MIDDLE TOWNSHIP — The largest privately owned property remaining on the Cape May peninsula has been purchased by a coalition of environmental groups for $1.3 million and given to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
It will become part of the Cape May National Wildlife Refuge, according to the Nature Conservancy in New Jersey.
The conservancy announced the December land purchase from Cape Viking LLC, a subsidiary of South State Inc. General Contractors of Bridgeton, in a written statement this week.
The 477-acre forested property is on the northern border of the conservancy’s Indian Trail Swamp Preserve in Middle Township.
According to NJ Audubon, the Indian Trail Swamp Preserve is within the Cape May corridor, a major migratory stopover area for migrating birds, consisting of nearly contiguous wetlands and upland forests.
Kathleen Cox, a realty specialist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said the parcel is a vital addition to “the protected mosaic of lands that make Cape May one of North America’s most important migratory stopovers and world-renowned ecotourism destinations.”
The conservancy worked with the American Littoral Society, state Department of Environmental Protection’s Green Acres Program, Ducks Unlimited, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Open Space Institute to secure the land.
“This is a particularly satisfying achievement because it is the culmination of more than 10 years of effort by many dedicated people and organizations,” said Barbara Brummer, state director of The Nature Conservancy in New Jersey. Negotiations began in 2005 to protect the land from being developed or used for sand mining, she said.
“My team and I were evaluating the property for potential development opportunities,” said Chip Ottinger, principal at South State Inc. “However ... we agreed that it would serve the greatest good as a protected site. Some properties make sense to develop, others are simply best left alone.”
The property’s western border is less than a mile from the Delaware Bay and less than a quarter-mile from salt marsh, so it will provide space for the salt marshes to move as they migrate inland, the conservancy said.
It provides important ecosystem functions, including recharging fresh water, protecting against the effects of climate change and providing habitat for migratory birds.