New Jersey can once again build on its impressive legacy of land preservation, conservation, and protection now that the governor signed a law releasing $59.5 million in voter-approved Green Acres funding.

The governor’s signature on appropriations bill S-2997 on Monday means the state can move forward on land purchases and other preservation projects stalled for more than two years because of lack of funding. Voters overwhelmingly approved long-term, dedicated open space funding in November 2014, but the funds have not been made available until now.

“We’re thrilled to see funds begin to flow to New Jersey’s open space preservation programs once again,” said Kelly Mooij, coordinator of Keep It Green, a coalition of more than 175 conservation, parks, agriculture, and historic preservation organizations, which all worked together to secure this funding. “Every year of inaction meant more open spaces lost forever. These funds are coming at a critical time to preserve lands which are priceless filters to ensure clean drinking water, protect our fish and wildlife and provide parks and recreational opportunities for residents throughout the State.”

Of the total, $26.5 million is for state land acquisition, $26.5 million is for capital projects including recreation and stewardship in state parks and wildlife refuges, and $6.4 million is for the Blue Acres program, which enables houses in flood zones to be bought by the state and razed so the land can be reverted to its natural state.

“It’s clear that New Jersey residents deeply value open space, and this law carries out the will of voters,” said Ed Potosnak, chair of Keep It Green. “The open space ballot question was approved by two-thirds of voters and passed in all 21 counties. The Legislature sent this bill to the governor without a single dissenting vote in either the Senate or the Assembly.”

Other open space appropriations bills – for farmland and historic preservation, and for local Green Acres grants – are working their way through the Legislature.