geology, the wetlands never dry out--even during times of drought.

New Jersey Conservation Foundation purchased the property for $708,439 with the help of several partners, including philanthropists Joan and Robert Rechnitz and the New Jersey Green Acres Program, William Penn Foundation, Open Space Institute, Rancocas Conservancy and John Ben Snow Memorial Trust.

It’s the sixth-largest land purchase in New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s history and a short distance from New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s Franklin Parker Preserve and Michael Huber Prairie Warbler Preserve, both in Woodland Township.

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