Monday, January 25th, 2010

A $725,000 grant from the Morris County Preservation Trust has helped Schiff Natural Lands acquire the 17-acre O’Leary Tract in Mendham Township for preservation as open space.

The property is located in the corridor of the North Branch of the Raritan River, adjacent to a large expanse of preserved open space and farmland. The O’Leary tract was identified as a priority in Mendham Township’s Open Space Plan.

“These 17 acres are now part of the more than 18,890 acres Morris County has helped preserve since the county’s Open Space program began awarding grants in 1994,” said Morris County Freeholder Director Gene Feyl. “Having worked with this organization on other projects in the past, the county congratulates Schiff on its acquisition of the O’Leary Tract, and we applaud their on-going preservation efforts.”

Michael Catania, Schiff board president, said the mature forest and steep slopes on the tract provide critical habitat for a variety of species.

“The land forms a critical piece of the puzzle in a regional greenway,” Catania said. “Inappropriate development of this property could have seriously impaired the water quality of the North Branch and its tributary, McVickers Brook, both of which are trout-producing waters.”

Another $253,000 in Green Acres funding helped Schiff to purchase the tract.

Schiff is a nonprofit organization dedicated to acquiring and preserving open space. Purchase of the O’Leary Tract brings to 600 the total number of acres owned or managed by the organization.