Sterling Forest: An Ecological Analysis

Research and Analysis from 1995 to 1998

At the outset of 1998, Sterling Forest was the largest privately-owned, undeveloped parcel of land within commuting distance of New York City. Plans for developing the majority of the forest forged a unique bi-state coalition from local citizen grassroots groups to the highest levels of state and federal government. In 1998, 15,800 acres of land were purchased and preserved as open space. Since that time, the remaining lands have since been purchased to remain as protected open space.


The interior forest habitat of the New York-New Jersy Highlands is being increasingly recoginzed as having significant biodiversity value. Satellite remote sensing and geographic information systems (GIS) were used at the Grant F. Walton Center for Remote Sensing and Spatial Analysis (CRSSA), Rutgers University, to undertake an inventory of forest habitat and an assessment of forest fragmentation in the New York-New Jersey Highlands region. The NY-NJ Highlands has a forest cover of 62-65%, but due to fragmentation only 20% of the total forest area is considered prime forest habitat.

As part of its Highlands forest study, CRSSA also applied its expertise of geo-spatial technologies to perform an ecological analysis of Sterling Forest. The results were incorporated into land preservation efforts by non-profit and government groups concerned with impacts of imminent plans for development of Sterling Forest.

The Trust for Public Land and the Open Space Institute were instrumential in coordinating the 1998 purchase of 15,800 acres of land in Sterling Forest with funds obtained from various government and private sources. The remaining lands have since been purchased to remain as open space.

The preservation of Sterling Forest and other large tracts of contiguous forest within the New York - New Jersey Highlands was crucial for many reasons including: 1) maintaining viable populations of a number of forest-dependent species in the NY/NJ Highlands, 2) protecting drinking water for nearly a quarter of New Jersey's residents, 3) helping to maintain a critical missing link in a greenway stretching unbroken from the Hudson to the Delaware Rivers.


Site composed 1998. New Layout: 2017