RETURN HOME

  • You are reading the Pine Barrens Blog.

Americorps NJ Watershed Ambassadors work to Protect Pinelands

By | June 25th, 2018

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Watershed Ambassador Isabella Castiglioni helps plant 200 Atlantic White Cedars in the Pinelands

The Americorps NJ Watershed Ambassadors play an important role in the on-going stewardship of NJ’s streams, rivers, lakes, and ponds. Organized by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, each Watershed Ambassador provides 1700 hours of service during a 10-month service term while receiving small stipends for living expenses and travel and an educational reward upon successful completion of their term. At PPA, we serve as the host organization for the Rancocas Watershed Ambassador by providing a workspace and helping to facilitate projects throughout the year. The Watershed Ambassadors play a critical role in monitoring stream health throughout the state as well as playing an important stewardship role in their watershed. Because the Pinelands extends over multiple watershed areas, we work closely with Ambassadors covering the Great Egg Harbor Watershed, the Mullica River Watershed, the Barnegat Bay Watershed, and more. They have acted as leads as well as support on multiple volunteer projects in the Pinelands including large-scale illegal dumping cleanups, habitat protection from off-road vehicles, and tree-plantings.

During these projects, PPA helps by providing logistical support and project fine-tuning and the Watershed Ambassadors work together on project design and planning as well as recruiting and managing of volunteers on site. The Pinelands Land Protectors, PPA’s volunteer stewardship initiative, have worked closely on many of the projects undertaken by Watershed Ambassadors this year. The most substantial project undertaken to date was the Candace Ashmun planting where volunteers planted over 1000 trees and shrubs alongside a pond degraded from off-road vehicle abuse. This preserve, owned and managed by the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, is a stronghold for many rare species and is under constant threat from off-road vehicles. We partnered with NJCF, the Nature Conservancy, and the Watershed Ambassadors to facilitate the planting to help restore the area’s ecological function as a breeding and foraging site for amphibians, birds, and other species. This project is part of a broader effort to “rewild” the Pinelands in preserved areas that have been degraded from human activity.

The preservation of land and water in the Pinelands is not a finished project, it is an on-going struggle to maintain and restore the natural places that have so far resisted development. That is why it is so important that we leverage all the resources available and partner with as many individuals and organizations as practical to further the cause. The Watershed Ambassadors have proven to be an important part of that partnership and we are lucky to work with such dedicated individuals on projects in the Pinelands. The continuation of the Watershed program could never be more important as development pressures increase in this densely populated state. Keeping track of stream health, keeping up with stewardship priorities, and developing the talent for environmental problem solving is a key function of the Watershed program. With the coming end to 2017-2018’s term, Americorps/NJDEP will soon be recruiting new Ambassadors for next year’s term beginning this coming September and it is important that highly motivated candidates are aware of the importance of this program.


To participate in our next partner project with the Ambassadors, please join us on the July 7th Cleanup in Chatsworth.


If you are interested in becoming an NJDEP Watershed Ambassador, see the position summary http://www.nj.gov/dep/wms/bears/docs/americorps_position_description.pdf

Join The Pinelands Land Protectors

By | April 6th, 2018

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

The Pinelands Land Protectors are a group of dedicated volunteers organized through the Pinelands Preservation Alliance to protect the wildlife, plant life, habitat, and the public enjoyment of the Pinelands National Reserve. This volunteer group began officially last year and has had a large impact on the public land within the Reserve. This effort is unlike any other stewardship effort in the country. We aren’t just picking up bottles and cans or removing the occasional invasive plant, we are going to head-to-head with some of the hardest challenges affecting land and water in our area. From planting trees and protecting habitat from off-road vehicles, removing illegal dumping and searching for threatened and endangered species to providing public support for conservation policy and against oil and gas exploitation and unsustainable development, we work to identify and correct behavior that is damaging the waters, lands, and air around the Pinelands National Reserve. The Pinelands Land Protectors can be counted on to show up with a strategy crafted by PPA and implemented with the help of volunteers to address the problem with thoughtful consideration, hard work, and public pressure.

What makes an innovative group like this possible, is the decentralized nature of land management in the National Reserve. Instead of just one agency responsible for the land, such as in our National Parks, the Reserve has many different non-profit-organizations, governmental agencies, and private individuals responsible for managing land and waters. The diversity of groups we have partnered with so far include, Wharton State Forest, Bass River State Forest, Brendan T. Byrne State Forest, Whitesbog Preservation Trust, New Jersey Conservation Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, The Katz Family Trust, NJ Natural Lands Trust, NJ Fish and Wildlife, The Rancocas Conservancy, NJDEP Watershed Ambassadors, Herpatological Associates, the NJ Pinelands Commission, and more. PPA has worked to cultivate strong relationships with the agencies and individuals responsible and we leverage those connections to facilitate long-term plans to solve difficult problems.

