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Wildlife Preserves, Inc.

Wildlife Preserves, Inc. is a private, nonprofit land conservation corporation dedicated to the preservation of natural areas, open space, wildlife, and wildlife habitats for conservation, education, and research.

Its land is administered as natural areas and wildlife sanctuaries for the protection of wild animals, plants, and their habitats and open to the public for passive recreational uses such as hiking, biking, bird watching, photography, nature observation and study, with prohibitions against hunting, fishing, trapping, dumping, and off-trail motor vehicles.

Wildlife Preserves owns approximately 6,000 acres of land in the State of New Jersey in the counties of Atlantic, Cumberland, Essex, Morris, and Warren. Wildlife Preserves also owns land in Westchester County, New York and Connecticut.

Wildlife Preserves maintains habitats in each of its sanctuaries for common, threatened, and endangered species of fauna and flora. Its land and habitat is varied, including freshwater wetland marsh, rivers, streams, ponds, mountains, hardwood forests, pine forests, coastal marsh and shore habitat. Some of the land serves as flood storage, which also serves as an economic benefit to the public.

The lands are open to the public. Most visitors are residents of New Jersey or the greater New York region. Visitors vary from tourists and casual strollers to proficient amateur and professional naturalists. Educational use ranges from that of students in grade school on up to graduate school; from formal educational institutions, to a variety of students from organizations and research institutions and those on their own programs, including Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts.

All Wildlife Preserves sanctuaries are accessible and parking is available. Some areas are roadless, but all areas are accessible by foot.

Wildlife's Contribution to Society

Through the years, Wildlife Preserves has created, donated, and sold several thousand acres of land to start many national preserves and county parks. It also has protected wildlife and its habitats from being molested, hunted, and harvested by mankind.

Wildlife Preserves currently owns approximately 6,000 acres of land - including its premier Troy Meadows wildlife sanctuary - and as a result of preserving and retaining its private property, Wildlife provides the general public with open space and recreational opportunities at no cost to taxpayers. Through the years, Wildlife Preserves has also saved vast areas of flood plains, which has saved property owners billions of dollars in flood damage as its land retains floodwaters and mitigates flooding during storm events, also at no cost to the public.

Wildlife's Contribution to Government Parks and Preserves

Wildlife Preserves' mission has always been to purchase and protect natural lands and wildlife as an intermediary for government acquisition for passive, natural uses, park preserves, and wildlife sanctuaries. Wildlife donated, sold, and in some cases its lands were taken to create many parks and preserves in New Jersey, New York, and as far north as Maine and New Hampshire. Some examples include Wildlife's contribution to the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, the Sunken Forest National Park on Fire Island, Long Island, the Morris County Park's Willowwood Arboretum and Mahlon Dickerson Reservation, Division of Parks and Forestry land on Sparta Mountain, New Jersey Natural Lands Trust Great Piece Meadow Preserve, as well as other smaller contributions that expanded existing parks and preserves.

In its early years, Wildlife Preserves had envisioned a Passaic Valley National Wildlife Preserve, which has now become an impossible dream due to all the development that has gone on in and around the Passaic River Basin. The preserve was to include Black Meadows, Troy Meadows, and the Great Piece Meadows. Wildlife was able to save much of Troy Meadows in East Hanover and Parsippany - which it still owns - but Troy Meadows in Hanover was developed into the Algonquin Industrial Park and the Hanover Sewerage Treatment Plant. Black Meadows in Hanover is nearly all encumbered by the Morristown Airport with only about a third preserved by New Jersey Natural Lands Trust and the Township of Hanover. Little Piece Meadows was developed into industrial parks and the Willowbrook Mall, while a good portion of Great Piece Meadows was preserved by Wildlife Preserves and is now the Great Piece Meadow Preserve. Great Piece Meadows is split between the New Jersey Natural Land Trust and the Township of Fairfield, with some lots owned by the Fairfield Conservation and Sportsman's Association and a few private owners. The Great Piece Meadow Preserve is managed by Wildlife Preserves, New Jersey Natural Land Trust, and Fairfield Township.

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Wildlife Woes

Wildlife began purchasing land long before buying open space was accepted and before there were any flood plain and wetland restrictions against filling, draining, and developing marshlands. In its early years, it was often at odds with growing municipalities that viewed Wildlife as an impediment to progress and economic growth. Some municipalities charged Wildlife Preserves excessive property taxes and some foreclosed on its property to gain ownership. Municipalities also used zoning to render Wildlife property useless, while federal and state governments created regulations that diminish its fiscal value without compensation. Also battling Wildlife are gun clubs, hunting organizations, and New Jersey Fish and Game (now NJ Fish and Wildlife) because Wildlife prohibits hunting, trapping and fishing and chooses to restrict its land as a safe haven for animals.

Throughout its 60-year history, Wildlife Preserves has invested hundreds of thousands of private funds to purchase land for preservation and pay property taxes - for more than 20 years - until the State created and Wildlife enrolled in the Green Acres Tax Exempt program. Wildlife Preserves has spent millions-upon-millions of dollars in legal fees and administration costs to manage and protect its land - all through private philanthropy - without cost to taxpayers, or government grants or contributions. Yet some government officials continue to oppose Wildlife Preserves despite the fact that its preservation efforts have provided the general public with open space and recreational opportunities and billions of dollars in flood protection, at no cost to the public.

For years the State of New Jersey promised - through letters and contracts - to acquire Troy Meadows as a natural area and wildlife sanctuary, but as administrations change, the state has only acquired a small fraction of the meadows and neglects the acquisition of the greater portion of Troy Meadows owned by Wildlife Preserves. Wildlife preserves' land holdings are often illustrated as Green Acres Projects and noted as "preserved land" making it appear as if Wildlife Preserves is public property.

During the '80s, the New Jersey Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act was enacted and imposes rules and regulations to protect wetlands and land adjoining wetlands. At the same time it renders the market value of wetlands and meadows nearly fiscally worthless. As one state official allegedly bragged, "We no longer have to spend money to buy meadows because now we control them through regulations."

Then came the New Jersey Highlands Act. It strengthened restrictions on wetlands and also imposed restrictions on natural, vacant uplands. And even though Wildlife is not interested in developing land, when government regulators restrict and remove development potentials, market values plummet and a landowner's ability to interest government in acquiring and permanently protecting land is hindered and its ability to recover the cost of holding land is also lost.

All these regulatory acts have basically allowed government to inversely condemn much of Wildlife's land without paying for it. And in several instances, utilities and governments have actually taken advantage of regulations that devalue land and through the years hundreds of acres of Wildlife's property have been seized through eminent domain.

In Troy Meadows, against Wildlife's objections, its land was taken and used for Interstate Route 80, Interstate Route 280, the Route 80/280 Interchange, the Route 280 service road, the Route 280/New Road entrance and exit ramps, the Texas Eastern and Algonquin gas transmission pipelines, the Parsippany-Troy Hills sewerage pipelines and pump station, Parsippany-Troy Hills water wells, etc.

It is a hardship for unfunded organizations that spend so much time, effort, and money acquiring and maintaining land when the powers that be can zone and regulate it and take it when they want it. There are many success stories in Wildlife Preserves' history of preserving and protecting land and wildlife, but not without much adversity and cost.

Rules and Regulations of Wildlife Preserves

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