The Nature Conservancy recently purchased 162 acres of forested lands in southern New Jersey, completing the final phase of a large scale three-phase land preservation project. The project, which spanned three years, protected 509 acres of forested lands encompassing the headwaters of the Manumuskin River, part of the federally designated Wild and Scenic Maurice River System.
The property, previously owned by the Diocese of Camden, lies in the heart of the Maurice River watershed in Cumberland County, one of the state’s most pristine rivers and home to a significant variety of rare plants, reptiles and amphibians and an array of migrating and breeding birds.
The Maurice River and the surrounding Cumberland Forest is a priority of conservation for The Nature Conservancy. These near-pristine lands had also been identified by the Cumberland County Open Space Plan as a Tier 1 Priority for Acquisition.
“The property very narrowly avoided development,” says Barbara Brummer, PhD, director of The Nature Conservancy in New Jersey. “In 2009 a residential developer had an option to purchase the property, with the intent of building 980 homes and a golf course on the property. When the option expired we acted quickly to step in to protect these lands.”
“The Diocese truly is a critical piece of the Maurice River watershed,” says Bob Allen, director of conservation programs for The Nature Conservancy. “Protecting this area protects one of the most pristine freshwater systems in the state.”
The final phase of the project cost $640,000, bringing the total to over $2 million for all three phases. Preservation of this land was made possible by critical funding received from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Green Acres Program, the Open Space Institute’s Bayshore-Highlands Fund, Chemglass, PEPCO Holdings, Inc., the Stone Foundation of New Jersey and many others.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Green Acres Program, which began in 1961 as a result of a bond referendum aimed at doubling New Jersey’s open space and recreational lands, last year celebrated its 50th anniversary as one of the most successful land conservation efforts in the nation.
“The Open Space Institute is very pleased to have played a role in the conservation of Phases 2 and 3 of this regionally significant project,” said Peter Howell, OSI’s executive vice president. “By protecting intact forested headwaters of the Manumuskin River, part of a federally designated Wild and Scenic River system, this project epitomizes the very best of conservation. It protects flora and fauna and a freshwater system that helps meet human needs as well. We are honored to have joined with Green Acres to help The Nature Conservancy complete this important project.”
The Open Space Institute is managing the Bayshore-Highlands Fund, a $6 million fund established with a grant from the William Penn Foundation to protect land in the Delaware Bayshore in New Jersey and the Highlands in Pennsylvania.
Dr. Brummer stressed the importance of these supporters, “We are truly grateful to longstanding partners like the William Penn Foundation, the Green Acres Program, and the many other good friends whose commitment to protecting our state’s natural lands and waters make great projects like this possible”
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.