 

Volunteer projects and events are always designed with the volunteers in mind–we want to make sure every volunteer knows that their time is being well spent. We try hard to design projects around tangible benefits to improve upon one of the special places within the Pinelands National Reserve. Some projects are only geared towards conservation, where others are for public enjoyment and appreciation, such as our upcoming work on the NJ State Trail. We have a high rate of volunteers that come to event after event because they know they are contributing to a long-term effort to protect the places that they hold dear. All of our success to date, from controlling off-road vehicles, to cleaning up thousands of pounds of waste, has been possible because of the dedication of volunteers we call the Pinelands Land Protectors.

If you want to be a part of this effort, please join us by clicking on this link Stewardship Signup

 

New Vision Needed for NJ State Parks

By | February 1st, 2018

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

 

photo: Bob Birdsall

 

The New Jersey State Park Service is full of hardworking and talented individuals with a desire to serve the public and protect natural resources, but they have been hampered by ineffective or politically motivated leadership during the past 8 years. Because of this, the Murphy administration has a great chance to rectify the situation and renew a positive vision for New Jersey’s public lands. These leaders should have a commitment to science-based decision making aimed at protecting natural resources while providing low-impact recreation opportunities for the public.

This is why we need Governor Murphy and Catherine McCabe, acting Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, to take a close look at how New Jersey’s State Parks and Forests, the DEP, and the Pinelands Commission are addressing serious harms and threats to public lands. Governor Murphy is committed to scientific decision making and has already taken strong steps to get New Jersey going in the right direction with the recommitment of NJ to the Regional Green House Gas Initiative.

This kind of decisive action is also needed for good stewardship of State Parks and Forests, and it begins with putting the best people in the key policy-making and implementation roles of state government. These staffing decisions will set the course and ultimately define the governor’s environmental legacy for our state lands.

The citizens of New Jersey do not want habitats to be destroyed by illegal off-road vehicle abuse, and we do not want our parks to become corridors for the fossil fuel industry or commercialized clear-cut logging.  We want to protect and promote the state’s biodiversity, we want clean drinking water, and we want our public recreation areas to be treated as a sacred trust.


Please join us now in asking acting Governor Murphy and Commissioner McCabe to bring in leaders who have a positive vision for the future of New Jersey’s open spaces and the commitment to make it happen.

E-mail catherine.mccabe@dep.nj.gov and ask her to hire leaders with a commitment to science and the environment and SIGN this petition.

 

 

The Disappearing Mountain

By | November 14th, 2017

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Gully at Forked River Mountain

There are a number of large hills in the Pine Barrens that some of us locals love to call mountains. Their names vary, from Jemima Mount, to Apple Pie Hill, Devious Mount, the Forked River Mountain, and Mt. Tabour. The chance to step out above the treeline and peer over the vast forests of the Pinelands National Reserve is an experience not to be forgotten. The peaks of these “mountains” were caused not by tectonic activity, but by the deposition of river gravel, laid down during the middle and late Miocene (between 15-million and 10-million years ago) by rivers that formed as sea levels declined and re-exposed much of what is South Jersey. (1) These rivers brought gravel and deposited those soils along much of the central and northern Pinelands forming what is known as the Beacon Hill Formation.

Erosion at Jemima Mount

Although these peaks have survived for millions of years, they are now experiencing anthropogenic impacts that dwarf the natural forces of erosion. Off-road vehicle drivers have begun tearing into the slopes at an increasing rate to challenge their machines against the land. This pernicious activity has cut deep gullies into most of the highest hills of the Pines and denuded large percentages of their slopes of vegetation which exacerbates the natural processes of erosion. These are places that offer an irreplaceable experience for Pinelands residents and visitors and the threat of their disappearance should be taken very seriously.

Unfortunately, this threat has not been broadly addressed by the State with two important exceptions. Rob Auermuller, the superintendent of Wharton State Forest, took action and with the help of volunteers gated and blocked off-road vehicles from entering Jemima Mount last year. Also in Wharton, former Lieutenant Ranger, Greg Langan, made the same effort for Apple Pie Hill in the 1990s to stop destructive ORV use at that iconic location.  Their efforts have paid off and both locations have been steadily improving and healing from the damage that was done. Soils have stabilized at Apple Pie Hill and vehicles have ceased all activity at Jemima Mount, leaving a chance for the slopes to naturally stabilize there as well.

