State Open Space Funding

New Jersey Open Space Funding



Update 7/1/16: Governor Chris Christie signed S2456, which provides the authorization necessary to begin funding Open Space, Farmland, and Historic Preservation projects consistent with the 2014 constitutional amendment!

The Issue

In November 2014, the majority of New Jersey voters approved a ballot measure that will ensure dedicated state funds are available to protect New Jersey's clean drinking water, open spacesincluding parks and forested trail landsfarmland, and historic sites. With this ballot measure approved, a small percentage of existing state revenues, without tax increases, will be used to replenish the now-depleted Green Acres, Blue Acres, farmland and historic preservation programs, and continue funding to improve water quality.

Why we need to ensure these funds go to open space protection

Although this open space funding is constitutionally dedicated to be spent on conservation-related issues, leaders in the New Jersey State Senate and Assembly have introduced an implementation bill that would allocate the money among various open space programs. Bill S969/A780 is sponsored by Senators Smith and Bateman, and Assembly members Andrzejczak, McKeon, Spencer, Pintor Marin, Dancer, Vainieri Huttle, and Land, respectively. The implementation bill is critical to getting vital and necessary funds flowing to successful programs that preserve lands and create parks.

The first version of the implementation bill was passed by both the New Jersey Senate and Assembly, then pocket-vetoed by Governor Chris Christie.

As Bill S969, the open space funding was again approved with strong bipartisan support by the Senate on March 14. Known as Bill A780, the measure was then passed in the Assembly on April 7. Unfortunately, Governor Chris Christie neglected the will of voters and conditionally vetoed the open space legislation on May 23. 

Update 7/1/16: Governor Chris Christie signed S2456, which provides the authorization necessary to begin funding Open Space, Farmland, and Historic Preservation projects consistent with the 2014 constitutional amendment! 

Since voters approved the ballot measure in November 2014, the Trail Conference has been working to ensure those funds reach the programs that protect and preserve open space. You can read a first-person account of the lobbying efforts of Trail Conference staff and volunteers on our blog.

The Trail Conference is working to pass the implementation bill

As a member of NJ Keep It Green—the state's largest coalition of conservation and historic preservation organizations—the Trail Conference has been a central part of the efforts to identify and secure a long-term, dedicated source of funding for open space programs. An important part of our mission is acquiring public lands to improve our recreational trail systems. Already this year, we have three purchase agreements, and Green Acres funds are essential for these acquisitions. We continue to work with our partners in Keep It Green to ensure that the funding voters approved in 2014 is allocated in the way they intended.

How you can get involved

We will continue to work with our partners in the NJ Keep It Green coalition to investigate all further options to ensure these constitutionally-dedicated funds reach the programs for which they are intended.

Join us as we work with Keep It Green to get Governor Christie to sign the Bill into law. We’re going to need a lot of support to show the Governor that New Jerseyans are serious about preserving open space. Until the legislation is signed into law, none of the voter-approved money will be invested in critically important preservation work.

We will continue to work on this critical issue until the funding, as authorized by voters, is allocated to the appropriate programs and we hope you will lend us your support!


Issue Updates : 

7/1/16: Governor Christie signed S2456, which provides the authorization necessary to begin funding Open Space, Farmland, and Historic Preservation projects consistent with the 2014 constitutional amendment!

5/23/16: Governor Chris Christie has conditionally vetoed S969/A780, the Preserve New Jersey Act. 

4/8/2016: The Assembly Appropriations Committee approved A780 on Monday, April 4, which moved the Bill to the full Assembly for a vote on April 7and we’ve just received word that A780 was approved late last night with strong, bipartisan support! Now the Bill goes to Governor Christie for his signature.

3/31/2016: Implementation Bill A780/S969 is up for a vote in the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Monday, April 4. With your continued support, there is a good chance it will be posted for a full Assembly vote on Thursday, and could be in front of the Governor by the end of next week.

3/16/2016: Advocacy, Lobbying, and a Call to Action in New Jersey

1/12/2016: NJ Assembly Approves Open Space Implementation Bill

1/11/2016: Tell the NJ Assembly to Support Open Space Protection

New York Environmental Protection Fund and Open Space Funding 2015

2014 to 2015

One of 4 ponds on the Ridgeview parcel atop the Shawangunk Ridge.

The addition of a beautiful 435-acre parcel (photo) along the Southern Gunks Greenway to Huckleberry State Forest depends upon funding for land preservation in New York's EPF.

See Trail Conference talking points about the 2014 NYS Open Space Plan.

New York State Budget 2015-16: Enhance the Environmental Protection Fund to Expand Economic and Environmental Benefits

Plan Now to Attend March 9, 2014: EPF Lobby Day in Albany. 

The Friends of New York’s Environment is a partnership of more than 100 environmental, public health, agricultural, recreational and urban groups that supports the Environmental Protection Fund. The Trail Conference is a member of the coalition. For the upcoming year, we seek $200 million for the EPF.

Established in 1993, the EPF is the State's dedicated source of funding for critical environmental programs that protect what we love about New York - our clean drinking water, our magnificent parks, and our family farms. It is primary source of funding for open space protection in the state, a key focus for the Trail Conference. 

Sadly, No money to protect land on the Shawangunk Ridge has been in the Governor's recent land protection budget proposals.

This, despite the fact that the state has identified the Ridge as a priority area for open space protection, worked with the Trail Conference in the past to add land to ridgetop state forests, and is funding Trail Conference efforts to promote a Gunks Greenway on the Shawangunk Ridge.

Our goal is to increase EPF funding overall, to $200 million, and to increase the land acquisition budget in particular. The Trail Conference is asking for the Land Acquisition line in the EPF to be restored at least to its level in 2008: $66 million.

Talking points: 
• The Environmental Protection Fund, the state's dedicated source of funding for programs that protect our clean water and natural resources, should be funded at $200 million.
• The source of funding for the EPF, the Real Estate Transfer Tax, is projected to grow to more than $1 billion by the end of the five-year fiscal plan, including steady projected growth each fiscal year. As this revenue source grows/recovers, so too should the EPF.
• A 2012 study by the Trust for Public Land showed that for every $1 invested in land and water conservation through the EPF, the state received $7 in economic return.
• With a 7-1 payoff for every dollar invested, a surplus in the state budget, and significant needs in communities


Additional Resources:

The Economic Benefits of New York's Environmental Protection Fund, a report compiled by the Trust for Public Land, January 2012. Click to download a copy of the TPL report.

Economic Benefits of Open Space Preservation: A report from the New York State Comptroller, March 2010  Click here to download a copy of the comptroller's report.