OSI Support Leads to Protection of 2,200 Acres of Land for Delaware River Watershed Drinking Water

Image Credit: Sandy Urgo, The Land Conservancy of New Jersey

TRENTON, NJ (Oct. 10, 2018) – The Open Space Institute (OSI), the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and other partners today announced a $5.1 million agreement preserving more than 2,200 acres of picturesque woodlands in Sussex County, NJ. The transaction will protect a sizeable portion of the Musconetcong Watershed, the largest tributary of the Delaware River Watershed flowing from the New Jersey Highlands.

Protected by the Land Conservancy of New Jersey, the 2,218-acre “Hudson Farm” property in the Highlands region of Sussex County spans Byram Township, Hopatcong Borough and Sparta Township. The transaction adds to a 973-acre easement acquisition in Andover Township and Hopatcong Borough from 2016, resulting in a total of 3,191 acres preserved.

The project is supported through a $450,000 grant from OSI’s Delaware River Watershed Protection Fund, made possible with funding from the William Penn Foundation for its Delaware River Watershed Initiative, which seeks to protect water quality in the Delaware River Basin. The Delaware River supplies drinking water to the cities of Philadelphia, PA; Trenton, NJ; and Wilmington, DE.

“It's a rare day when you can protect eight percent of a watershed with one single transaction,” Open Space Institute Executive Vice President Peter Howell said of the Musconetcong Watershed. “Protecting the unspoiled forests surrounding the Delaware River headwaters is critical if we want to preserve the drinking water of the Delaware River watershed’s 15 million residents. We applaud the vision and determination of The Land Conservancy of New Jersey and the State of New Jersey in protecting one of the true natural gems of the New Jersey Highlands."

The land deal is the largest state preservation effort in New Jersey since 2012.

The DEP’s Division of Parks and Forestry will manage the property in accordance with several Forest Stewardship Plans and work with local volunteer and nonprofit groups to maintain existing trails on the property that link to local trail systems.

The DEP has identified the property as habitat for species including the state-endangered bobcat, barred owl, red-shouldered hawk and bald eagle, as well as the state-threatened red-headed woodpecker.

The public will be able to access part of the property for a variety of recreational pursuits such as hiking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, horseback riding, fishing, bird watching, nature study and other non-motorized recreational activities.

 The acquisition of the conservation easements for properties is funded by $2.2 million from the DEP’s Green Acres Program, $2 million from the Highlands Council, and $885,000 from The Land Conservancy of New Jersey and the William Penn Foundation through the Open Space Institute, with matching grants from Green Acres.

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