The Department of Environmental Protection in partnership with the New Jersey Pinelands Commission, The Nature Conservancy, and Conservation Resources, Inc., has preserved 5,079 acres of woodlands and wetlands in Atlantic County’s Great Egg Harbor River watershed at a cost of $9.7 million.
The DEP’s Green Acres program finalized two related land purchases
securing 4,970 acres from Lenape Farms and 109 acres from HBH
Associates. The more than 5,000-acre project, one of the largest state
preservation effort in years, helps link together more than 56,000
acres of previously existing state wildlife management areas, plus
thousands of additional acres of county parkland in an area where the
Pine Barrens meets a coastal estuary ecosystem.
The property flanks U.S. Route 50 in Estell Manor. The bulk of the
property, known as Lenape Farms, contains large expanses of forested
uplands that merge into coastal marshlands. The preserved property is
now part of a state wildlife management area, providing hunting,
fishing, hiking and bird watching opportunities for the public. It will
also protect headwaters of Steven’s Creek, Gibson’s Creek and Mill
Creek, which are tributaries to Great Egg Harbor River.
The preserved land directly links Atlantic County’s Estell Manor Park to
three DEP wildlife management areas – the Tuckahoe Wildlife Management
Area and Gibson Creek Wildlife Management Area to the south and the
Maple Lake Wildlife Management Area to the west. The Great Egg Harbor
River Wildlife Management Area and the sprawling Peaslee Wildlife
Management are also located nearby.
The newly acquired land is now the Lenape Farms unit of
the Tuckahoe Wildlife Management Area. The public can access the
property by foot immediately as the DEP’s Division of Fish and Wildlife
develops and implements a management plan, which will include formal
“This is the largest single New Jersey land deal we have ever been
involved in—a huge amount of acreage in a priority conservation area,
with important implications for forests, wildlife and water systems,’’
said Barbara Brummer, New Jersey State Director for The Nature
“We are deeply gratified to have been a leader in protecting this watershed for the future.’’
The tract had been used as a private hunting game preserve since the
early 1900s, and was privately managed for forestry and wildlife
purposes for many years.
“Lenape Farms has done a wonderful job of enhancing tree quality,
encouraging forest regeneration, reducing wildfire hazards and
protecting wildlife habitat for almost 100 years,’’ said Terry Caruso,
Supervising Program Development Specialist for the DEP’s Green Acres
The property provides habitat for a number of wildlife
species, including the barred owl, northern pine snake, Pine Barrens
tree frog, Cooper’s hawk, timber rattlesnake, Cope’s gray tree frog,
bald eagle, red-headed woodpecker, black rail, osprey, black-crowned
night heron and diamondback terrapin.
Under terms of the agreement, Lenape Farms was paid $9.4 million and HBH Associates received $334,000.
The DEP provided $6.5 million in Green Acres funding. The
Nature Conservancy provided $3.2 million, which included a $2.3 million
Pinelands Conservation grant from the Pinelands Commission and a
$264,000 grant from Conservation Resources Inc., a nonprofit
organization that provides financial and technical services to the
conservation community in New Jersey.
“The Lenape Farms acquisition represents the permanent preservation of
one of the largest remaining private parcels in the State” said
Michael Catania, President of Conservation Resources, Inc. “This
tract, which has been wonderfully managed by private stewards for
generations, is reminiscent of one of the huge Adirondack “camp”
properties that have recently been preserved by public/private
partnerships in New York. CRI salutes both the sellers and the
partnership of buyers who had the vision and perseverance to save this
gem in perpetuity.”
“It has been difficult for Lenape Farms to let go of
this beautiful and pristine tract of land,” said Stew Keener, President
of Lenape Farms Inc. “Our organization has enjoyed and carefully
maintained the Lenape Farms property for multiple generations.
“Our stewardship and tree farming, which has been inspired and
implemented by our forester, Bob Williams, is well documented and is a
source of great pride for us,’’ said Keener. “We sincerely hope that
this tradition of excellence continues in perpetuity now that the land
is in the public domain. We are honored to have played a part in
preserving one of the largest tracts in the state’s history.”
“This is an excellent addition to our efforts to preserve
environmentally-sensitive land,” said Nancy Wittenberg, Executive
Director of the Pinelands Commission. “Including this parcel, the
Commission has now paid out a total of $7.9 million toward the
permanent preservation of 6,670 acres of land.”
Together with public and private partners, the Green
Acres program has directly protected 650,000 acres of open space and
provided hundreds of recreational opportunities for a wide range of
activities, including natural areas, hiking and fishing areas, city
parks, playgrounds, athletic fields, boat ramps, docks, fishing piers
and environmental education.
In addition to providing recreation opportunities, Green
Acres projects help protect water quality and stimulate economic
development by creating jobs, at the same time making cities and towns
more attractive places to live and work.
To view a map of the site, visit: http://www.nj.gov/dep/docs/lenapefarms-map.pdf
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