N.J. open-space preservation stalls without launch of voter-approved funding

Acquisition of farmland for preservation in New Jersey is stalled because a state funding initiative has not been implemented more than a year after voters endorsed it. (Bigstock)

Acquisition of farmland for preservation in New Jersey is stalled because a state funding initiative has not been implemented more than a year after voters endorsed it. (Bigstock)

A referendum New Jersey approved more than a year and a half ago would provide about $80 million a year from corporate tax revenue to acquire and preserve land.

But the funds are stalled because Gov. Chris Christie has not signed legislation to implement it.

And that means proposed projects cannot proceed, said Alison Mitchell with the New Jersey Conservation Foundation.

“Right now, we’re in a situation where we have all these landowners interested in preserving their properties and a real scarcity of state dollars to complete these projects, which means preservation work is beginning to slow down,” she said Monday.

Ed Potosnak, who chairs the Keep It Green coalition, said the funding would preserve farmland and provide green spaces in urban areas for recreation. It’s also important as a means for advancing  public health.

“Land serves as a filter for our water, and the clean water that we enjoy in our state comes because we have preserved lands to filter them,” he said. “With more and more development that safe clean drinking water gets threatened.”

Christie vetoed a similar funding bill at the end of the previous legislative session without saying why.

If he rejects it again, Republican Sen. Kip Bateman said he’d support an override effort.

“We’re at a critical time. You know we’re always in a race with developers with the farmland preservation, the open space,” Bateman said. “Everywhere I go, whether you’re Republican or Democrat, the environment is so important, and people are urging the governor to do the right thing.”

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.