NJ KEEP IT GREEN – Leaders of New Jersey Keep It Green, a coalition of more than 175 conservation-focused organizations representing urban, suburban, and rural interests throughout the state, were joined at the Statehouse on Thursday by legislative advocates to kick off the state’s first Open Space Month.

The designation is to showcase New Jersey’s national leadership role in land preservation dating back to the start of the Green Acres program a half-century ago, and to amplify the many critical challenges to clean water, air, and land that remain.

“The fact that $121 million is designated for open space, parks, farms, and historic preservation this year is a testament to the hard work of our preservation champions in the Legislature. Our legislative allies pushed to get long-term dedicated open space funding on the ballot, then to get that voter-approved money flowing to worthy projects once again,” said Ed Potosnak, chair of Keep It Green.

“The story of our success can be summed up by the numbers: More than 1 million acres of preserved land in the nation’s most densely populated state, 2,493 farms preserved statewide, and 500 perpetually flooded properties returned to their natural state,” said Kelly Mooij, coordinator of Keep It Green. “With New Jersey projected to reach build-out by mid-century, the need for preservation has never been more urgent.”

Sen. Bob Smith, D-17, said: “As chairman of the Senate Environment and Energy Committee, it’s my priority to ensure that future generations have access to high-quality drinking water, which means doing our best to protect the land that is critical to our water resources.”

Sen. Kip Bateman, R-16, a consistent and long-time proponent of preservation and stewardship, plans to sponsor a Senate resolution supporting the work of Keep It Green on June 29. Several cities, towns, and counties have passed resolutions recognizing Open Space Month.

“It’s been my honor to work with the members of Keep It Green to promote an enhanced quality of life for our children and grandchildren. I was a proud sponsor of the 2014 Constitutional Amendment for long-term preservation funding and of the bills releasing the funds,” Bateman said.

“Open Space preservation has always been a bipartisan issue in New Jersey, and I’m proud to continue to play a leadership role in an issue that transcends partisan politics and does enormous good by enhancing our economy and quality of life for all New Jerseyans,” said Assemblyman John McKeon, D-27, vice chair of the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee.

“I want to thank the Keep It Green coalition for pushing this issue,” said Assemblyman Ron Dancer, R-12, whose district includes a portion of the Pinelands National Reserve, a vast 1 million-acre tract of forest, historic villages, berry farms, and wetlands that stretches through seven southern counties. “My legislative priorities have been to protect family farmers who provide fresh, locally grown produce, to save critical habitat, and to preserve the historic character of the Pine Barrens.”

New Jerseyans agree: In the 56-year history of the Green Acres program, residents have never once voted down a ballot measure for open space funding. The most recent question was approved by 65% of those casting ballots.

Study after study has shown that preservation and conservation create jobs and boost local economies in addition to enhancing quality of life in affected communities. Every county and every community across the state benefit from these programs.

Keep It Green is coordinating with its partner organizations throughout June to promote events and recreation opportunities. Check with us on Facebook @NJKeepItGreen under the “Events” tab to find fun outdoor activities near you.

Keep It Green also is hosting a month-long photo contest on Instagram. To enter, follow @njkeepitgreen and tag your nature photos #ShareYourSpaceNJ and #njkeepitgreen. Four weekly winners will be chosen at random, and each will designate $1,000 to their favorite Keep It Green member organization. Full contest rules can be found on NJ Keep It Green’s Facebook page.