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Road Designations for the Pinelands

By | April 27th, 2016

 

properpinelandspond

Pristine Pinelands Pond – Wharton State Forest

Cindy Pond - Wharton State Forest

Off-Road Vehicle Abused Pond – Wharton State Forest

The Pinelands Commission needs to designate which forest paths are and are not appropriate for motor vehicle use within the Pinelands National Reserve and they must start with Wharton State Forest.  The Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan gives the Commission the authority to do this.

Section 7:50-6.143 states the following:

  1. No motor vehicle other than fire, police or emergency vehicles or those vehicles used for the administration or maintenance of any public land shall be operated upon publicly owned land within the Pinelands. Other motor vehicles may operate on public lands for recreational purposes on public highways and areas on land designated prior to August 8, 1980 for such use by state and local governmental entities until designated as inappropriate for such use under (a) 3 below.
  2. The Commission shall from time to time designate areas which are inappropriate for use of motor vehicles. Such designation shall be based upon the following considerations and upon consultation with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and other interested persons:

           i. A need to protect a scientific study area;
           ii. A need to protect the location of threatened or endangered plant or animal species;
           iii. A need to provide a wilderness recreational area;
           iv. A need to prevent conflicts with adjoining intensively used recreational areas;
           v. A need to protect historic or archaeological sites;
           vi. A need to protect critical wildlife habitats;
           vii. A need to address a situation of public health and safety;
           viii. A need to protect extensively disturbed areas from further impact; and
           ix. The extent to which such road closure would substantially impair recreation access to and uses of surrounding resources.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has refused to designate what is and is NOT a road in Wharton State Forest.  Inaction by the state has meant that dozens of ice-age dunes that serve as critical habitat for Pine Snakes and Pickering’s Morning Glory have been turned into ATV and dirt bike tracks, rife with trash and fire pits. Ponds (like the one shown above) and savannahs that sustained critical habitat for thousands of years have been turned into lifeless mudding arenas by unscrupulous truck, jeep, and ATV operators who have no sympathy for the plants and animals that depend on them to survive. Unique geological hills such as Jemima Mount have been deeply gullied by the frequent erosion caused by the spinning of tires from those who want to test their machines on the landscape. We need to establish a culture-wide land ethic in the Pines and this can be the first major step in that direction.

There are many areas that are still in pristine condition, that are now at risk from this motorized catastrophe.  Other areas might be able to recover if given the chance. The land in the Pine Barrens that has been afforded the highest protections from development has been left to fend for itself from the random onslaught of ORV drivers.  In some areas, the damage is akin to industrial mining in scope and consequence. We must act now to protect the natural beauty and ecological integrity of our public land.

The Pinelands Commission must implement these designations in Wharton State Forest. It is the largest tract of land owned by the state within the Pinelands boundaries.  It has become a multi-state destination for ORV drivers who know the Park Police can’t effectively patrol the spaghetti network of unmanaged trails. We have documented over 86 distinct locations in Wharton State Forest that have been subject to this type of abuse and the list is growing.  We can’t afford to wait.


Take Action!

Use this link to tell the Executive Director of the Pinelands Commission that they must implement road designations for Wharton State Forest.

Lenses of Nature

By | April 12th, 2016

paddlingtheiceymullica2

The Mullica River after a winter storm.

The lenses through which we view the earth are different for every person. In the Pine Barrens, there are distinct cultural views separating individuals and groups in the debate over land-management. These points of view carry with them all the accumulated baggage of the land-use and property debates that have raged over the centuries. From the colonization of the Americas and the persecution of native people to the creation of National Parks, Forests, and Reserves, we have a long history of debate, conflict, and resolution over land and water. Additionally, we all have individual experiences that shape our perceptions of the natural world and influence our perspective. The state of New Jersey will only become more densely populated in the future so it is more important than ever that we build a consensus that balances the desire to use our natural resources with the need to protect them. Read the rest of this entry »

The resiliency of the Pinelands

By | April 1st, 2016

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A stream corridor turned into a defacto mudding arena in Brendan T. Byrne State Forest

Note: This piece by PPA’s Director of Conservation Science, Ryan Rebozo, was originally published as an editorial in the Burlington County Times on March 28, 2016.  It was written to expand further on statements made in WHYY radio report (90.9 FM) broadcast on March 21, 2016 about the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s draft plan restrict motor vehicle access in Wharton State Forest.  During that radio story a self-described dirt-bike rider used the argument of resiliency as support for their opposition to put stronger protection in place for Wharton State Forest.

