Open Space and Farmland Preservation

New Jersey has seen a steady loss of farmland, forests and wildlife habitats with the result that many towns have lost their rural character with the spread of suburbanization. In fact, New Jersey lost the highest percentage of its agricultural lands, 27%, of any state in the Union from 1982 to 2007.

Residents of many rural New Jersey towns watched with alarm as the cherished rural character of their communities was overcome with sprawl and suburbanization. Increased traffic, crime and the resulting need for more police in towns that had once been essentially free of crime persuaded many residents that development had many disadvantages. Property taxes went up rapidly as schools had to be built for the children of the new residents. Surface and ground waters became degraded with the increase in impervious surface. Air quality decreased.

With the support of New Jersey residents, state lawmakers responded to this situation with innovative state-wide programs, such as Farmland Preservation and Green Acres that have helped to permanently preserve thousands of acres of farms, woodlands and wildlife habitats. In addition, local governments such as Warren County, which has effective and well-funded land-preservation programs, took action.

In 1997 Knowlton Township voters approved a referendum to establish an open space tax assessed at 2 cents per $100 of valuation. This tax brings in about $50,000 per year. These funds are used in partnership with the state and county programs for the preservation of farmland and purchase of land for recreation and open space.

Over the years this money has been used to preserve numerous farms, some as large as 350 acres and some as small as 7 acres, as well as public lands for recreation, hiking, fishing and hunting. Most of these projects have been partnerships between the Township, County and the State.

With the strong support of its residents and municipal government, the Township has one of the most successful land preservation programs in the county and now has approximately 2,472 acres of preserved farmland and approximately 3,575 acres of preserved public open space. Click on the Knowlton Township Open Space map to see which lands in Knowlton Township are preserved.

If you would like to learn more about land preservation in Knowlton please contact the co-chairs of the Open Space Advisory Committee, Rene Mathez at (908) 496-8020 ([email protected]) or Bob McNinch at (908) 496-4782 ([email protected]).