©Albert Horner

We are asking the Director of Parks and Forestry, Mark Texel, to take this threat seriously as well. He should act quickly to implement the recent Pinelands Commission resolution for Wharton State Forest that would protect future areas from this type of degradation. This unanimously approved resolution will address one of the most serious threats to public land in the National Reserve, but it needs to be implemented first. The public’s land should never be left to fend for itself by those who are trusted and paid to protect it.


Contact Mark Texel and ask him to begin implementation of Pinelands Commission Resolution for Wharton State Forest in order to protect the critical natural and scenic resources of the Pinelands National Reserve.

Mark Texel – Director of Parks and Forestry – Mark.Texel@dep.nj.gov  

Links

Pinelands Commission Resolution for Wharton State Forest

http://www.pinelandsalliance.org/downloads/pinelandsalliance_1593.pdf

References

  1. http://www.state.nj.us/dep/njgs/enviroed/freedwn/psnjsurf.pdf

Water and Gas Don’t Mix in the Pinelands

By | November 7th, 2017

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

The New Jersey Pinelands Commission approved two natural gas pipelines by a slim majority this year. They originally denied the first of these to come before the Commission, the South Jersey Gas pipeline, in 2014, but the governor and his allies replaced two key commissioners and the Commission reversed itself in 2017.  According to former New Jersey Governor, Christine Todd Whitman, the pipeline approvals “undermine” the Pinelands Plan, and “is contrary to what is in the charter for the Pinelands Commission and the protection for the Pine Barrens themselves.” Former Governor Whitman was interviewed by Pinelands Preservation Alliance about the potential pipeline impacts to the Pinelands in a Save the Source video, “Water and Gas Don’t Mix in the Pinelands,” released in October 2017.

Pipelines Threaten Drinking Water

See the video.

Not only does the pipeline approval run contrary to the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan, but it also threatens the integrity of the Kirkwood Cohansey Aquifer – a 17 trillion gallon aquifer that serves residents of South Jersey and feeds fresh water into the Delaware River.  A few miles of these pipelines are going to be under streams, rivers, and wetlands, and virtually their entire length will be sunk into the shallow aquifer.  The horizontal drilling process can easily cause materials and chemicals to contaminate the water or change the flow of water in ways that drain or damage surface water bodies.   There was a huge spill in Ohio a couple of months ago that caused two million gallons of drilling mud into a wetland, and the Ohio office for the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that it will take decades for the wetland to recover from this damage.

Not Jobs versus the Environment

Governor Whitman further adds, this issue is “not jobs or protecting the Pine Barrens. We can still have jobs. We can still have energy.  There are different ways of doing it, but we really ought to be very careful about endangering in any way such an important area. It’s also very much about protecting the water supply for literally hundreds of thousands of people which will become far more expensive if you have to put in any kind of plant or any kind of man made system to purify that water and recharge that water from the aquifer.”

Time and again residents and leaders of our state implore our elected officials to do what is right for the Pinelands, right for our water supply, and right by our laws by denying unnecessary energy infrastructure that threatens our natural resources especially our most precious resource – water.  Water and gas don’t mix in the Pinelands or anywhere in New Jersey.  The next governor and administration hopefully will hear the voices, understand the impacts, and follow the letter of the law in deciding on these matters.

To view Save the Source videos, visit www.savethesource.org.

Building a Land Connection

By | June 19th, 2017

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

We sometimes hear of the connectedness people experience when they find themselves immersed in nature, but even when we are not deep in some remote forest or hidden wetland, we can call upon these experiences to renew us and restore us. In addition to the connection we experience in an ecological community, we can also experience a connection to the cultural roots that have been deepening in an area for generations in this place we call the Pines. Some of us may not have had these experiences in the past, but wish to attain them, some may wish to regain a sense of connection from the past, and some may simply wish to deepen the connections they already feel.

One potent way to build these experiences is to educate ourselves about our reliance on the natural world. Many of us who live in South Jersey depend totally on the Kirkwood-Cohansey Aquifer for our drinking water, recreation, and even our employment, but this knowledge is not always well understood. Education is one way we can help bind the reality of our dependence to our perception of the world. We can learn that without proper management of our water supplies, we could lose access to the substances which sustain us and the ones we love. A benefit to this type of education and understanding is that the more people who have an interest in sustaining our environment, the more support we will have to work and protect it in times of need.

