Last year, on the first anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, I encouraged New Jersey residents to call their State Assembly representatives and ask them to post open space funding bill ACR 205 for a vote before the end of 2013. If passed, ACR 205 would have allowed residents a chance to vote for a renewed open space funding source on the November 2014 ballot. I was hoping that voters would be given the chance to have their say in keeping the ‘garden’ in ‘Garden State.’
That day has come. Thanks to a tireless effort by Keep It Green, a coalition of over 180 New Jersey organizations, the State Senate and Assembly passed a measure to put open space on the ballot this November 4. This Election Day, New Jersey voters will have the opportunity to decide if a stable source of funding should be established for open space, farmland, and historical preservation throughout the state by voting on Public Question 2.
There is a great need for this stable source of funding, since all funds from the statewide bond that voters approved in 2009 are fully allocated. You read that right, there is currently no new money left for preservation programs in the most densely populated state in the U.S.
According to a report by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, over 650,000 acres still need to be preserved to protect land and water resources, and to provide outdoor recreational opportunities for an ever-increasing population.
“Funding for the New Jersey Farmland Preservation Program is critical to keeping the garden in the Garden State,” said New Jersey Farm Bureau Executive Director Pete Furey. “By voting yes on Public Question 2, New Jersey residents can ensure that families continue to have access to fresh, nutritious, locally grown food for generations to come.”
It is no surprise that the New Jersey Farm Bureau supports a stable source of open space funding. According to the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, more than 350,000 acres of additional farmland must be preserved to support a dynamic agricultural industry in the state.
But how does it work? Where is the money coming from?
Public Question 2 would ensure that long-term, dedicated funding is available to protect and preserve New Jersey’s open spaces, waterways, farms and historic sites. It dedicates a small percentage of existing state revenues, without increasing taxes, to replenish the now-depleted Green Acres, Blue Acres, farmland and historic preservation programs, and continue funding to improve water quality, remove and clean up underground storage tanks, and clean-up polluted sites.
If passed, Public Question 2, a state-wide referendum, will reallocate 4% of the Corporation Business Tax to fund open space, recreational opportunities, farmland, historic sites, polluting underground storage tanks and hazardous discharges. There will be no new taxes for corporations or residents. The 4% dedication of corporate taxes will increase to 6% in 2020. It is slated to generate over $70 million a year and will rise to $117 million dollars a year after 2020.
Where is the accountability? Who will be monitoring the effectiveness of the preservation programs?
The Garden State Preservation Trust (GSPT) will be charged with monitoring and reporting on program expenditures. GSPT is an Independent authority that includes five citizen representatives.
Have more questions? Check out Trust for Public Land’s FAQs page.
While it is not perfect, I fully support Public Question 2 and a stable source of open space funding for my home state. Though controversial, due to its reallocation of state funds, I agree with the referendum and believe it is a strong compromise. Given our current political climate, I believe it is imperative to create a long-term source of funding for open space without creating any new fees or taxes.
As mentioned in The New York Times Editorial, “once open space is gone, it is virtually impossible to get it back.” I am extremely fearful of the consequences of Public Question 2 not passing. There are no proposed alternatives. We cannot sit back and wait for years and years while another long-term funding option is proposed. I believe the time to act is now. I will be voting yes on Public Question 2 on November 4.
This Jersey Girl is #4openspace in her state! Coastal resiliency and storm surge protection in shore towns like Sea Bright depend on open space. More natural buffers, like marshlands, could help mitigate floodwater from future storm events. Increased plots of open space in North Jersey could help reduce pollution runoff into local waterways and ultimately the ocean. Less impervious surfaces could help rainwater to be absorbed back into the groundwater table and reduce local flooding from smaller storm events. Creating areas of open space that support native plants could help to filter runoff and slow down the rate of flooding events.
Did you know that New Jersey is second only to Louisiana for rate of severe repetitive flood loss in the U.S.? Preservation projects that include floodplain acquisition and flood mitigation have seen a 5:1 benefit to cost ratio in Morris County, according to Morris County Preservation Trust. The organization also found evidence to suggest that for every 1% of land preserved, there is an increase of $1.50/square foot in land values.
For more information on the economic benefits of open space, visit:
- Stony Brook Millstone Watershed Association’s Watershed Institute Open Space Resources
- NJ Keep It Green’s Resource Page
- Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions’ (ANJEC) ‘Open Space is a Good Investment’
I love open space. I love experiencing all of the different types of landscapes in New Jersey. From the coastal communities of Monmouth County, to the mountains of Morris County and the woodlands of Hunterdon County, I think I live in a beautiful state. I love going hiking and bird watching in New Jersey. I love our farmland, open space and historic sites, our clean drinking water and all of the progress that has been made to clean up our polluted sites. I love the wildlife that call New Jersey home. This is the state I know and love. That is why I can’t wait to vote yes on Public Question 2. I want the same New Jersey I have for my kids.
How can you protect open space in New Jersey?
- Vote Yes on Public Question 2 on November 4!
- Join Stony Brook Millstone Watershed Association’s #4openspace campaign.
- Show your Support for Sustainable Funding on Keep It Green’s website.
- Watch Keep It Green’s short YouTube video on Public Question 2:
This blog explains my personal viewpoint on this issue as a 20-something Environmentalist. As always, all views are my own.