ESTELL MANOR — One-third of New Jersey’s land mass is developed and another third preserved, a Nature Conservancy representative told the Pinelands Municipal Council last week.
That leaves the final third — about 1 million acres — “up for grabs” in the state with the highest population density in the nation, said Nature Conservancy Director of Land Protection Jody Alessandrine.
“In 30, 40 years, the entirety of the state could reach full build-out,” Alessandrine said. “The time is now to do something about that.”
He said a coalition of environmental nonprofits and governmental agencies called the NJ Lands Blueprint Project have worked to build a map to help identify the most important parcels to save.
They are looking for input from municipal and county officials and planning professionals on how to improve it, said the architect of the map, Mark Corbalis.
Called the NJ MAP, it is available at njmap2.com/blueprint.
The project is led by the Nature Conservancy, the New Jersey Conservation Foundation and Rowan University.
Alessandrine gave a presentation to the council, an organization of mayors and other representatives of the 53 municipalities located within the Pinelands National Reserve.
The map takes as its base state-provided published parcel data, said Mackenzie Franco, who works for the project.
Then it adds information on ecological characteristics such as water quality, rare species habitat, agricultural value and core forests, Alessandrine said. It is searchable on a parcel basis and enables people to compare the ecological value of parcels.
The state has about $71 million a year to spend on land preservation, but $6 million is dedicated to Blue Acres buyouts of flood-prone properties and $22 million to farmland preservation, Alessandrine said.
That leaves about $43 million to spend on land for open space, so prioritization is important, he said.