President George Bush signed legislation in late November that would provide $1.2 million in federal funds to help preserve open space.
The legislation - initiated by Congressman Steve Rothman - provided the money, which must be matched by the state, and will go towards preserving 1,900 acres in the Meadowlands against future development.
"It is an important first step," said Riverkeeper Bill Sheehan during a telephone interview. "This is the first time the federal government has sent money to the Meadowlands to protect the environment rather than to develop it."
Last year, Rothman came to Laurel Hill County Park in Secaucus in support of Sheehan's efforts to preserve the Meadowlands, and promised then that he would seek federal funding to help purchase land.
"He lived up to his promise," Sheehan said.
Sheehan said another $48 million will be allocated from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for the acquisition, preservation and restoration of the Meadowlands.
In conjunction with the federal legislation, the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission agreed to increase its protection of 2,600 acres.
"These Wildlife Preservation Areas will be included in the new master plan for the Meadowlands District to be issued in the middle of the next year," said NJMC Executive Director Alan J. Steinberg. "They are part of our ongoing strategy to enhance water quality, improve wetlands functioning, and create and protect bird and fish habitats."
On Dec. 12, Sheehan will host a "Green Table Forum" for mayors and governing bodies in the Hackensack River watershed, and will cover numerous issues concerning preservation and land acquisition.
The Green Table will take place from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at PSE&G's Bergen Generating Station in Ridgefield Park, a state-of-the-art power plant that has been cited as an example for good environmental management. The meeting will offer information to municipal leaders - including model ordinances - that will help conserve natural resources, and guides for finding funding and support for open space preservation projects.
"Voters in the watershed consistently support acquisition of open space through state, county and municipal open space preservation initiatives," Sheehan said.