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Three New Jersey acquisitions highlight watersheds

NEW YORK, NY — August 26, 2013 —A series of three important tracts of forests and wetlands in New Jersey’s Delaware Bayshore region have been acquired for permanent conservation this summer, with each acquisition protecting vital groundwater resources, as well as at-risk wildlife habitat. 

The three acquisitions, all in Cumberland County, were made by The Nature Conservancy and Natural Lands Trust, respectively, and were each funded in part by the Open Space Institute’s (OSI) Bayshore-Highlands Land Protection Fund—a grant-making initiative launched by OSI in 2011 with capital support from the William Penn Foundation. 

“OSI is extremely pleased to be a partner in making these acquisitions possible,” said Peter Howell, OSI’s executive vice president. “They exemplify the highly significant natural resource lands that OSI’s Bayshore-Highlands Fund seeks to target. Each transaction protects habitat for rare and endangered wildlife, protects groundwater and adds to the function and connectivity of adjoining protected lands on the Bayshore.”

In Lawrence Township, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) purchased two properties totaling 104 acres along Cedar Creek that buffer and expand connectivity between existing natural preserves. Now protected, the parcels will become part of TNC’s 1,490-acre Lummis Pond Preserve, which is noted for its pristine freshwater and as habitat for both federally endangered swamp pink and a number of state-listed wildlife species, while containing extensive contiguous forest just east of the coastal wetlands fringing the Delaware Bay. 

Although still rural, Lawrence Township has been subject to increasing development pressure in recent years. The township grew almost 21 percent from 2000 to 2010, faster than any other township in Cumberland County, whose population grew 7.1 percent during the same period. 

These acquisitions—known locally as the Formicola properties—provide an important forest connection between two sections of the Lummis Pond Preserve as well as to the Millville and Buckshutem Wildlife Management Areas, which together total 19,690 acres. 

The tracts also overlay the Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer, which is heavily dependent on open land with high permeability for its recharge. The state has been working to protect the Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer for decades, and because the aquifer is not as deep here as it is in other parts of the state, it is particularly vulnerable in the Bayshore region to contamination from agriculture and residential development. These recent conservation acquisitions will help stabilize and protect the aquifer—which provides drinking water for hundreds of thousands of people in southern New Jersey, while reducing the likelihood of future salt water intrusion into drinking water supplies. 

Just a few miles east, Natural Lands Trust purchased 129 acres of tidal marsh and uplands on the shoreline of the Maurice River, a federally designated Wild and Scenic River, earlier this summer. The property includes white cedar and red maple swamp, oak/pine upland forest and wild rice tidal wetland. Natural Lands Trust’s 256-acre Harold N. Peek Preserve is immediately north of the property, and The Nature Conservancy owns and manages its 535-acre Maurice River Bluffs Preserve directly across the Maurice River from the Peek Preserve. Additional protected land in the city of Millville’s Open Space Inventory system borders the Harold N. Peek Preserve’s northern boundary. 

The newly acquired natural area will be added to the Peek Preserve, with hiking trails and public access available on the property. Prior to its acquisition by Natural Lands Trust, the tract was under threat of development due to the proposed expansion of the adjacent Country Meadows Mobile Home Park.

“This property is within sight of an active bald eagle nest as well as osprey nests,” said Steve Eisenhauer, Natural Lands Trust’s regional director for stewardship and land protection. “This freshwater tidal section of the river contains some of the healthiest wild rice and tickseed sunflower marshes in New Jersey. This property, with white cedar swamp and freshwater tidal wetlands, protects habitat occupied or used by a number of state-listed plant and animal species.”

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