New Jersey the most densely populated state in the country and a recent
University study warns that if development continues at its current rate,
New Jersey will become the first completely “built out” state within 30 years.
Central New Jersey , where the Sourland Region is located, is among the fastest growing and most threatened regions of the State. Covering 90 square miles and rising to 568 feet above sea level, the Sourlands spans three counties, five townships and 2 adjacent boroughs and one small city. Due to recognition of the Highlands and Pinelands as high preservation priorities, and growing job markets between the New York and Philadelphia metro areas, the Sourlands has experienced increasing pressure as one of the last undeveloped areas of central
New Jersey . The Sourlands region, particularly its large areas of contiguous forest, has been called an island of biodiversity in central
New Jersey. In addition to their essential role in protecting the water supply for over 1 million people in
New Jersey , the unbroken forests, wetlands and grasslands of the Sourlands provide the required habitat for many species of birds, plants and other wildlife.
Neotropical migrating birds such as the Scarlet Tanager breed in the Sourlands in spring and summer and winter in the forests of Central and
South America . Other deep forest birds that find a home in the Sourlands include wood warblers such as the Oven Bird and songbirds like the Veery, Wood Thrush and Rose-breasted Grosbeak. All of these birds require large areas of unbroken forest interior habitat and do not breed in isolated patches of woodland. Sixty five species of neotropical migrant birds depend on the Sourlands for the survival of their kind.
The perched wetlands of the Sourlands contain many vernal pools that are critical breeding sites for threatened species of frogs and salamanders. Vernal pools are specialized habitats that hold water in winter and spring, but dry up in summer. As a result, vernal pools do not support fish that would otherwise prey on immature stages of breeding amphibians.
Preservation of the Sourlands provides a refuge where wildlife can breed and thrive and a refuge where people can enjoy the land and recharge their spirits. D&R Greenway has made the protection of this region a significant of our organization.
Examples of Key Partners
D&R Greenway Land Trust, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Green Acres Program, New Jersey State Agricultural Development Committee, Hunterdon County, Mercer County, Somerset County, East Amwell Township, Hillsborough Township, Hopewell Township, Montgomery Township, West Amwell Township, Hopewell Borough, Pennington Borough, City of Lambertville, The Nature Conservancy, New Jersey Audubon, The Sourlands Planning Council, The Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association, Foundations, Family Foundations and Private Donors, Individual Sourlands Landowners, Amigos de Calakmul, Regional Land Trust, Yucatan Mexico
Results and Accomplishments
D&R Greenway Land Trust has articulated a vision for the protection of this irreplaceable resource and has taken effective action, accelerating the pace of land preservation and public education about the Sourlands. Five years ago, D&R Greenway was the only conservation group focusing on the Sourlands. Today, the NJDEP Green Acres Program, The Nature Conservancy, the Sourlands Regional Planning Council, and all of the region’s local communities have identified the Sourlands as a priority for preservation. To date,
Land Trust has been a partner in the preservation of 3,500 acres of Sourlands’ habitat and natural lands.
A highly successful collaboration established in 2003 between D&R Greenway and the NJ DEP Green Acres Program is resulting in a critical mass of protected lands in the Sourlands. D&R Greenway identifies priority Sourland properties and conducts the preservation discussions and negotiations with individual landowners. The State provides the financial and technical support to bring the projects to closing. D&R Greenway secures any additional funding needed from counties, municipalities and other non-profit organizations and through bargain sales.
Finally, D&R Greenway’s International Sister Land Trust project with Amigos de Calakmul in Mexico’s
Peninsula is helping to raise awareness about the global importance of the Sourlands. Amigos de Calakmul is working to protect the region that is the winter habitat for 65 birds that breed in the Sourlands. In October this replicable partnership will be presented as a model to approximately 1,400 regional land trusts from across the United States and international representatives at the 2005 Land Trust Rally.