BURLINGTON COUNTY, NJ (Nov. 3, 2021)—The Open Space Institute (OSI), the Trust for Public Land (TPL), and their partners today announced the successful acquisition of a priority property for clean drinking water resources within the Delaware River Watershed. Located in the New Jersey Pinelands region, the land is to be added to the popular Evert Trail Preserve, where it will also provide habitat for several species of songbird.
The 202-acre “Blueberry Acres” property has been a State of New Jersey priority for conservation for many years. Protection of the land will allow the reforestation of the property's former blueberry agricultural fields. The property also includes wooded wetlands, which filter the headwaters of the Jade Run-South Branch Rancocas Creek — the only Pine Barrens watershed that drains west to the Delaware River.
OSI supported the project through its Delaware River Watershed Protection Fund — made possible by the William Penn Foundation — which seeks to harness land protection to ensure abundant, clean water within the 13,000 square mile drainage of the Delaware River. Fifteen million people rely on the watershed for drinking water — including residents of the cities of Trenton, Philadelphia, Wilmington, and New York City. To date, the Fund has conserved more than 4,000 acres in the Pinelands, including several former cranberry and blueberry agricultural lands, connecting more than 35,000 acres of protected land.
Since its creation in 2014, OSI's Fund has supported roughly 55 land protection projects that have or are slated to conserve over 22,000 acres that filter water within the Delaware Basin.
“The Open Space Institute is proud to have supported this project as an inspiring model for empowering farmers and local landowners to safeguard the clean drinking water and rich ecological heritage of New Jersey's Pinelands," said Bill Rawlyk, Mid-Atlantic Field Coordinator at the Open Space Institute. "OSI salutes The Trust for Public Land and the New Jersey Conservation Foundation on their visionary efforts to reforest the land, which will in turn aid the Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer in capturing and storing rainfall and provide habitat for rare Pinelands plant and wildlife species."
The 170-acre Evert Trail Preserve is managed by the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, with forested wetlands that contain the highest species diversity of breeding neo-tropical warblers, vireos, and other songbirds anywhere on the coastal plain of New Jersey. The Blueberry Acres property is also near Brendan T. Byrne State Forest, the state’s second-largest state forest.
In addition to OSI and TPL, the land was secured by the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the New Jersey Green Acres Program, and The Nature Conservancy.