From: Roger Greenway, ENN
Published January 7, 2010 03:41 PM

New Jersey protects more open space from development

More beautiful open space is being preserved in New Jersey. In this heavily populated state, there is reason to celebrate the preservation of areas of natural beauty and wildlife habitat. Conserving this land also protects important groundwater aquifers.

The Wallkill River area is said to have been known by the Native Americans as "Twischsawkin," meaning the land where plums abound. Many prehistoric resources are found in the area, including at least three Indian rock shelters. The Wallkill Valley was an important source of flint and chert for the aboriginal inhabitants, who used these stones to fashion their projectile points. Thus, it appears that the Native Americans not only valued the area for its abundant food resources, but also traveled considerable distances to exploit its mineral resources.

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As early as 1760, efforts were made to straighten, dredge, and drain the river corridor to make the land dry enough to farm. The effort didn't succeed until sixty-six years later when a large canal lowered the water table of the river. Mill owners, however, sought to keep the lands flooded, and a battle ensued between the millers and the farmers who wanted the lands drained. These battles were known as the "Muskrat and Beaver Wars". The millers were known as the "beavers." The farmers were known as the "muskrats." The disputes were finally settled in the farmers' favor in 1871.

The first of two long-anticipated conservation projects within the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge was recently completed, The Trust for Public Land, Frankford Township, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, New Jersey Natural Lands Trust, and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced.

The New Jersey office of The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national conservation organization, spearheaded the purchase of more than 166 acres in Frankford Township known as Armstrong Bog, and conveyed the land to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. The property is an addition to the New Jersey Natural Lands Trust’s Papakating Creek Preserve and will be managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) as part of an expanded Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge, which TPL helped establish in 1990.

For several years the property—part of a larger, 324-acre parcel within the recently expanded boundary of the Refuge—has been a conservation priority for the township, USFWS, and the State. In 2007 the property was slated for a 35-lot subdivision, but that conceptual plan by Orleans Development was abandoned as the real estate market faltered. Several attempts were made to secure the property for conservation, and in 2008 TPL approached the landowner with a new conservation solution. Including today’s purchase, TPL is working with the many partners and the landowner to conserve the entire 324 acres in two separate transactions.

"We are grateful to all the partners that made this important addition to the Papakating Creek Preserve within the magnificent Wallkill Refuge possible," said Anthony Cucchi, TPL state director for New Jersey. "This conservation effort ensures wetlands, the creek, and existing habitat for the bog turtle and other species are well cared for."

Armstrong Bog is a rare calcareous fen wetland site in northern New Jersey, important for recovery of the federally threatened, and state endangered, bog turtle. The lands also protect Papakating Creek, a New Jersey-classified Category One stream corridor, and preserves plant habitat for the rare Fraser's Saint John's wort.

TPL assembled funding for the 166-acre, $1.1 million acquisition from several sources. New Jersey state programs contributed nearly $1 million through the Department of Environmental Protection Green Acres Program and a federal grant applied for by the New Jersey Natural Lands Trust. This includes $500,000 the New Jersey Natural Lands Trust received under the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund's Recovery Land Acquisition Program, a USFWS grant program to protect threatened and endangered species habitat. Frankford Township contributed more than $87,000 from its Open Space Trust Fund, and The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation contributed more than $70,000.

"The New Jersey Natural Lands Trust is delighted to see this spectacular natural area preserved, and it has been a pleasure to partner with The Trust for Public Land and Frankford Township in the effort," said Michael Catania, Chair of the New Jersey Natural Lands Trust.

Map shows location of the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge area.

For  more information: http://www.fws.gov/northeast/wallkillriver/index.htm

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