By Walter O'Brien
EAST AMWELL — A group of preservation partners have joined forces to mark the 50th anniversary of the state’s Green Acres Program by preserving scenic Hunterdon grasslands that is a home to threatened species of birds.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), D&R Greenway Land Trust, East Amwell Township, Conservation Resources Inc. (CRI), The Open Space Institute and Hunterdon County have partnered to complete a $2.1 million deal to preserve the 89-acre Cider Mill Road property bordering the ridges of Sourland Mountain with Amwell Valley views.
“We couldn’t have acquired this site without tremendous public and private support,” Linda Mead, D&R Greenway president and CEO, said. “It takes a community of funders to achieve the desired result.”
D&R Greenway secured a contract with landowner Bryce Thompson, and formed the partnership to complete the complex deal.
State Green Acres funding was used, along with monies from New Jersey’s Natural Resource Damages Fund , which itself is funded by damaged paid to NJDEP by polluters. CRI re-granted monies from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Hunterdon County provided funds through their County Nonprofit Grant Program and East Amwell Township used their Green Acres Planning Incentive Grant.
The Cider Mill Road property is noted as a habitat for threatened and endangered grasslands birds including bobolink, eastern meadowlark, savannah and grasshopper sparrows and the American Kestral. The tract is also winter habitat for endangered northern harriers and threatened short-eared owls.
Mead said that the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife will be part owners and co-managers of the property with D&R Greenway.
“The (Division) have been outstanding partners in helping to bring the state funding to the table and in providing excellent management guidance as we strive to enhance the habitat values,” Mead said. “They really went out of their way to help make this project happen and it made a difference.”
NJDEP Commissioner Bob Martin said that it was nice to kick off the celebration of the Green Acres Program’s 50th anniversary year with such a high quality acquisition as the Cider Mill Preserve.
“D&R Greenway Land Trust was the first land conservancy to close a project with Green Acres nonprofit grant funding in 1991, and now they have led the first major preservation partnership closing in our 50th year in business,” Martin said.
East Amwell Mayor Larry Tatsch said that he is grateful for the many preservation partners that worked together to make this acquisition possible.
“Preservation of this natural grassland, which will be open to the public, helps perpetuate our agricultural heritage and ensures a legacy of natural beauty for generations to come,” Tatsch said.
Walter O'Brien: 908-243-6613; firstname.lastname@example.org