New Jersey DEP plays key role in preserving Gloucester forest

New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection has played a crucial role in the preservation of an ecologically important forest in Gloucester County by providing $800,000 for the acquisition of the 100 acre tract, DEP Commissioner Lisa P. Jackson has announced.

Of the total purchase price, $400,000 comes from a natural resource damage settlement DEP reached with Chemical Leaman Tank Lines, a chemical trailer-truck washing operation in Logan Township that is now undergoing cleanup as a federal Superfund site. The $400,000 balance was provided as a matching grant from the DEP’s Green Acres program.

The forest, known as the Daniels property for its longtime owners, is located along Harrisonville-Ferrell Road in South Harrison Township. Bruce and Jane Daniels retain life rights to a house and eight-acre pasture and will continue to live on the property.

The South Jersey Land and Water Trust, a nonprofit conservation group, acquired the land with the state money and is turning it over to the New Jersey Conservation Foundation. The foundation will manage the land as a regional hub in its Garden State Greenway project, a statewide network of interconnected parks, trails, natural areas, and historic places.

The tract consists predominantly of mixed hardwood forest and forested wetlands dominated by red maple, sweet gum and black gum.

Instrumental to preservation of the forest was the availability of money from a major settlement reached several years ago by the DEP’s Office of Natural Resource Restoration. Working in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Office of Natural Resource Restoration won compensation for ecological damage to the Cedar Swamp wetland complex caused by operations at Chemical Leaman Tank Lines several decades ago.