Read or listen to the WHYY Radio report Plans to close roads in Wharton State Forest kicking up dust among locals

On March 21st, Newsworks on WHYY (90.9 FM) ran a short segment on the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s rescinded Motorized Access Plan, a plan that would have designated which sand roads in Wharton State Forest are suitable for motor vehicle activity, and which are better suited for foot, horseback, and bicycling activity. These designations were to be assigned based on accessibility, natural resources, and critical habitat. The piece used audio clips of myself and others commenting on this particular issue. I took note of one argument by a dirt-biker who made the claim that the Pinelands isn’t fragile because it survived the industrial revolution.  Read the rest of this entry »

A Renewed Effort

By | March 25th, 2016

Wharton_savannah_by_Jason_Howell

An at-risk savannah in Wharton State Forest

The NJ DEP has begun to implement a few changes to their enforcement tactics to address off-road vehicle destruction in Wharton State Forest. These new changes include a small increase in fines $250 to $900 if vehicle impoundment is required and designating officers specifically to Wharton State Forest instead of being assigned regionally. However, there has been no increase of officers on patrol at any given time, which implies that officers still will be unable to effectively cover the hundreds of miles of roads left open by the DEP. Signs will be posted to inform the public of illegal nature of off-roading at roughly half of the entrance points of the state forest (sixty-four), preventing the ignorance defense when ticketed persons stand before a judge. Although these changes are small, they are important and will eventually contribute to the solution once a substantive travel management plan is enacted. Read the rest of this entry »

The Death of a Pine Snake

By | March 17th, 2016

Northern Pine Snake - Photo by Jason Howell

Northern Pine Snake (Pituophis melanoleucus) displaying atypical behavior.

 

     The warm spring air drifted into the chamber that protected her during the long winter months, signaling the coming spring. A  female Northern Pine Snake, she trusted her ancient instinct to rise to the surface of her hibernaculum to greet the warmth of the day. With a careful flick of the tongue, she inspected the air for any sign of danger. When the time felt right, she moved deftly out of her chamber and into the pine needles, oak leaves, and shrubs that give her a near perfect camouflage against predators both on the ground and in the air. Then she may have sought out a patch of open canopy, not too exposed to allow easy identification by predators, but just enough to allow her to absorb the beneficial rays of the sun that filter through the pines. Read the rest of this entry »

Investing in Nature

By | March 10th, 2016

 

Photo by Ray Nunzi

Batona Trail – Photo by Ray Nunzi

     Time is our most valuable personal commodity and it is being constantly competed for. From the internet or television, the demands of work and the responsibilities of family, we have much to negotiate. Some days our time spent outdoors might be limited to the walk to and from our transportation and back into our homes or workplaces. This modern time crunch has caused many citizens to go without the great benefits of being in nature. Our health, both mental and physical, can be greatly impacted by time spent outdoors and we would all do ourselves a service to carve out a slice of time each week to “breath the wild air” as John Muir so eloquently wrote.

     The lucky citizens who live and work adjacent near the Pinelands find themselves in an advantageous position to reinvest their time portfolios to include nature. We have an amazing diversity of experiences available in the largest forest from Maine to the Everglades on the Eastern Seaboard. From paddling the Mullica or the Batsto, hiking the Batona or the Mullica River Trail, biking the 19-mile Orange Trail in Wharton State Forest, or visiting the many multi-use trails in Franklin Parker Preserve and the numerous other preserved areas that would fill this page. The plethora of options that we have to experience the outdoors is a real privilege and one that we should all embrace.

sarahinspectingfungus     Spending time in our preserved lands has other benefits as well. Many of us will share our outdoor experiences online and in conversation and that can have a spreading impact on the mindset of others in relation to nature. We work so hard to protect this place because we know what it means to us as individuals, to the community, and to the rest of the world. We must continue to have places like the Pines and they must be kept secure from the ever-present threat of the bulldozer and speculator or the destructive off-road vehicle driver.

     To do this, we need you out there, we need you to smell the fragrance of nature, to taste the clean water of the pines, to eat the blueberries, cranberries, and teaberries that grow without the aid of any pesticides or herbicides. What we have in the Pines is there for everyone to enjoy and experience in a sustainable manner, but it won’t stay that way without constant vigilance. The threats are many, but our resolve is absolute and we need you to be just as committed. From pipeline applications and private development to the destructive habits of off-road vehicle drivers, our lands are under constant pressure and it is our job as an organization and your job as a citizen to fight back.

     We are lucky to have the Pines, but it’s not just luck, we need to stand up for the land we all depend on. When we invest in nature, we gain a strong motivation to protect our investment.

