Legislation sponsored by Senators Bob Smith and Kip Bateman that supports last year’s voter-approved Public Question 2 amendment dedicating money to replenish the now-depleted Green Acres, Blue Acres, farmland and historic preservation programs from an existing business tax was approved by the Senate.
The bill, S-2769, sets guidelines for implementing the constitutional amendment that created a permanent funding source to ensure the preservation of New Jersey’s recreation spaces, productive farmland and historic sites. All funds from the statewide bond that voters approved in 2009 are fully allocated, leaving no new money for preservation programs in New Jersey.
“Securing a responsible and sustainable means of providing long-term funding for preserving open space and flood-prone properties is the key to ensuring a safer, cleaner and greener future for us all,” said Senator Bateman (R-Somerset, Hunterdon, Mercer). “Today we solidified our commitment to New Jersey voters to preserve our state’s beautiful open spaces, farmland, historical landmarks, and vital natural resources for generations to come.”
“New Jersey is the nation’s most densely populated state. But as our population grows, so does our need to responsibly care for and preserve our parks, farmland, water sources, and historic treasures,” said Senator Smith (D-Middlesex, Somerset), chair of the Senate Environment and Energy Committee. “Our State’s land is valuable yet finite, and we must take a leading role on sustainability measures and conservation efforts to ensure that future generations can thrive and grow with beautiful places to live and play, clean water to drink, and a history that will live up to our name as the Garden State.”
Under the bill, each State park, forest or wildlife management area that generates revenue would receive an amount equal to its annual revenue from leases or conveyances of lands for recreation and conservation purposes. Funding under the Blue Acres Program would be available for acquiring Blue Acres properties by the State or qualifying tax-exempt nonprofits through grants. The bill also allocates funding for stewardship activities from the Green Acres and farmland preservation programs.
Bill S-2769 continues the State’s existing open space, farmland and historic preservation programs, and provides that funds may also be used for emergency intervention to preserve historic properties. The Department of Environmental Protection, the State Agriculture Development Committee, and the New Jersey Historic Trust are also expected to submit recommendations for prospective projects to the Garden State Preservation Trust at least once every two years.
The bill was approved by the Senate with a vote of 34-0. It now heads to the Assembly for consideration.