Air National Guard and New Jersey Conservation Foundation add Burlington County hunting camp to open spaceA 107-acre former hunting camp in the Pine Barrens of Burlington County, and a nearby 5-acre property have been preserved as open space through the efforts of the state Air National Guard, the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, the Pinelands Commission and state Green Acres Program.
The Oswego Gun Club property in Bass River, which is surrounded by Bass River State Forest and the Air National Guard's Warren Grove Gunnery Range, is the first in the state to be preserved by a nonprofit group using funding from the U.S. Department of Defense's Readiness and Environmental Preparedness Initiative (REPI).
The initiative provides funds to preserve land surrounding military installations. Shortly after the gun club property was funded, additional REPI funds were used toward what is known as the 5-acre Goldner tract.
The Conservation Foundation purchased the Oswego Gun Club property for $106,000, using $30,000 from REPI, $35,310 from the Pinelands Conservation Fund and $40,667 from the Green Acres Program. A conservation easement will be held by the United States Air Force.
The Goldner property was purchased for $21,000, using $11,000 from REPI and $10,000 from Green Acres.
"We're proud to be part of this conservation ‘first' in New Jersey, and we're looking forward to partnering again with the military in the near future," said Michele S. Byers, Conservation Foundation director. The organization is a private nonprofit that preserves land and natural resources throughout New Jersey.
Maj. Gen. Glenn K. Rieth, the state adjutant general and National Guard commander, said that the arrangement is a benefit to taxpayers and the environment. "This is a win for all parties concerned," Rieth said. "The purchase and conservation easement ensures this land is managed in the most cost-effective and environmental friendly way while ensuring the Warren Grove Range is able to continue as a vital East Coast training facility for combat aviation."
The Oswego Gun Club property is a remote Pine Barrens wilderness crossed by sand roads and the Buck Run, a tributary of the Oswego River. It is home to a significant population of timber rattlesnakes, one of the state's most endangered species, as well as Pine Barrens tree frogs. The Goldner property is an Atlantic white cedar swamp completely surrounded by Bass River State Forest.
Chris Jage, the Conservation Foundation's assistant director for southern New Jersey, said the gun club decided to sell the property because its members did not plan to use it much longer and wanted to see it permanently preserved.
"This consolidation will allow the state and New Jersey Conservation Foundation to manage the entire forest for conservation and recreation purposes," jage said. "This will result in improved fire hazard reduction and management."
The Pinelands Commission has allocated and awarded more than $3.7 million from its fund toward the permanent preservation of 3,027 acres of environmentally-sensitive land in the Pinelands. Hundreds of additional acres are in the process of being preserved through the fund.
The Conservation Foundation is celebrating its 50th anniversary of preserving land and natural resources throughout New Jersey. Since 1960, it has protected more than 120,000 acres of open space - from the Highlands to the Pine Barrens to the Delaware Bayshore.