Join us on Monday, March 14th for the Rally for the Pinelands in Trenton. There is much to be done!


 

Rally for the Pinelands

Time: 8:30 am to 11:30 am
Location: State Capital, Trenton NJ

A coalition of environmental organizations, residents impacted by natural gas pipeline projects, activists, and concerned citizens are organizing a march and rally in Trenton to demand that our state legislators and state agencies ENFORCE and STRENGTHEN Pinelands regulations.

Join us on March 14th in Trenton NJ. We will march from the NJ Department of Environmental Protection down State Street in the morning and then rally at the Statehouse. Following the rally participants will be able to find their representative and deliver a personal message. Carpooling will be coordinated.

We have 150 people so far and we need more!  Join the green wave of support for the Pinelands!

Sponsored by the Pinelands Preservation Alliance, New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club, Food & Water Watch NJ, the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions (ANJEC), the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, the New Jersey League of Conservation VotersClean Water Action and South Jersey Land & Water Trust.


RSVP today!  We will send you parking information, event schedule and carpool information.

Help get the word out!  Share this blog post with your network.  Share the Facebook Event with your friends and family.  The more the merrier!


Bus Seats and Carpooling Information

Time: 7:30 am
Location: PPA Headquarters, 17 Pemberton Rd (CR 616), Southampton Township, NJ 08088

You must RSVP for a bus seat by e-mailing jason@pinelandsalliance.org – space is limited.  If you are willing to drive your own car (from PPA or from another location) let us know as soon as possible.

For more information call Becky at 609-859-8860 ext 21.

March 14th Rally for the Pines

By | March 3rd, 2016

pinelandsnotpipelands

 

The proponents of land preservation have never given up easily. We need to fight for each victory and each parcel of preserved land and open space. That is why it is so important to take our message to the centers of legislative power and let our legislators know that they need to stand with us. The victories that we have helped achieve in the Pines took tremendous effort and it is important we don’t let any of them go without a fight.

It’s been a tough year for the Pines and we need to show that disregard for the rules and for the environment will not be tolerategeoffd. We need to invigorate and motivate our allies within the political structure and give them the courage to keep fighting in defense of the Pinelands. We will gather with over a hundred activists, organizers, impacted residents, and other concerned citizens to demand a moratorium against any new pipelines  in the Pinelands and for an implementation of a travel management plan to protect sensitive habitats from destructive off-road vehicles. This is one of  the last great refuges of wilderness on the east coast and its time to let Trenton know that we will never give up protecting it.

It is time to take to the streets and tell our legislators and state agencies to stop destroying the Pinelands for private profit.   The Pinelands are for the people – not pipelines!


Rally for the Pinelands

Time: 8:30 am to 11:30 am
Location: State Capital, Trenton NJ

A coalition of environmental organizations, residents impacted by natural gas pipeline projects, activists, and concerned citizens are organizing a march and rally in Trenton to demand that our state legislators and state agencies ENFORCE and STRENGTHEN Pinelands regulations.

Join us on March 14th in Trenton NJ. We will march from the NJ Department of Environmental Protection down State Street in the morning and then rally at the Statehouse. Following the rally participants will be able to find their representative and deliver a personal message. Carpooling will be coordinated.

We have 100 people so far and we need more!  Join the green wave of support for the Pinelands!

Sponsored by the Pinelands Preservation Alliance, New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club, Food & Water Watch NJ, the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions (ANJEC), the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, the New Jersey League of Conservation VotersClean Water Action and South Jersey Land & Water Trust.


RSVP today!  We will send you parking information, event schedule and carpool information.

Help get the word out!  Share this blog post with your network.  Share the Facebook Event with your friends and family.  The more the merrier!


Bus Seats and Carpooling Information

Time: 7:30 am
Location: PPA Headquarters, 17 Pemberton Rd (CR 616), Southampton Township, NJ 08088

You must RSVP for a bus seat by e-mailing jason@pinelandsalliance.org – space is limited.  If you are willing to drive your own car (from PPA or from another location) let us know as soon as possible.

For more information call Becky at 609-859-8860 ext 21.

A Call to Art

By | February 25th, 2016

Fall Meadow by Albert Horner

Fall Meadow by Albert Horner

     In this time of great pressure on our public lands, here in the Pines and elsewhere in the country, there is a need to fuel the ethic of conservation in the public conscience. To this end, there are few pursuits that have helped the cause of species and wild lands conservation more than art. From photography to music, painting, sketching, and graphic design, writing and poetry, audio recording or film-making, all of these diverse mediums have the power to convey the need for conservation. In the Pines, we have an abundance of truly talented and inspired artists, both residents of New Jersey and visitors and they will be an important part of this effort, but they are not all we need.