Another great way to deepen our understanding is to learn about the plants, animals, insects, and geologic forms that make this area unique. Learning that a particular butterfly like the Hessel Hairstreak requires only an Atlantic White Cedar to breed, or that Pine Barrens Tree Frogs and other amphibians require a specific geologic formation (Intermittent Ponds) for successful reproduction, can inform our perception of these places in important ways. Even the recognition between a Pitch-Pine(need bundles of three), as opposed to a Short-Leaf Pine(needle bundles of two and three), can give us a sense of being a part of a specialplace. Traveling deeper into plant and animal identification and relationships will only further that understanding. We can also experience a connection from the cultural roots that have been deepening generation after generation in this place we call the Pines. The feeling of continuity obtained from using a tool from our grandparents shed or practicing an art or craft that has been handed down through the generations, can give us a sense of respect for the past and for the future. It is these things that bind us to place and give us a sense of ourselves and the world around us. Over the long term, this sense, and the motivation that stems from it  wills us to protect our area in the long-term.   The individuals that possess it will not easily let the place they know and love fall into the unrecognizable. This is why the mission of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance to educate the public is so critical, we only will protect what we love, and we love what we know.


Sign up today to Pinelands Watch or our Pinelands Volunteer network to get involved.


For Advocacy and Activism join Pinelands Watch by contacting Katie@pinelandsalliance.org

For on the ground volunteer projects join our Pinelands Volunteer Network by contacting Jason@pinelandsalliance.org

Pinelands Watch Activist Network

By | March 8th, 2017

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

 

Citizen protest during 2/24/17 South Jersey Gas pipeline vote.

On February 24th the Pinelands Commission voted to approve the South Jersey Gas pipeline demonstrating how far they have strayed from their responsibility to uphold the rules that protect the Pinelands.   This project, which is planned for construction in the protected Forest Management Area, is now in the courts pending appeals from the Pinelands Preservation Alliance.

Protecting the Pinelands and other natural places in New Jersey requires the joint effort of citizens, nonprofit organizations, experts and dedicated decision-makers.  That is why I hope you will join our activist network, Pinelands Watch.

Join the Pinelands Watch Activist Network

Citizens in the Pinelands Watch network are kept up to date on Pinelands issues, engage with local planners and officials, and advocate for Pinelands protections.  You will play a key role in advocating for the protection of the Pinelands National Reserve.

The network is organized by county and we are holding our first county meetings on March 20 and April 4 with more to be scheduled. Email katie@pinelandsalliance.org if you have a location where we can hold a meeting in your area.  Right now our focus is on the seven Pinelands Counties – Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester and Ocean.


Pinelands Watch Activist Training:

March 20th at 7 p.m.

  • Location: Ocean City Public Library, 1735 Simpson Ave, Ocean City, NJ 08226
  • Find this event on Facebook. Please share.
  • Please RSVP here.

April 4th at 7 p.m.

  • Location: Pinelands Preservation Alliance, 17 Pemberton Rd, Southampton NJ 08088
  • Find this event on Facebook.  Please share.
  • Please RSVP here.

The Pinelands Commission is straying from its duties to uphold the Comprehensive Management Plan. You, as resident activists, have the power to protect the Pinelands by holding the Commissioners accountable – it’s the only way.

Join us at the launch of the county Pinelands Watch network to collect resources for getting involved and to connect with other activists from your area.

At this meeting we will:

  • Cover the organization, appointment processes, and recent actions of the Pinelands Commission
  • Describe how Pinelands Commissioners are appointed
  • Discuss your priorities and what you need to see from your freeholders, the Pinelands Commission, and other municipal bodies.
  • Develop tactics and a plan to begin taking action on those priorities
  • Provide resources and information to help you in your actions

We will conclude by making calls and writing letters to freeholders and gubernatorial candidates to demand the Pinelands are protected properly.

10th Anniversary State of the Pinelands Report

By | February 16th, 2017

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

We issued our first State of the Pinelands report in 2007. Reviewing this decade of reports, it becomes clear that many important policy problems have continued throughout these years without meaningful action by the Pinelands Commission, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and other responsible agencies. In contrast, during this period we have seen several major developments with enormous long-term impacts advance quickly, with great determination shown by the Pinelands Commission, DEP and the governor’s office to get them approved despite big legal and environmental problems. Government knows how to act when key players choose to do so. Unfortunately, we have not seen that kind of decisive action on the following fundamental challenges to the Pinelands.

