$100 million for N.J. open space, but environmental chief pressed for long-range funding

 New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin (Phil Gregory/for NewsWorks)

New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin (Phil Gregory/for NewsWorks)

New Jersey lawmakers are pressing the Christie administration to come up with a long-term plan to preserve open space.

About $100 million from previous bond issues and cancelled projects is now available to preserve open space, and applications are being accepted, said Bob Martin, head of the state Department of Environmental Protection.

But he told the Assembly Budget Committee Monday that the administration has not yet developed a long-range source of funding.

“We’re looking at all options, and we’ve reviewed those,” he said. “We continue to discuss all of them and how we might be able to pay for that in the future.”

There’s an urgency to finding a solution, warned Assemblyman John Burzichelli, D-Gloucester.

“The real estate market is going to pop again, and there’s going to be a pent-up demand that’s going to flow with respect to open space that’s in play either for development or for preservation,” he said.

Advocates are frustrated that a steady funding plan has not been developed, considering that the DEP has identified a million acres to be preserved.

Of course, the funds Martin mentioned will certainly be welcome, said Kelly Mooij with the Keep It Green Coalition.

“But we believe this is a piecemeal stopgap approach to preservation funding that doesn’t change the fundamental problem. State open space, farmland, and historic preservation programs are lacking a adequate and stable funding source,” she said.

Last year, lawmakers failed to agree on a ballot question seeking voter approval to direct a portion of sales tax revenue toward open space-preservation programs.

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