Pine Barrens Tree Frogs by Victoria Tagliaferro

Pine Barrens Tree Frogs by Victoria Tagliaferro

     Those who have the desire, but have not started an artistic endeavor are also a critical part of this effort. With social media, you have an audience ready to receive your work and you are probably the best person to truly reach them. The democratization of technology has provided access to tools that were once out of reach for many. The ubiquitous cell-phone has an immense capability to record and express what we experience as visitors and residents of the Pinelands. Adaptable lenses can transform a standard-view cell-phone camera to a perfect tool for capturing the minute detail of a plant, insect, or fungi. If you attach that camera to a spotting scope then you quickly have a focal length and resolution that would cost thousands to achieve in traditional camera technology. Add a microphone and a simple tripod mount and you have created a very capable tool for audio recording or filmmaking. The possibilities are endless.

     History has many great examples of art overcoming the simple impulses of commercial utilitarianism. During the 1871 expedition to survey the Yellowstone area by Ferdinand Hayden, photographer William Henry Jackson documented the landscape by the difficult wet-collodion photo process. This process requires near immediate processing in the field but offered the highest level of detail and quality for the time. Together, their images eventually helped convince Congress to preserve Yellowstone as The United State’s first National Park. (Healy, 2009)

“We had to unpack the mule, of course, and distribute the apparatus, set up the tent, get the camera ready and then I’d go into that little tent and cook my plate and prepare it for exposure. And, after development, I pack it away and put it on the mule again. Under such conditions, with two assistants working with me, I’d taken 30 minutes to make a picture.”– William Henry Jackson

     The combination of art and activism also had a critical importance for the eventual preservation of the Pinelands. Writer John McPhee published the “The People of the New Jersey Pine Barrens” for the New Yorker in 1967, and later formed it into the legendary book “The Pine Barrens” that posited on page 135 that the Pinelands “are not very likely to be the subject of dramatic decrees or actions of legislation” (McPhee, 1968). A few years later, McPhee joined with photographer Bill Curtsinger to create the January 1974 National Geographic story “The People of the New Jersey Pine Barrens”. These works have been widely credited with inspiring the political movement that established the Pinelands Protection Act. Governor Brendan Byrne stated in the Asbury Park Press on June 22 of 2015 that, “there was a paragraph in that book which said that … things being what they are, it’s going to be impossible to do anything about the Pinelands and I regarded that as a challenge.”

     We need you to continue this tradition of artistic expression and to spread the ethic of conservation for the Pinelands. Those who see your work may then be inspired to create art of their own, or come to a Pinelands Commission Meeting, or write their legislature. Art matters and your efforts could make all the difference in keeping the Pines preserved in perpetuity.


Tag what you create #thepinelandsarespecial and share it with us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.


Listen to “From the Archives: An Interview with Photographer William Henry Jackson”(1941) recorded on his 98th birthday


References

Healy, D. (2009, September 13). Early photographer key to park’s preservation. Retrieved February 1, 2016, from http://billingsgazette.com/news/features/magazine/early-photographer-key-to-park-s-preservation/article_0c447f9e-9f35-11de-92cd-001cc4c03286.html

McPhee, J. (1968). The Pine Barrens. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

Bates,T.B.(2015,June 22). Is this the end of the New Jersey Pine Barrens? Retrieved February 21, 2016, from http://www.app.com/story/news/investigations/2015/06/22/new-jersey-pinelands-stress/28894731/

State of the Pinelands: The Year in Review

By | February 17th, 2016

by Ernest Cozens

A view of Wharton State Forest and beyond in the heart of the Pinelands by Ernest Cozens.

It always amazes me that in New Jersey, the most densely populated state in the nation, we have the largest open space on the eastern seaboard between Maine and the Florida Everglades. The 1.1 million-acre Pinelands National Reserve takes up about 22% of the landmass in New Jersey and is a recreational resource for more than 22 million people living within 60 miles of its boundaries.  Its forests, rivers, wetlands, agricultural areas and rural villages are a huge part of New Jersey’s identity.  It is hard to imagine what New Jersey would be like without it.

The Pinelands National Reserve is our country’s first National Reserve – created with the passage of the National Parks and Recreation Act of 1978.  It was created in order to “protect, preserve and enhance the significant values of the land and water resources of the Pinelands area.”  The federal legislation directed the state of New Jersey to establish a planning entity (the Pinelands Commission) that would develop a Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP) for the Pinelands.  The CMP designates areas for conservation and areas for development and is supposed to do this in a way that protects the health of the ecosystem.

