Senate President Sweeney and Senator Smith, along with members of Keep It Green held a press conference in Trenton to discuss the importance of the recent passage of the historic “Preserve New Jersey Act” and encouraged the administration to quickly conduct funding rounds for open space, farmland, and historic preservation projects. The Preserve New Jersey Act (S2456), which was passed and signed into law earlier this summer, provided the necessary language to begin funding vital preservation projects consistent with the 2014 constitutional dedication supported by 65% of voters.
“The passage of the Preserve New Jersey Act provides the needed predictability and transparency in funding for open space, farmland, and historic preservation and stewardship. This bi-partisan compromise is the next step in ensuring that the voter-dedicated funds are available for great projects around the State. It is vital that this money begins to flow to projects and we look forward to the announcement of funding rounds in the near future,” said Kelly Mooij, Coordinator of Keep It Green.
The constitutional dedication will, for the first time in state history, provide consistent and reliable funds for multiple programs critical to the lives of current and future New Jerseyans including Green Acres, Blue Acres, park development, farmland preservation, and historic preservation. Each of these programs has direct impacts on the lives of New Jersey citizens such as increasing quality of life, ensuring family farmers can continue producing locally grown fresh products, and preserving the state’s rich cultural heritage for future generations.
“The allocation of money from the Corporate Business Tax provides sorely needed funding that will enable the New Jersey Historic Trust to once again provide capital grants for the restoration of historic sites in New Jersey,” said Cate Litvack, President of Advocates for New Jersey History. “It is critical to have funds flowing once again to historic preservation – providing jobs and economic stimulus throughout the state.”
By passing ballot question two in 2014, New Jersey voters made history by providing a consistent annual funding mechanism for open space, farmland, and historic preservation. New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the country and projected to be the first state to reach build out, which makes preserving the precious remaining open space vital to the future health and prosperity of New Jersey families.
“Land preservation is critical to protecting our water resources, especially in locations such as the Highlands and Pinelands, as well as reducing flooding along our coasts and waterways, ensuring the state will continue producing high quality produce, and enhancing the overall quality of life for New Jerseyans by providing access to parks, trails, and wildlife,” said Mooij.
Additionally, studies show that for every dollar invested in open space preservation, there is a $10 yield by way of economic benefits, which come in the form of ecosystem services (such as water purification, waste treatment, and flood mitigation), natural goods (such as fish and farm products), and outdoor recreation activities across the entire state.
“Passing the Preserve New Jersey Act was a historic step towards implementing the will of the voters of our state and we thank the bipartisan efforts of the legislators who have championed this cause, but we still have more to do,” said Ed Potosnak, Chair of Keep It Green. “Now we need the administration to get the money on the ground by commencing the grant funding rounds, which have been delayed over the past year and a half.”
Preserved land continues to have significant effects for generations after the initial investment. Open spaces protect our water resources and provide enhanced quality of life. Because of land preserved today, our children and their children will have a plentiful source of clean drinking water, parks and trails where they can play and explore, and a generally higher quality of life.
“I want to congratulate Senator Smith and Senator Bateman on fighting for, and ultimately winning, a great victory for the protection of New Jersey’s environment,” said Senate President Sweeney. “But I want everyone to understand that this is more than just a victory for Bob, Kip and their allies in the advocacy community. This is a victory for generations of residents to come, who will all benefit from enjoying our natural open spaces and the clean water and air they provide.”
Open space preservation is a unique issue within New Jersey. While many issues divide New Jerseyans, land preservation is 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 every county. Additionally, the final vote on the Preserve New Jersey Act passed unanimously in the Senate and with an overwhelming vote of 74 to 3 in the Assembly.
“At a time where resources are nearly as scarce as open space, we should be doing everything we can to make sure we maximize both,” said Senator Kip Bateman. “I’m proud to join with Senator Smith in showing that when it comes to defending the historic places that contribute to our state’s character and the natural treasures that add to its beauty, both sides of the aisle have an equal stake in standing up for solutions that are workable and beneficial for everyone.”