NJ KEEP IT GREEN – New Jersey Keep It Green, a coalition of more than 150 conservation-focused organizations representing urban, suburban, and rural interests throughout the state, is kicking off the state’s second annual 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 over a half-century ago, and to amplify the many critical challenges to the clean water, air, and land that remain.

“New Jersey has a proud history of preserving farmland and prioritizing open space. Our champions in the legislature have never shied away from the hard work of getting long-term dedicated open space funding, and we are excited to celebrate the successes we’ve all achieved.” said Ed Potosnak, chair of Keep It Green and Executive Director of New Jersey League of Conservation Voters Education Fund. “As we celebrate open space month, enjoy the beauties of New Jersey, and share this heritage with our families, let’s recommit to this important preservation work.”

“Despite being the most densely populated state, New Jersey has preserved over 1 million acres of land,” said Kelly Mooij, coordinator of Keep It Green and Vice President of Government Relations at New Jersey Audubon. “However, the state is still projected to be fully developed by 2050. We need to keep working with leaders to continue our wins and ensure New Jerseyans have public parks and green spaces to enjoy for years to come.”

Last year, Keep It Green celebrated the first annual Open Space Month and was honored to receive a ceremonial resolution in the New Jersey Senate recognizing their innovative land preservation work. The resolution, co-sponsored by Senator Kip Bateman (R-16) and Senator Bob Smith (D-17) cites the “vital role” of the coalition in securing long-term preservation funding.

Sen. Bob Smith, D-17, said, “As chairman of the Senate Environment and Energy Committee, open space will always be one of my priorities. I’d like to commend the members of the Keep It Green coalition for their work, and I was proud to be a co-sponsor of the resolution last year honoring their vital role in securing long-term preservation funding. I look forward to working with them further.”

With a package of bills passed in January of 2018, the total of voter dedicated open space funding from the 2014 public question was brought to over $254 million. That money ensures that state, county, local and non-profit organizations have the financial resources they need to protect our clean drinking water, wildlife, parks, forests, and farms.

“Preserving open space has a long, bipartisan history in New Jersey. I’m proud to be a leader on this issue that transcends partisan politics and enhances the economy and quality of life for all New Jerseyans,” said Assemblyman John McKeon, D-27, member of the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee.

“I greatly appreciate the work the Keep It Green coalition is doing,” said Assemblyman Ron Dancer (R-12), whose district includes part of the Pinelands National Reserve, a 1-million-acre tract of forest, historic villages, berry farms, and wetlands. “Protecting the local family farmers in my district has always been a priority of mine, along with preserving the Pine Barrens’ unique history and the critical habitat it provides.”

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.

Leading up to the 2017 general election, New Jersey Keep It Green also ran a robust public engagement and education program encouraging voters to vote down the whole ballot, particularly on public question 2. In November, voters turned out in droves. They voted, by a 2-1 margin, to create a lockbox on funds from pollution settlements to ensure the monies are used only for environmental projects, and not for general state operations. This money can be used to preserve properties and green spaces as well.

Keep It Green is coordinating with its partner organizations throughout June to promote outdoor events and recreation opportunities. Check out our Facebook page for fun events near you.

Keep It Green’s Open Space Month celebrations also include a month-long Instagram photo contest. Weekly themes will highlight the land, water, and wildlife in New Jersey, as well as how New Jersey residents enjoy the state’s natural resources. Each week, contest winners will be able to designate a Keep It Green member organization to receive a $500 donation, and one winner will receive a gift certificate for an REI Outdoor Class worth $160. There will also be a grand prize winner who will receive a free Pinelands canoe trip for two. Full contest rules are posted on Keep It Green’s Facebook and Twitter.

NJ Keep It Green is a coalition of more than 150 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. For more information or to sign the NJ Keep It Green Statement of Support, visit www-bdtw6.hosts.cx. Follow us on Twitter and Instgram @njkeepitgreen or on Facebook at facebook.com/njkeepitgreen.