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  • Kate Munning

Paulins Kill Forest & Wildlife Habitat Preserved

Updated: Jun 10

The Land Conservancy of New Jersey recently acquired 37 acres of upland deciduous and evergreen forest along the Paulins Kill in the Delaware River Watershed in northwestern New Jersey. The property will be transferred to Warren County and become part of White Lake Natural Resource Area.

The healthy, mature deciduous forest on this property is dominated by white and black oak, shagbark hickory, black and yellow birch, American beech, tulip poplar, red cedar, and white ash. The understory consists of birch saplings, hop-hornbeam, blackhaw viburnum, witch hazel, sassafras and ironwood. Along the ridges and valleys in the river corridor and in a small wetland area, an evergreen forest is home to healthy century-old hemlock trees. The Paulins Kill that flows along the property boundary supports trout throughout the year. As for wildlife, the NJDEP Landscape Project identifies the newly acquired land as habitat for bobcat, blue-spotted salamander, and barred owl.

 This land was acquired along with the help of The Nature Conservancy, the Open Space Institute, and Green Acres as funding partners. It is a landmark land acquisition, bringing together and building on a number of important conservation initiatives that The Land Conservancy and its partners have been working on for years. The property is entirely limestone forest and very biodiverse, containing excellent habitat and rare plants that are only found in calcareous areas. It sits on the Paulins Kill, a major tributary to the Delaware River, and contributes to longstanding efforts on behalf of the Delaware River Watershed Initiative. This land also lies in the heart of Bobcat Alley and is a critical piece of that vital habitat initiative. It fits into greenways on both sides of the Paulins Kill that have been prioritized for acquisition by Frelinghuysen and Hardwick townships and is an addition to Warren County’s White Lake Natural Resource Area. The forest provides canopy protection within a tremendous block of forest and will prevent future forest fragmentation.

The Land Conservancy’s Vice President of Land Preservation and Stewardship, Sandy Urgo, eagerly explains the significance of this acquisition. “It is not often that we are able to acquire a piece of land that fits into so many important conservation plans and efforts. As a conservationist, visiting this property calls to mind the feeling of being a kid in a penny candy store. On our first visit to the property, we found evidence of bobcat, river otter, and may other species. The expanse of land along the Kill in this area, is nothing short of breathtaking. This conservation win is one for the record books! We are so grateful to the landowner who agreed to sell this land for conservation, and especially to our many partners that have prioritized this area and worked side by side with us over the years. Their assistance in preserving this property and the many acres of land surrounding it is integral to protecting endangered natural resources in this amazing area of our state.”

Corey Tierney, Warren County’s Department of Land Preservation Administrator, says, “Warren County is excited to add this beautiful property to its White Lake Natural Resource Area. We are especially grateful to Sandy Urgo and the Land Conservancy of New Jersey for spearheading this project and for agreeing to donate this preserved land to the County. We also want to thank The Nature Conservancy, OSI, and Green Acres for their assistance. It’s a spectacular property with river frontage, rich forests, and important wildlife habitat.”

The Nature Conservancy also emphasized the importance of safeguarding wildlife habitat. “Every piece of Bobcat Alley that we protect adds to the critical mosaic of land that wildlife needs to thrive in New Jersey—and to move within the larger Appalachian landscape in the eastern United States,” said Tricia Aspinwall, New Jersey Land Conservation Manager at The Nature Conservancy. “We are totally committed to improving habitat connectivity in this very special part of our state, and coordinated partnership efforts like this one are absolutely vital to that goal. Congratulations to the Land Conservancy of New Jersey and Warren County on securing and stewarding this important acreage.”

This project was supported by the Open Space Institute’s Delaware River Watershed Protection Fund. The Fund is made possible by the William Penn Foundation’s Delaware River Watershed Initiative, which seeks to protect water quality in the Delaware River Basin.

“Completion of this project in partnership with TLCNJ has been rewarding for both OSI and me personally because it protects an important limestone forest parcel that supports specialized rare species like walking fern Asplenium rhizophyllum that require limestone geology,” said Bill Rawlyk OSI’s Mid-Atlantic Senior Program Manager. “Limestone supports high biodiversity stores and purifies clean drinking water, and also provides habitat for specialized plant and animal species if they need to move in response to climate change. However, our region’s limestone areas have been not been well protected because they are also in high demand for other uses like agriculture. For this reason, this is one of the geologic settings prioritized for conservation by OSI’s Appalachian Landscapes Protection Fund. I'm grateful for TLCNJ's dedication to safeguarding these special habitats, especially as we face the challenges of climate change.”

The Schaffer property project was partially funded through the Open Space Institute’s Appalachian Landscapes Protection Fund (ALPF). Through this Fund, OSI provides capital grants to conservation projects within the globally important Appalachian region that address both the biodiversity crises and climate change. This work is made possible with a lead grant from the Doris Duke Foundation and with significant support from the Lyndhurst Foundation, Richard King Mellon Foundation, William Penn Foundation, Riverview Foundation, Tucker Foundation, Lookout Foundation, Footprint Foundation, Anonymous Foundation (2), as well as other foundations and individuals who understand the critical role that land protection plays in addressing the threats of climate change.

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