Refunding programs to preserve open spaces in New Jersey may have to wait another year. Although the Senate has approved a measure to clean up waters and preserve farmlands and historic sites, members of the Assembly cancelled their session to consider the legislation. NJ Keep It Green Chairman Tom Gilbert told NJTV News Anchor Mary Alice Williams that there will be continuous efforts to help the case move forward.
“This effort is certainly not over and we are continuing to make the case,” said Gilbert. “This is something that should go forward and should go forward this year and there actually still is time for the Assembly to act. They technically have until Aug. 4 and our hope is that they will be back in session and will still take this up.”
For the upcoming general elections, Gilbert said that his organization is asking for a constitutional amendment to fund preservation programs to be put on the ballot. Gilbert also said that the ballot measure would dedicate existing corporate business tax revenues on a long term basis to ensure that there is stable funding for preservation efforts.
Gilbert said that the need for preservation efforts does not go away and that there still are enormous needs throughout the state despite decades of preservation efforts, according to a New Jersey DEP draft report.
“There’s still some 650,000 acres of important lands that still need to be preserved statewide to protect natural resources and clean water and provide outdoor recreation to a growing population and there’s still over 350,000 acres of farmland that need to be preserved, according to the Department of Ag [Agriculture],” Gilbert said.
Meanwhile the sate deals with a financial crisis. Gilbert said that it does effect preservation efforts and it’s part of the reason that it is harder to find a solution. He also stated that the legislature has been debating the issue for some time.
As for how much preservation efforts may cost for the state, Gilbert said that about $100 million would go for environmental programs, about $70 million of it would go to open space programs and the remainder would go to other environmental programs.
While New Jersey has several historical sites, Gilbert said that some have been preserved but that others still require some work.
“New Jersey is blessed with obviously tremendous history and historical sites and for example the whole crossroads of the revolution, a broad spot of New Jersey that is teaming with historic sites from the revolutionary period,” said Gilbert. “Many of these sites have been preserved thanks to the investment over the years but also there are many that still need preservation, so the work is not done.”