The Department of Environmental Protection along with the New Jersey Pinelands Commission, The Nature Conservancy and Conservation Resources, Inc. has preserved 5,079 acres of woodlands and wetlands in Atlantic County's Great Egg Harbor River watershed at a cost of $9.7 million.  The Christie Administration made the announcement today.

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Two related land purchases securing 4,970 acres from Lenape Farms and 109 acres from HBH Associates were finalized by the DEP's Green Acres program.

The project links together more than 56,000 acres of previously existing state wildlife management areas and thousands of additional acres of county parkland in an area where the Pine Barrens meets a coastal estuary ecosystem.

"The preservation of this property further enhances the quality of life in our state, providing additional outdoor recreational opportunities for our residents while adding environmental protections for an important natural area in southern New Jersey," said DEP Commissioner Bob Martin.  "We commend our partners for working with the state to preserve such a large tract of ecologically important land at the core of tens of thousands of acres of previously preserved lands."

The property runs alongside U.S. Route 50 in Estell Manor.  The bulk of the property, known as Lenape Farms, contains large expanses of forested uplands that merge into coastal marshlands.  The preserved property is now part of a state wildlife management area and will protect headwaters of Steve's Creek, Gibson's Creek and Mill Creek, which run into Great Egg Harbor River.

The preserved land directly links Atlantic County’s Estell Manor Park to three DEP wildlife management areas – the Tuckahoe Wildlife Management Area and Gibson Creek Wildlife Management Area to the south and the Maple Lake Wildlife Management Area to the west. The Great Egg Harbor River Wildlife Management Area and the sprawling Peaslee Wildlife Management are also located nearby.

The newly acquired land is now the Lenape Farms unit of the Tuckahoe Wildlife Management Area. The public can access the property by foot immediately as the DEP’s Division of Fish and Wildlife develops and implements a management plan, which will include formal trail development.

“This is the largest single New Jersey land deal we have ever been involved in—a huge amount of acreage in a priority conservation area, with important implications for forests, wildlife and water systems,’’ said Barbara Brummer, New Jersey State Director for The Nature Conservancy.  “We are deeply gratified to have been a leader in protecting this watershed for the future.’’

The tract had been used as a private hunting game preserve since the early 1900s, and was privately managed for forestry and wildlife purposes for many years.

Under terms of the agreement, Lenape Farms was paid $9.4 million and HBH Associates received $334,000.

The DEP provided $6.5 million in Green Acres funding. The Nature Conservancy provided $3.2 million, which included a $2.3 million Pinelands Conservation grant from the Pinelands Commission and a $264,000 grant from Conservation Resources Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides financial and technical services to the conservation community in New Jersey.