Pine Barrens preserve expands by 691 acres

Aug 30, 2023

WOODLAND TWP., NJ – New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s (NJ Conservation) Michael Huber Prairie Warbler Preserve in the Pine Barrens has grown 50 percent larger, thanks to the acquisition of an adjacent 691-acre former cranberry farm.

On August 18, NJ Conservation purchased the property for $863,875 from the United Talmudical Academy Torah of Lakewood (UTA), which had received the land as a donation nearly six years earlier.

“This is a beautiful property crossed by several tributaries of the Burrs Mill Brook, and containing mature stands of Atlantic white cedar, a native tree that has been greatly reduced in New Jersey over the centuries due to logging and mismanagement,” said Stephanie Kreiser, NJ Conservation’s director for South Jersey.

“As much as two-thirds of the UTA property may once have supported Atlantic white cedars, but it was heavily logged in the early 1900s and also used for berry agriculture,” she added. “Acquiring this land as open space provides an excellent opportunity in the future to restore Atlantic white cedars in places they historically grew.”

Approximately five miles of footpaths and sand roads wind through the preserve’s pitch pine forests and along ancient Atlantic white cedar forests.

Approximately 65 acres of mature cedar remain on the property, and protecting and restoring this resource is critical for wildlife habitat and carbon sequestration. The property provides connectivity to large swaths of protected land and likely habitat for threatened and endangered species, and is of the highest importance for protecting water quality, with 8.6 miles of stream and 29 acres of open water.

The addition of the UTA property increases the size of the Huber Preserve from 1,227 to 1,918 acres. The preserve is named for the late Michael Huber, a dedicated conservationist who served on NJ Conservation’s Board of Trustees for many years before his death in January 2009.

Funding for the purchase came from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Green Acres Program, Open Space Institute (OSI), and a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service North American Wetlands Conservation Act – Ducks Unlimited grant.

“Green Acres is happy to have provided funding for this important acquisition,” said Martha Sullivan Sapp, Director of the DEP Green Acres Program. “Preservation of this property advances the DEP’s priorities of preserving endangered species habitat, protecting water quality, and maintaining forested areas that help mitigate the effects of climate change. New Jersey is working hard to preserve and restore Atlantic white cedars like those found on this property.”

OSI supported the project through its Delaware River Watershed Protection Fund (DRWPF), made possible by the William Penn Foundation. The DRWPF strategically protects land to ensure abundant, clean water within the Delaware River Watershed. Fifteen million people rely on the watershed for drinking water, including residents of the cities of Trenton, Philadelphia, Wilmington, and New York City.

“This project was a natural fit for the Open Space Institute’s Delaware River Watershed Protection Fund,” said Bill Rawlyk, OSI’s Mid-Atlantic Field Coordinator. “The Pinelands forests and wetlands filter and recharge water for the Kirkwood Cohansey aquifer, one of the largest underground reservoirs of clean drinking water on the East Coast. The project exemplifies how conservation groups can achieve the long sought-after goals of protecting these coastal plain forests and safeguarding the rich ecological benefits and heritage of the Pinelands. OSI salutes the New Jersey Conservation Foundation for their tireless efforts to see this property protected, forever.”

“Ducks Unlimited’s mission is to protect and restore wetland habitats throughout New Jersey because New Jersey wetlands provide important life cycle needs for migrating waterfowl,” said Jim Feaga, Ducks Unlimited’s Regional Biologist. “The protection of the UTA tract will permanently protect approximately 608 acres of wetlands critically important to migratory birds, other wildlife, and people.”

New Jersey Conservation Foundation Trustee Jack Cimprich, Board Chair Louise Currey Wilson, Director for South Jersey Stephanie Kreiser, and Open Space Institute’s Mid-Atlantic Field Coordinator Bill Rawlyk examine the property recently added to the Michael Huber Prairie Warbler Preserve.

The pitch pine/scrub oak forests of the original section of the Huber Preserve are prime breeding habitat for the prairie warbler, a migratory songbird that spends summers in the northeast and winters in the islands of the West Indies. The preserve contains the Four Mile Spring, one of several tributaries of the Rancocas Creek that spring from headwaters swamps. Learn more about the property’s conservation values using the New Jersey Conservation Blueprint, an interactive mapping tool:

Approximately five miles of footpaths and sand roads, including multiple loop routes, wind through the preserve’s pitch pine forests and along ancient Atlantic white cedar forests, and are open for hiking and mountain biking.

One of the Huber Preserve’s most interesting features is a spung located on the red trail. A spung is a hydrologically isolated wetland that relies entirely on rain and snowfall to maintain its water level. In this case, the spung at the Huber Preserve is located on top of a layer of dense clay that prevents exchange with the groundwater. Because of this isolation, the spung’s conditions are very dependent on varying precipitation throughout the year.

NJ Conservation recognizes that the property, like the rest of New Jersey, is part of the traditional homelands of the Lenape people. We pay respect to the Lenape and other Indigenous caretakers of these lands and waters, those who lived here before, and the generations to come.

About New Jersey Conservation Foundation

Recognizing that a healthy environment is critical to the well-being and survival of all living things, New Jersey Conservation Foundation is devoted to preserving land and protecting natural resources throughout New Jersey’s rural, suburban, and urban landscapes.

Since 1960, the nonprofit, nonpartisan, statewide organization has preserved more than 140,000 acres of open space, farmland, and parks. The organization manages more than a dozen nature preserves, conducts public outreach and education programs, and advocates for sensible land use and climate policies that will protect the health of New Jersey’s plants, wildlife, and people for generations to come.

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