Nasa Jan 2016 snowstorm cropped

An outline of the Pinelands can be seen during the January 2016 snowstorm in this photo from NASA.

These boundaries have been in place for 35 years and have done a pretty good job protecting the wild forests and pristine waters of the Pinelands.  This region will only survive if this plan is respected year after year keeping development out of these last precious areas.  That, however, is getting harder to do.

We just released our annual State of the Pinelands report and it highlights the challenges of balancing human use and preservation of the Pinelands National Reserve.  One of the issues highlighted in this year’s report is the failure of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to establish a plan to protect Wharton State Forest from the damages of illegal off-road vehicle use.

Wharton State Forest is the largest single tract of land in the New Jersey State Park System and is located in the heart of the Pinelands Preservation Area – the area that is supposed to have the highest level of protection.  Managing motorized access could serve as a model for other publically owned land in the state.  The DEP released a Motorized Access Plan in August 2015 that designated some areas for vehicular use and some areas for hiking, biking and horseback riding due to the sensitive nature of habitat.  Vocal criticism followed the release of the DEP’s plan for Wharton and now we fear they will take no action in the foreseeable future to implement any plan to safeguard the natural resources that they are charged with protecting.

The construction of high pressure natural gas pipelines through protected areas in the Pinelands is another major threat identified in this year’s report.  Two proposals from two different companies, New Jersey Natural Gas and South Jersey Gas, are poised to undo more that 35 years of Pinelands protection if approved.

Both natural gas pipelines violate the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP).  Both are asking their ratepayers to foot the bill for a project that they have yet to prove is necessary to meet their stated purposes.  Perhaps even worse, the Pinelands Commission has refused to officially rule on either project leaving the question of compliance with Pinelands rules in a bureaucratic no man’s land.  This sets a terrible precedent for an independent state agency that the public depends on to “preserve, protect and enhance the natural and cultural resources of the Pinelands National Reserve.”

This is a critical moment for the survival of New Jersey’s Pinelands.  This report shows that it is getting harder to keep inappropriate development out of areas that were set aside for protection by the Pinelands Plan over 35 years ago.  When we allow Pinelands rules to be waived or ignored “just this time” we sacrifice the very foundation on which protection of the Pinelands is based.  New Jersey’s residents can’t afford to be silent – the only way the Pinelands will survive is if citizens pressure our state government relentlessly to protect it.

Read the State of the Pinelands report on our website.  Pinelands Preservation Alliance members will receive a copy of this report in the mail.

Citations
National Parks and Recreation Act of 1978, page 2, Sec. 471i. Pine Barrens Area, New Jersey.

Taking Direct Action

By | February 11th, 2016

dontgasthepinelands-4-22-14-jasonhowell

Non-violent Direct Action tactics have been used by people across the world to address a social issue or injustice committed by a business interest or government institution. Direct Action tactics include strikes, demonstrations, sit-ins or other public forms of non-violent protest.  Putting one’s own body in the way can be an intimidating proposal, but with training and education, citizens can be extremely effective. When Rosa Parks defiantly disobeyed Alabama law and took a seat in the front of that Montgomery bus, she made a choice to stand up for her rights despite the risk. When government takes away the voice and power of the citizenry, the citizenry has the moral authority to confidently assert themselves in righteous defiance.

The environmental movement has used non-violent direct action in a variety of ways. A well-known example is the citizens who took direct action to prevent loggers from cutting down redwood trees in northern California by living in these trees for a period of time.  The publicity from efforts like this can help to spur debate about better ways to address important social issues like the protection of our land, air, and water. 

It is critically important that we are prepared to take action.  People who engage in nonviolent direct action must be educated in its strategies and must be aware of the challenges that may arise. Companies and governments have a variety of options to use against citizens who stand up to them and we must know how to respond. It is imperative that you have training to guide you through the process. It is also essential to establish a coordinated plan for direct action as well as a code of conduct among participants in order to ensure it is effective.

All direct action strategies rest on the same premise; the government has failed to listen to the people has instead favored the interests of power and money. We the people have a right to say no to projects put forth on our behalf, paid for by the people and approved against the will of the people. If you have a deep passion for social and environmental justice and wish to take a stand on this issue, then we encourage you to join us at Direct Action training this Saturday from 10:00am to 4:00pm at the Medford Friends Meeting House at 14 Union Street in Medford, NJ.

Register online today. 


For more information contact Lena Smith at Food & Water Watch New Jersey at lsmith@fwwatch.org or call 732-839-0878

The Pinelands Preservation Alliance is a sponsor of this training.