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  • Kate Munning

Yards Creek Preserve Moves Region Toward Climate Resilience

We acquired a 16-acre parcel of land that was owned by Blairstown Township, and which adjoins The Land Conservancy’s Yards Creek Preserve. This new property brings the organization’s newest nature preserve to a grand total of 301 acres, further protecting the Delaware River watershed’s forest and water resources.

These 16 acres may seem small, but it represents one more step toward climate resilience, and many stakeholders working together for a common cause. The property is entirely wooded and contains headwaters to the Paulins Kill River. This acquisition—the sixth one for Yards Creek Preserve—was made possible with the help of the Open Space Institute and The Nature Conservancy. Both organizations have targeted the Delaware River Watershed as a critical region for protecting climate resilient land and water resources.

But why is protecting this area so important? Yards Creek Preserve is near the Appalachian Trail and adjacent to more than 76,000 acres of public land in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. The goal is for the preserve to act as a carbon sink using native vegetation, mature forests of oak and hickory, and healthy soils. Conservation of this ecologically sensitive land is creating a resilient ecosystem that will better adapt to climate change while supporting diverse populations of native plants and animals. Slowly but surely, The Land Conservancy’s efforts are connecting significant amounts of green forested habitat along the slopes of the Kittatinny Ridge to enable the movement of wildlife without interference by human activity.

This forward-thinking project helps local people, too, by providing resource-based recreation opportunities, especially for people who live nearby and can now walk off-road through a forest in their leisure time. Yards Creek Preserve was established in 2019 as an ambitious conservation project that will help protect drinking water for millions of the region’s inhabitants and curb encroaching development. TLCNJ has identified over 1,000 acres of particularly vulnerable and richly diverse land to preserve in the Delaware River Basin, one of the most important watersheds on the East Coast. Fifteen million people rely on the basin for clean drinking water—including the cities of Trenton, Philadelphia, Wilmington, and New York City.

Everyone involved put their best foot forward to make this possible. Blairstown Mayor Rob Moorhead says, “The Land Conservancy made this a truly easy and expedient process. Thank you for your professionalism in making this transaction possible. Open space is our most valuable asset, and I’m proud we preserved more today.”

The property is the sixth addition to the Yards Creek Preserve supported through the Open Space Institute’s Delaware River Watershed Protection Fund, which is seeded by the William Penn Foundation. To date, OSI has protected approximately 20,000 acres since the Fund’s launch in 2014. Approximately 15 million people, including the residents of Trenton, Philadelphia, Wilmington, and New York City, rely on the Delaware River Watershed for drinking water.

“The Open Space Institute is proud of its role in this sixth expansion of Yards Creek Nature Preserve, which will protect these unspoiled forested headwaters and preserve clean drinking water within the greater Delaware River Watershed,” said Bill Rawlyk, OSI’s Mid-Atlantic field coordinator. “We applaud the tireless efforts of The Land Conservancy of New Jersey in building a model nature preserve for the Delaware River Basin.”

Tricia Aspinwall, Land Conservation Manager for TNC, says, “The Nature Conservancy is proud to contribute to the continued expansion of Yards Creek Preserve. These properties support TNC’s goals of protecting lands in the NJ Appalachians that provide for the adaptation of plant and animal species and provide connectivity for wildlife movement. This important partnership with TLCNJ helps us all accomplish more protection in the most important places left to preserve in NJ.”

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