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new jersey department of environmental protection  


Living with the Future in Mind
Goals and Indicators for New Jersey's Quality of Life
First Annual Update to the Sustainable State Project Report 2000

Indicator 37

Additional  Protected Natural Resources Indicators

34 - Energy Consumption

35 - Farmland

36 - Beach Closings

Preserved and Developed Land

Cumulative number of acres preserved or developed: Both increasing

  Things to think about 

New Jersey has received national attention for its land preservation agenda.

In 1998, New Jersey voters overwhelmingly passed a referendum to spend $98 million per year for the next ten years to preserve one million acres of the state’s remaining open space and farmland.

As our population grows and undeveloped land becomes more scarce and more expensive, it becomes increasingly difficult to preserve open space for future generations. They may place a higher value on preserving open space than we do, but their options for preservation will be fewer than ours. Less land will be available, so the prices they will have to pay will be higher.


Once land has been built upon, it is very difficult to return it to its natural state. At the same time that developed land is increasing, the acres of land preserved from development have also increased. This struggle to preserve what is left has been described as the "open space race." The way we develop our remaining land, whether we practice "smart growth" or continue the current sprawl trend, will impact every aspect of life in New Jersey, from air and water pollution to wildlife, economic prosperity, recreation, urban renewal, and taxes.


Open space, and the quality of life it provides, is a critical asset as we compete internationally to attract businesses and jobs. Economic studies have shown that property values increase when in proximity to well-maintained public open space. Higher property values translate into higher tax revenues, allowing municipalities to prosper. The quality of life that comes with proximity to open space is emerging as a major factor in the competition for new businesses and jobs.


Land is our most precious natural resource. Poorly planned roads, parking lots, houses, and malls strain our ground water supplies, the cleanliness of our air, and our ability to escape from traffic and noise. While all new roads and development can have these impacts, good planning and land preservation can ameliorate some of the concerns. Land preservation offers a refuge for people, cleans our air and water for free, and provides habitat for a wealth of species.


How do you value a place where a child has room to throw a ball or to fly a kite? One way is to look at the change that occurs in a neighborhood that has a new park. Crime fell in one Philadelphia precinct by 90 percent after the police helped the neighborhood clean up vacant lots and plant gardens. Parks not only give children a place to play but adults a place in which to invest their pride.

Knowledge Gaps

This indicator does not tell us about the ecological richness and value of the land that is preserved. We also cannot see whether we have preserved a full cross-section of New Jersey’s native habitats and ecosystems.

Note: Developed land data are based on the USDA NRCS National Resources Inventory using field work and air photos. See the Technical Appendix for additional information.

 Data Sources: NJ Department of Environmental Protection & 1997 NRCS National Resources Inventory

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Copyright © State of New Jersey, 1996-2006
Department of Environmental Protection
P. O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Modified: May 1, 2007

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