HILLSBOROUGH, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Gov. Chris Christie signed bills appropriating $157 million for land preservation on Wednesday, completing a trip to a central New Jersey farm that he abandoned last week to seek emergency treatment for an asthma attack.
“A week late, but we’ll get it done,” Christie joked as he arrived at a podium on the 220-acre Doyle Farm in Hillsborough. Christie was on his way to the farm to sign the bills last Thursday when shortness of breath and lightheadedness forced his security detail to divert to the nearby Somerset Medical Center. The governor underwent several hours of tests there before being released Thursday night.
The bills allow the state’s Green Acres program to fund dozens of open space projects. Christie mentioned several, including a 12-acre park in Newark’s Ironbound section, land acquisition in the Highlands region, where much of the state’s drinking water comes from, and $12 million for acquisition of property and homes built in flood zones. The money comes from a 2009 voter-approved bond act.
“This is about trying to preserve a certain quality of life in a state that also has valued its ability to develop,” Christie said. “Residents and businesses are trying to find a balance between having open space in our state and preserving certain qualities in the Garden State but also continuing to have economic growth and development in a state where people need jobs and we need to continue to grow the size and scope of our economy.”
Environmentalists hailed the signing, which will help fund preservation projects in all 21 counties.
“These bills will provide much needed funding for parks and playgrounds, which help keep our children healthy and raise property values, to land that protects vital resources necessary for clean and plentiful drinking water,” said Kelly Mooij of New Jersey Audubon and coordinator of Keep It Green, a coalition of 135 environmental organizations in New Jersey.
Margaret O’Gorman, executive director of Conserve Wildlife Foundation, also applauded the appropriations, saying open space preservation is essential to stemming loss of species.
“The greatest threat to rare species survival is destruction of habitat,” she said.
The state has had an open space preservation program for 50 years. More than 650,000 acres have been preserved since 1961.
But there is still no permanent, stable source of funding for open space preservation. Currently no state money is available for new projects.
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