No, we have not gone through the accreditation process because the application is time consuming when there are other projects to do. However, we are guided by the standards and practices required for accreditation. The Land Trust Accreditation Commission was established as an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance in 2006. Following a two year pilot, 2008 was the first year Land Trusts were officially accredited by the commission. We may apply for accreditation in the future.
*We work with other NGOs as well – of special note: The NJ Invasive Species Strike Team and the NJ Conservation Foundation
Cultural resources other than natural resources - We have worked with the Tewksbury Trail Association and participated in the Tewksbury Harvest Festival to support the library. We have also worked with Boy Scouts on Eagle Projects and Girl Scouts on Gold Award Projects.
We start by using GIS computer mapping and analysis tools to identify undeveloped parcels larger than 15 acres. The system targets contiguous undeveloped parcels in common ownership that cumulatively aggregate to greater than 15 acres as well. We have determined project areas where there is already some core preservation underway or that create key linkages of existing open space. Other factors like view shed, environmental sensitivity, and willingness of seller to offer a bargain sale or outright gift are also considered. Partner interest is an equally large driver as the lead or as a supporting funder. However, we do not identify purchases based on already functioning ecosystems, visual appeal for artists, water bodies for boats, or the possibility of bike paths.
After it is determined that a property is of interest, the next step is to approach the landowner and secure an “Option to Purchase” from him or her. The option price is usually established through an informal “drive by” appraisal that helps determine how much we should and are willing to pay. This appraisal is also needed to secure Greenacres grants. Once an option agreement is signed, funding applications are started, partners are engaged, and certified appraisers are contracted. Everything generally follows the State requirements for acquiring public land. If private funding is part of the funding package, we would start planning that campaign as well. The town council is sometimes approached since it is a potential source of funding. As part of the purchase, a Level 1 inspection is performed to determine if there are any adverse chemicals or oils on the property. Process from start to finish takes roughly 2 years.
5. What percent (how many acres) of TLT land is accessible to the public?
All the properties TLT owns in fee are open to the general public. Fee properties are: Lance, Sullivan, Whitman, Christmas Tree Farm, Jeffrey, Sutton and Brady. There is a public access trail at Olsen but most of that property is held as an easement, which does not offer public access. TLT holds deeded rights on both Smith and Roskowski but these properties do not allow for public access.
Operating funds come from an annual appeal for private donations from friends and residents of Tewksbury Township as do special appeals for project specific needs. The majority of our funding has come from the Green Acres Program, Hunterdon County Open Space Program or Tewksbury Township Open Space Program. We have also received funds from the NJDEP Natural Resource Damage Program. Every November, we send an informational letter to Tewksbury residents encouraging them to help us preserve land. This effort usually generates twenty-five to thirty-five thousand dollars every year.
All our fee holding are managed for passive recreation and ecological restoration. It starts with managing the whitetail deer population and controlling invasive species and then promoting native regeneration and ecological diversity. Trail system development and maintenance is also included in our stewardship priorities.
TLT does not typically play an active role in holding or funding the purchase of development rights from a private landowner. When there is potential for or interest from a landowner to preserve their farmland we would in most cases direct them to the County or State Ag Development Committee to buy from the landowner the rights to further subdivide or develop the property for something other than agriculture. Farmland preservation does not typically provide the right of public access.