NJ Keep It Green, the state’s largest coalition of conservation, agriculture and historic preservation organizations, today kicked off the campaign to urge New Jerseyans to Vote Yes on Public Question 2 on the Nov. 4 ballot.
“This measure is about keeping our drinking water clean and protecting our children’s futures,” said Kelly Mooij, coordinator of NJ Keep It Green. “By voting yes on Question 2 in November we can help preserve the quality of life that we value here in New Jersey.”
The campaign kickoff was held at the Greater Newark Conservancy’s Prudential Outdoor Learning Center, which has benefitted from Green Acres funding. The Coalition was joined by environmental champions Sens. Bob Smith and Christopher "Kip" Bateman and Assemblyman John McKeon, sponsors of the legislation to refer the measure to the ballot, along with supporters from across New Jersey.
Public Question 2 asks voters to dedicate existing state funds to protect clean water and ensure that future generations continue to have access to parks, open spaces, farmland and historic treasures. The funding will replenish the now-depleted Green Acres, Blue Acres, farmland and historic preservation programs, and continue funding to improve water quality, remove and clean up underground storage tanks, and clean-up polluted sites.
“Through programs such as Green and Blue Acres, farmland preservation and historic preservation the state has been able to set aside hundreds of thousands of acres of land for the public’s well-being and enjoyment, but tremendous needs remain.” Smith said. “It is imperative to vote yes on November 4 to protect the state’s drinking water and last remaining open spaces for the health of our communities and future generations.”
The measure ensures stable funding for the preservation and care of open space, parks, farmland, historic sites and flood-prone areas by reallocating 4 percent of existing corporate business tax revenues that are already dedicated to environmental programs through fiscal year 2019 and dedicating an additional 2 percent of existing corporate business tax revenues from fiscal year 2020 going forward.
“I was proud to sponsor this measure and urge my fellow citizens to vote yes on November 4 to approve the dedication of state funds for open space, farmland and historic preservation as well as other important environmental programs,” said McKeon. “This funding is a necessary investment in our quality of life as well as our economy as studies show that every $1 invested in state preservation programs returns $10 in economic value.”
Open space, farmland and historic preservation programs received an average of $200 million annually under the 1998 Garden State Preservation Trust. Under the ballot question, preservation programs would receive approximately $71 million annually the first four years, and then $117 million annually thereafter, providing reduced but critical baseline funding without raising taxes. In addition, approximately $30 million annually will be provided for programs to improve water quality, remove underground storage tanks before they leak, and clean up polluted sites.
Additionally, for the first time ever, a provision for stewardship is included that will require some funds to go toward helping take better care of the parks and natural areas New Jersey already has. It will fund critical repairs, restoration and improvements to parks, natural areas and lakes, rivers and streams across New Jersey – making it easier for the public to visit and enjoy them.
“This desperately-needed source of long-term, stable funding will go a long way toward protecting some of this state’s best assets,” said Bateman. “Clean water, parks, farms, and open space are bipartisan issues that we all should be able to support – regardless of our political affiliation – for the sake of our children and grandchildren.”
According to a report by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, more than 650,000 acres still need to be preserved to protect natural and water resources and to provide outdoor recreational opportunities to a growing population. At least an additional 350,000 acres of farmland must be preserved to maintain a viable agriculture industry, according to the New Jersey Department of Agriculture.
Robin L. Dougherty, executive director of the Greater Newark Conservancy, talked about the importance of Green Acres funding throughout New Jersey, but especially in urban areas where too few families have access to parks and open space.
“There is clearly a demand for more parks and open spaces in cities like Newark,” said Dougherty. “Since 2004 when we first opened the Prudential Outdoor Learning Center, more than 30,000 schoolchildren have experienced the wonder of the natural world through educational field trips to our Center, which was made possible in part by Green Acres funding.”
The Center provides a range of programming throughout the year and is a participant in the Newark Youth Leadership Program, which provides Newark high school and college youth with job training experience, leadership development, and exposure to different career options in environmental and horticultural fields and opportunities for pursuing a college education.
Students in the Newark Youth Leadership Program provided tours of the Center as part of the kick-off event.
About NJ Keep It Green NJ Keep It Green is a coalition of more than 185 park and conservation organizations working to create a long-term, dedicated source of funding for the preservation and stewardship of New Jersey’s natural areas, waterways, parks, farmland and historic sites. NJ Keep It Green led successful campaigns to pass statewide ballot measures in 2006, 2007, and 2009 generating $600 million for state open space, farmland and historic preservation programs. For more information or to sign the NJ Keep It Green Statement of Support, visit www.njkeepitgreen.org.