HAMILTON TOWNSHIP — The state announced Tuesday it has preserved 1,155 acres of forests and wetlands in the Great Egg Harbor River watershed.
The Department of Environmental Protection Green Acres Program and The Nature Conservancy together purchased the land from Property Development Atlantic Associates for $2.9 million, according to DEP.
“I think it’s phenomenal,” said Fred Akers, the river administrator who runs both the Great Egg Harbor River Council and the nonprofit GEH Watershed Association. “The bottom line for protecting the watershed and its tributaries is permanent land preservation.”
The land along Route 559-Weymouth Road in Mays Landing is being added to the state’s Great Egg Harbor River Wildlife Management Area. It will be part of a protected corridor of forests and wetlands linking to Atlantic County’s Lake Lenape Park, according to DEP.
The Green Acres Program provided $2.47 million. The Nature Conservancy contributed $450,000.
The acquisition protects the headwaters of tributaries to the river, including Mare Run, Cedar Brook, South River and Lake Lenape.
There are also about 60,000 acres of state wildlife management areas and thousands of acres of county parkland nearby.
“During Earth Week, it is important to remember that preservation of open space is fundamental to our mission at the DEP,” said Acting Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe.
Preservation of open space improves the health of the state’s air and water and enhances quality of life, she said.
The Great Egg Harbor River flows through Camden and Atlantic counties into the Great Egg Harbor Bay at Ocean City.
It is a federally designated National Scenic and Recreation River, and its 129 miles of river and tributaries mainly flow through the Pinelands National Reserve.
The region is home to the Pine Barrens tree frog, Cope’s gray tree frog, bald eagle, peregrine falcon, osprey, and diamondback terrapin, according to DEP.
The river also provides habitat for fish such as striped bass and river herring.
Robert Muroff, managing member for Property Development Atlantic Associates, said the company’s roots in the land are deep.
“Three generations ago, our forefathers acquired this property and held it in an operating mode that refused to let it be spoiled,” he said.