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Natural Lands Trust Program

The Ocean County Natural Lands Trust Program was established to acquire and maintain environmentally sensitive lands, natural areas or open spaces that would generally remain in their natural state and for the preservation of farmland. The objective of the program, is to establish of a system of protected lands which, in combination with the Farmland Preservation Program, enhance the quality of life in Ocean County by:

  • Helping to maintain the County’s rural characteristics;
  • Protecting critical environmental resources and water supply;
  • Maintaining and enhancing active agriculture;
  • Buffering areas that are not compatible with development.
In 1997, the residents of Ocean County, overwhelmingly voted to establish the Ocean County Natural Lands Trust Program. The approval of a 1.2 cent dedicated tax provides the Board of Commissioners with the funds to acquire lands in Ocean County for conservation and farmland preservation. On February 18, 1998, the Ocean County Board of Commissioners established a nine member Natural Lands Trust Fund Advisory Committee to advise on the preparation of the required open space plan and the nomination of properties to be acquired through the Natural Lands Trust Fund. The committee’s purpose is to review nominations for the Trust Fund and to forward recommendations to the Board of Commissioners for consideration.

The program generates over $10 million per year for natural lands acquisitions and farmland preservation. Several important parcels have been preserved and acquired through partnerships with non-profits, municipalities and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

For an interactive overview of the Natural Lands Trust Fund Program, see our Story Map.

Property Nomination Process

Direct County Acquisition of Natural Land Parcels

  • Parcel nominations submitted to Natural Lands Trust Fund (NLTF) Advisory Committee are reviewed by staff for eligibility.
  • The NLTF Committee reviews preliminary ranking on nominations and is informed of any special circumstances surrounding any of the parcels.
  • The Committee establishes a working list of priority nominations. The staff obtain additional information on the priority nominations, including municipal approvals, environmental audits and appraisal reports. In most cases, two professional appraisal reports will be obtained to determine the fair market value of the parcel. Administrative costs are absorbed through the Natural Lands Trust Fund.
  • The Committee will conduct a final review of nominations. Taken into account are the preliminary rankings, appraised values and any cost sharing, restoration and/or property management issues.
  • If a tentative agreement is reached on an acquisition price, the Committee will make an approval recommendation to the Board of Commissioners.
  • The Commissioners will hold a public hearing prior to acting on the recommendation.
  • If approved, a property survey and all required closing documentswill be prepared and the parcel will be acquired.
Cost Share Nominations
Proposals for providing NLTF cost share funds for acquisition by another organization will be reviewed on a case by case basis, and will only be pursued for parcels eligible under the NLTF program.

Public Access

forest photoWith over 25,000 acres preserved as open space through NLTF there are many opportunities for the public to enjoy nature in Ocean County. Certain properties may be more appropriate than others for activities. Our properties are managed in partnership with the County Parks Department and they are open to the public consistent with the Ocean County Parks and Natural Lands Trust Rules.

For your benefit, we outline some of those rules here:
  • NO cutting, trimming, destroying or removal of vegetation unless otherwise permitted.
  • NO fires or camping.
  • NO fireworks, paintball or firearms- except where permitted under hunting regulation.Please note that the practice of deer driving is prohibited except whereas designated by the Director during the Six Day Firearm Season. Please see the interactive map for permitted deer drives on NLT properties. The use of slugs is prohibited.
  • NO motor vehicles.
  • ATVs, snow mobiles and dirt bikes are strictly prohibited. These recreational vehicles do not align with the goals of the Natural Lands Trust Program. Anyone riding these vehicles on County Natural Lands Trust Fund properties may have their vehicle impounded and be fined.
  • Dumping of any item, including yard waste, is strictly prohibited.
If you witness dumping on Natural Lands Trust property, please call 1-800- 535-DUMP (3867). This phone number will direct you to the Ocean County Sheriff's Communication Office.

Please remember that the purpose of the Natural Lands Trust Program is to protect and preserve natural resource and environmentally sensitive areas. Passive recreation opportunities should not interfere with the overall objective of the program.

NLTF properties are open to the public from dawn to dusk. As always, walkers are welcome.


Hunting is permitted consistent with the Parks and Natural Lands Trust Rules (PDF) on designated properties. It is the responsibility of hunters to follow State and Local regulations including any ordinances governing discharge of firearms in any municipality. All hunters are required to have current hunting licenses and must observe safety zones. No Hunting on Sundays.

Hunters using tree stands can keep their temporary stands on NLT property two weeks prior and up to two weeks after the season. If stands are not removed after this period they become County property. Please note that the practice of deer driving is prohibited except whereas designated by the Director. The use of slugs is prohibited.

**Please use the interactive map to determine whether hunting is allowed on a property. Click for a full size map.**
For assistance you can also contact the Ocean County Department of Parks and Recreation at (732) 506-9090 or Ocean County Department of Planning at (732) 929-2054.


 Are lands purchased by the Natural Lands Trust Fund Program open to public access?
 How are farms preserved through this program?
 How does the County decide which lands to purchase?
 What lands are eligible for purchase under the Natural Lands program?
 What will the County do with the property once it is acquired?
 Can residents nominate a property for the program if they do not own it?

2024 Advisory Committee Meetings

3rd Floor, Engineering Conference Room
129 Hooper Ave, Toms River, NJ

Starting in January 2024, meetings will be held in person unless otherwise noted.

Time: 5:30pm, unless otherwise noted
Wednesday, January 24, 2024
Wednesday, February 28, 2024
Wednesday, March 27, 2024
Wednesday, April 24, 2024
Wednesday, May 22, 2024
Wednesday, June 26, 2024
Wednesday, July 24, 2024
Wednesday, August 28, 2024
Wednesday, September 25, 2024
Wednesday, October 23, 2024

Meetings are subject to change, please contact the Ocean County Planning Department to confirm dates at 732-929-2054.