New York, NY - October 13, 2008 - The Open Space Institute’s New Jersey Land Protection Fund continues to support conservation throughout the Garden State, as three recent loan projects helped protect farms and built upon local conservation groups’ efforts to create connected networks of conserved land.
“Each of these projects helped in one way or another to expand, buffer and connect key landscapes in separate regions of the Garden State,” said Peter Howell, OSI’s executive vice president. “They will help increase nature’s resiliency while providing for a host of other benefits, including protecting rare and endangered species, preserving farms and preserving rural character.”
The New Jersey Land Protection Fund was launched in January of 2003 with $3.5 million in Program Related Investments (PRIs) from the Geraldine R. Dodge and William Penn Foundations to support conservation in New Jersey. The fund operates throughout New Jersey but recognizes certain ecologically critical areas defined as the highest priorities by New Jersey's conservation community: the Highlands of the northwest, the Pinelands, the Barnegat Bay watershed, and the Delaware Bay Shore area.
In April, OSI awarded a $680,000 loan to the Appel Farm Arts and Music Center to help protect 110 acres in southern New Jersey. The loan supports the Center’s purchase of a 46-acre farm adjacent to its existing property, while limiting development on its overall expanded site.
The protection of Appel Farm adds to an emerging core of preserved lands in the Upper Pittsgrove Township by linking a collection of existing protected farms. The community has been successful in preserving thousands of acres of prime farmland and woodland, helping maintain its rural character, said Mark Packer, executive director of Appel Farm Arts and Music Center.
"Part of what makes us special is that we offer a secluded environment that fosters creativity as people connect with the natural landscape intrinsic to southern New Jersey,” Packer said. “We are pleased that future generations will be able to enjoy this area in its unspoiled state."
OSI helped Monmouth Conservation Foundation (MCF) purchase the development rights to Holly Crest Farm, a 37-acre horse farm, in Middletown, NJ, in August.
The farm sits within MCF’s Navesink Highlands Greenway project area—approximately 3,000 acres of land in Monmouth County stretching from the Atlantic Highlands, encompassing the highlands and rolling hills, the inlets and bay of the Navesink River, the Locust/Clay Pit Creek area, and the farm landscapes of Chapel Hill. Two thousand acres in this landscape have been preserved and another 900 are targeted for conservation.
“Holly Crest Farm is important not only because of its value to our farm community but because it falls within our Navesink Highlands Greenway project area—a priority area for MCF for many years,” said Judith Stanley Coleman, Monmouth Conservation Foundation president. “We think it is vital to our quality of life to preserve open space in one of the most densely populated areas in our county.”
OSI also provided the Unexpected Wildlife Refuge, Inc. (UWR) with a loan of $278,000 in August to assist in the acquisition and permanent preservation of the D’Alessandro Farm, located in Franklin Township.
The property, also a key parcel in UWR’s long-term land conservation plan, is located within the Great Egg Harbor River Watershed and is comprised of 30 acres of agricultural fields. It is part of a mixed hardwood and Atlantic white cedar forest—rare throughout the Northeast and habitat for a number of threatened and endangered species.
“In today’s market, land acquisition is extremely expensive and fast-paced, said Sarah Summerville, UWR’s executive director. “If it were not for the bridge loan program administered by the Open Space Institute, small grass roots conservation projects like those of UWR could never be realized. The low-interest loans they provide afford borrowers the time to accumulate much-needed funds through other, more time consuming means.”
The Monmouth Conservation Foundation and Unexpected Wildlife Refuge are now both two-time borrowers from the New Jersey Land Protection Fund, as OSI partnered with the organizations, respectively, on the Stern Fisher Fields and Wetlands and Codario Farm acquisitions in 2005.
In all, OSI has now made 14 loans in New Jersey, totaling $7.4 million to protect 10,620 acres.