$157 million dedicated to preserving N.J. open space

A week after he had to cancel the appearance because of an asthma attack, N.J. Gov. Chris Christie traveled to a farm in Somerset County to sign three land-preservation bills.

The legislation appropriates $157 million in voter-approved Green Acres funding to protect open space and develop recreational areas.

Christie said Wednesday the money will be used on projects in all of New Jersey’s 21 counties.

“There’s a real balance between wanting to make sure that we get appropriate development in the state so our state can continue to grow but also not get overdeveloped,” said Christie. “New Jersey is already the most densely populated state in America, so this type of preservation of open space is good for our environment.”

Restricting development by purchasing sensitive sites will also help protect the state’s water supply, said state Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin.

“Having protected lands out there to protect streams and filtering the water that goes into streams and the watersheds are a key component of our environmental agenda going forward,” Martin said. “We’re also very focused on habitat for both endangered species and all species of animals in the state. So it does provide a lot of different benefits like that.”

Christie said $12 million will be used to acquire property prone to flooding, while $15 million will preserve land in the Highlands, a major source of the state’s drinking water.

New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel welcomed the funding but says open space acquisition is not keeping pace with development. He’s urging the governor and state lawmakers to come up with a stable source of funding for land preservation.

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