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TRENTON, NJ-On Tuesday, voters nationally approved $7.3 billion in new public money to protect open space, the most ever, according to the Trust for Public Land. In New Jersey, voters approved 14 of 22 county and municipal measures, adding up to $191 million in conservation funding. New Jersey had more open space ballot measures than any other state. And those results may have legislative implications.

“We call on Gov. Corzine and state legislative leaders to follow the example given by the voters and make good on their pledge to replenish the Garden State Preservation Trust,” says Thomas Gilmore, chairman of the New Jersey Keep it Green Campaign, in a statement. His group is a coalition of more than 100 organizations.

“Renewing and strengthening this statewide fund is integral to preservation efforts and allows the state to continue to actively partner with local governments to preserve our parks, forests, farms and historic places,” Gilmore says.

“These results demonstrate sustained support among New Jersey residents for new investments in parks and open space, even in a very tough economic climate,” says Tom Gilbert, Mid-Atlantic conservation finance director for the Trust for Public Land. “Looking ahead to 2009, we look forward to working with Gov. Corzine, the legislature, and our conservation partners on the critical need to renew and strengthen the Garden State Preservation Trust next year.”

As far as some of the specific measures, in Hunterdon County voters approved the largest of them, with 76% supporting continuation of the current levy of three cents per $100 of assessed property value to fund the county’s Open Space Trust Fund, indefinitely–rather than letting it expire next year. The move is expected to generate $7.6 million annually for open space, farmland and historic preservation.

In Ocean County, meanwhile, Ocean Twp. voters approved increasing the open space tax from 1.2 to three cents per $100 of assessed value, and voters in Barnegat approved a new one-cent open space tax. Both measures will provide funds to help acquire lands related to protecting water quality in the Barnegat Bay watershed. And in Mercer County, Hopewell voters approved a one-cent increase to the open space tax that will generate an additional $459,000 annually for preservation efforts.

A complete list of results from local and state balloting on conservation and parks is available online at www.landvote.org, according to Gilmore.

These approvals are the latest involving New Jersey real estate. Last November, voters OK’d $200 million in bonding to replenish state open space, farmland and historic preservation programs for another year. Those funds will soon run out, according to Trust officials.

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