NJ Keep It Green, the state's largest coalition of conservation, park, agriculture and historic preservation organizations, applauds the announcement of a new grant funding round for Green Acres projects.
In making the announcement Monday, the Department of Environmental Protection set a Feb. 15, 2017 deadline for eligible counties, municipalities and nonprofits to apply for funds for park development, land acquisition and stewardship. A total of $67.4 million in grants is available.
"We're delighted that the DEP is moving quickly to make these funds available to communities and nonprofits eager to preserve open space for future generations and provide much needed parks for residents," said Kelly Mooij, Coordinator of Keep It Green. "This latest grant round to fund vital preservation projects comes just three months after the implementation bill was signed in to law."
That bill – known as the Preserve New Jersey Act – passed unanimously in the Senate and with a near unanimous vote of 74 to 3 in the Assembly. Two years earlier, Keep It Green's coalition partners spearheaded an unprecedented campaign for a constitutional dedication of open space funds. Voters' overwhelming approval created a permanent funding source for the state to buy and preserve open space. The money comes from the state’s corporate business tax.
"We urge towns and counties with local Open Space Funds to take full advantage of this opportunity to move their preservation plans forward with Green Acres grants," said Ed Potosnak, Chairman of Keep It Green. "We couldn’t be happier that projects stalled because of lack of funds now have the opportunity to move forward, providing countless new opportunities to protect water quality and crucial habitat while providing new recreational opportunities for all New Jerseyans to enjoy."
Open space preservation retains a proud bipartisan history in New Jersey. While other issues tend to divide voters according to party lines, land preservation has been strongly supported on both sides of the aisle and all across the state. The 2014 ballot measure passed with support from both Republicans and Democrats and won a majority of support in all 21 counties.
Though New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the nation, it has proudly preserved more than 2 million acres of land in parcels large and small all across our state. With tens of millions of dollars in new grant money now available, that legacy will continue unabated.