Stalled Policy Initiatives

Statewide Water Supply Master Plan – The DEP last released a statewide Water Supply Master Plan in 1996. DEP officials promised to release an updated plan in 2002, 2005, and several times since – but it is still missing in action, apparently moldering in the governor’s office. This planning document is important, because it tells the public, water purveyors and government agencies at all levels whether the water supply in each part of the state is secure, is in trouble, or may get into trouble if trends continue. Studies by the US Geological Service and others show that the Kirkwood-Cohansey and Atlantic City 800-Foots Sands – South Jersey’s principal water supplies – are being over-pumped in many areas. In 2016, DEP put every county in the state except for Atlantic, Cape May, and Cumberland under a drought watch for the fall of 2016. The events of this year signal an immediate need to release the Water Supply Master Plan and apply its findings to protecting our water supplies. Yet the public continues to wait.

Water Allocation Rules – For the last several years, the Pinelands Commission and DEP have recognized the need to reform their standards governing increased pumping of water from the Kirkwood-Cohansey and related aquifers. In addition to studies showing the aquifers are threatened with over-pumping, the multi-million dollar Kirkwood-Cohansey Aquifer Study, begun in 2001 and finally completed in 2012, showed how lowering the Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer harms ecosystems that depend upon it. The agencies have discussed detailed proposals, but have taken no action whatsoever to reform their water allocation rules.

Pinelands Protections for Water Quality – A clean water supply is essential to residential and ecological communities, but Pinelands waters are contaminated in many areas. In 2006, the Pinelands Commission released a report, White Paper on Preserving Ambient Water Quality – Policy Implications of Pinelands Commission Research Projects, which recognized the threat of “non-point source” contamination that comes with all forms of development. The report gave examples of ways the Commission can reduce water quality impacts from development through regulatory changes and incentives. The Commission has never seriously debated, much less acted on those recommendations.

Rapid Speed Development Projects

Meanwhile, here are three examples of major development projects that violate the CMP but have been pushed hard by the Pinelands Commission and/or its staff, DEP and, in some cases, the governor’s office – showing these agencies can act decisively when they choose. All of these matters are still unresolved, but only because PPA, citizens and allied advocacy groups have filed successful legal challenges.

Stafford Business Park – This development project was presented as a compromise to protect water quality in exchange for houses. In reality it set new precedents for developing known rare species habitats by attempting to relocate threatened and endangered plants and wildlife from their established habitats, and using the public memorandum of agreement process to waive and manipulate Pinelands rules in order to foster very large private development. The developer’s proposal to cap a landfill and move protected species in exchange for the construction of over 500 housing units and a big shopping center was introduced in late 2004 and approved in July 2006. It was a short turn around for a waiver of key environmental protections to accommodate a massive for-profit development project on what had been public land in Stafford Township.

South Jersey Gas and New Jersey Natural Gas – These natural gas transmission lines are proposed to cut through the southern and northern parts of the Pinelands in the Forest Area and Preservation Area – management areas that can only allow large infrastructure projects that serve existing needs within those areas. Both these pipelines fail that standard, and both are entirely unnecessary. With pressure from the state’s most powerful Republican and Democratic politicians and the help of the Pinelands Commission’s executive director, both projects were moved rapidly through the Commission process. They have encountered unexpected problems when the full Commission declined to approve the South Jersey Gas project, and, after the government tried to simply circumvent Commission review, the Appellate Division of the Superior Court ruled those efforts to be unlawful. At this writing, the South Jersey Gas pipeline will likely come up for a vote before the Pinelands Commission on February 24th and the New Jersey Natural Gas pipeline is not far behind.

Wal-Mart in Toms River – This Wal-Mart Superstore proposal to cram a huge store and shopping center onto a parcel that is too small and has threatened and endangered species is in the coastal portion of the Pinelands, where DEP has the primary permitting powers. DEP initially denied the application for all the right reasons, and then simply reversed itself when a new governor came into office. Since then the DEP has pressed to approve the development despite repeated legal setbacks, including an adverse Appellate Court ruling, and regulatory violations.

This overview of the past 10 years sheds light on how quickly government officials can act to approve projects that serve special interests instead of supporting projects and policy measures that improve our environment and the well-being of citizens in the state.

Click on the link to read the entire report. This report was mailed to current members of the Pinelands Presevation Alliance in February 2017.

