OSI's newest project in the Pine Barrens protects land for drinking water, habitat

BURLINGTON COUNTY, N.J. (June 13, 2016)—The Trust for Public Land (TPL), the Open Space Institute and other partners have permanently protected 413 acres of woods and wetlands surrounding a headwater stream in the New Jersey Pinelands that help recharge drinking water within the Delaware River Watershed.

Bear Swamp Creek, flowing into Rancocas Creek and eventually the Delaware River just north of Philadelphia, supplies drinking water to nearby communities such as Mount Laurel and Willingboro. The land’s intact forests and wetlands also protect and recharge the Kirkwood-Cohansey Aquifer, which in turn supplies drinking water for as many as one million New Jersey residents.

The Open Space Institute supported TPL’s Bear Swamp project through its Delaware River Watershed Protection Fund, made possible with funding from the William Penn Foundation’s Delaware River Watershed Protection Initiative which seeks to protect water quality in the Delaware River Basin. To date, the Fund has helped protect 3,600 acres of important watershed lands in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

“Unspoiled forests, when kept that way, recharge the aquifer to help protect the water supply for millions of residents living in the Delaware River Watershed,” said Peter Howell, executive vice president of OSI. “This project showcases the value of innovative conservation partnerships in protecting the Delaware River and the Kirkwood-Cohansey Aquifer.”

“By acquiring and conserving land like the Bear Swamp Creek property, we are not only protecting the future of our water supply, we are also providing more opportunities for New Jersey residents to get outside and enjoy nature,” said Anthony Cucchi, State Director for The Trust for Public Land. “We are grateful to the numerous partners who are working with The Trust for Public Land to accomplish these goals here and throughout the Delaware River watershed. Both public and private funding play an important role to ensure our land is protected for the benefit of all New Jersey residents.”

The new property and the Kirkwood-Cohansey Aquifer sit atop New Jersey’s Pine Barrens, not only an oasis for a diverse array of rare plants and wildlife, but also for people seeking peace and quiet in the middle of America’s most densely-populated state. But as New Jersey’s population grows, the Pine Barrens are facing an increased threat of development. The aquifer, a broad, shallow basin underneath sandy soils, is especially vulnerable to pollution—underscoring the critical importance of this project.

The 413-acre property was added to the Bear Swamp at Red Lion Preserve, which is owned and managed by the State of New Jersey’s Natural Lands Trust. With this newest addition, the preserve is now almost 1,500 acres, all of which is open from dawn to dusk for the public to enjoy, especially during the spring migration of warblers and other songbirds.

Visitors from the nearby urban centers of Camden and Cherry Hill, can now meander through these striking Atlantic white cedar groves and listen for the nasal “quonk-quonk-quonk,” of New Jersey’s endangered Pine Barrens tree frog.

Funding for the acquisition has been provided by the Victoria Foundation; the Pinelands Commission’s Pinelands Conservation Fund; OSI’s Delaware River Watershed Protection Fund, underwritten by the William Penn Foundation; the Rancocas Conservancy; and the State of New Jersey’s Green Acres Program.

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