Original Framers of Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan Oppose SJ Gas Pipeline

By | January 22nd, 2017

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Photograph by Albert Horner

Three original framers of the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan have written letters to the Commission calling on it to reject the South Jersey Gas pipeline because the route clearly violates the terms and the goals of the CMP’s protections for the Pinelands Forest Area.  Terrence Moore was the founding Executive Director of the Commission, where he served for 20 years in drafting and implementing the CMP.  John Stokes was the founding director of planning at the Commission, and later served as Executive Director.  Over 30 years he was a central figure in designing and enforcing the CMP.  Robert McIntosh worked for the National Park Service on the creation of the Pinelands protection program and represented the Secretary of the Interior on the Pinelands Commission for many years and across a range of Democratic and Republican Administrations in Washington, DC.  These three men bring unequaled experience and expertise in the workings and meaning of the Pinelands regulations.

Each of these individuals understand the purposes and meaning of the specific CMP regulations which South Jersey Gas is trying to circumvent in order to build a very high-capacity gas transmission pipeline across the Pinelands Forest Area.  The CMP prohibits infrastructure like the proposed pipeline from being built in the Forest Area unless it is needed to serve those already inside the Pinelands.  These letters explain in detail why the pipeline would not “primarily serve only the needs of the Pinelands” within the meaning of the CMP, as required of any such pipeline before it can be built within the Forest Area, and why approving the project would set an extremely damaging precedent for future development of the Forest Area.

The fact that these founders of the Pinelands program have never before submitted comments to the Commission on a pending development application since retiring from their official positions, but have all done so now, shows how critical this issue is to the integrity and success of the Pinelands protection program.  Read the letters here:

Letter from John Stokes

Letter from Robert McIntosh

Letter from Terrence Moore

Learn more about the public meeting to be held Tuesday, January 24th at 9:30 am and submit comments on this project.  Click here.

Park Police Need Tools to Combat ORV Abuse

By | December 21st, 2016

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

In a recent and revealing video, ORV drivers demonstrate the ineffectiveness of the current approach of management in Wharton State Forest. Because of political pressure on the DEP, the dedicated and heroic Park Police are deprived of the tools they need to succeed in their mission of natural resources protection. NJDEP, in their refusal to designate official routes of the State Forest, is placing an impossible burden of policing an unenforceable spaghetti network of unmanaged routes on the understaffed and often under-gunned(in terms of tools and vehicles) Park Police. The State of New Jersey needs to do a much better job in supporting these stewards of our public land. Without the needed tools and personnel, these modern day rangers are being deprived of succeeding in their mission of public lands protection.

In the video below, you will see an organized group of off-road vehicle drivers abusing public roadways, eroding historic sites, damaging forest infrastructure, and creating new “roads” by driving straight into the forest over pristine areas, These individuals went completely unopposed in their day-long tour of destruction and this has been happening far too often on our public lands.

In a second video, a concerned citizen recorded another group of “mudders” in the Great Swamp of Wharton State Forest, also a Natural Heritage Priority Site for globally rare species. The wetlands in this video were protected by the original Motorized Access Plan by Parks and Forestry, but was forced open to motor vehicles by the NJDEP. Park Police simply do not have the equipment to patrol this area and so it has been left to fend for itself. With a new map, unpatrolled habitat like this could be protected from further damage by vehicle barriers and focused monitoring.

In a third unfortunate recording, individuals filmed themselves driving into the Batsto River and other environmentally sensitive areas as well as abusing the forest roads. After reporting this recording to Park Police and NJDEP, we were told that the individuals were given a warning after their vehicles were observed by Park Police covered in mud. Unfortunately, because of the spaghetti network of roads, it is very unlikely they will be caught in the act and suffer a serious fine. A warning will not prevent them from continuing this type of behavior and damage. We were told the video itself would not be sufficient evidence to make a successful prosecution. Clearly, when our legal system is unable to prevail, we need stronger and better management to protect our natural resources.

In a fourth video, individuals calling themselves the “Shutdown Squad X” film themselves abusing our forest infrastructure while consuming alcohol and vandalizing a historic building within the State Forest. When groups of individuals are able to maruade through our public lands for hours on end without consequence, it is a clear sign that the NJDEP has not brought sufficient resources and tools to the issue. We must now advocate to the Pinelands Commission to enact these management tools in order to physically protect habitat and to give our hardworking Park Police a chance to succeed in their mission

Please join us on January 27th at 9:30am and tell the Pinelands Commission that an official map of Forest routes will give our understaffed and under-resourced law enforcement officers a chance to prevail against this abuse.

 

Pinelands Commission

15 Springfield Rd. Pemberton, NJ

08068