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Taking Direct Action

By | February 11th, 2016

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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.

 

Connecting to the Land

By | February 5th, 2016

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In the Pinelands today, we find ourselves in the same struggle that has been waged since the conservation movement started. There is a constant struggle to define what sustainable use of our natural resources means. How much “use” can a natural resource take before the balance is tipped?

When automobiles were introduced to Yosemite, John Muir cautioned against the threat of “windshield wilderness” in our parks and preserved land. However, both Muir and National Park Director Stephen Mather recognized the usefulness of the automobile in transporting visitors to the parks (Duncan,Burns 2010). When interviewed by John McPhee for the New Yorker, National Park Director George Hartzog discussed his frustrations with the outcomes of the approach to automobiles in Yosemite and the Parks.

Quoted by McPhee (1971) “The automobile as a recreational experience is obsolete…

We cannot accommodate automobiles in such numbers and still provide a quality environment for a recreational experience…. We’ve simply got to do something besides build roads in these parks if we’re going to have any parks left…. I’m not inflexible on anything except that I’m going to get rid of the damned automobile and I’m not going to get rid of people in the process.”(p. 237-238)

Hartzog recognized the usefulness of the automobile for getting people to natural areas, but he also understood the consequences of allowing unmanaged motorized recreation and transport on public land. It is still widely recognized that many motorized visitors fail to leave the perceived safety and comfortable of the automobile for a more authentic experience. The consequence of this is that some begin to look at nature more like an amusement park ride than an interconnected system created by millions of years of evolution. As if through a television screen, a comfort-laden, climate controlled vehicle does not offer a connection to the land. The automobile has become akin to a spaceship for those who perceive themselves to be an alien traveler in a dangerous, foreign land. On the contrary, preserved natural lands are some of the safest and most delicate areas of our modern landscape. With just a bit of research, visitors can confidently leave the confines of their automobile for a fulfilling, fun, and safe experience in the land that we all share

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The reality of the importance of land and water becomes clear with slowness, closeness, and dependence. The human body is a perfect vehicle for nature and it offers itself as part of the landscape instead of something distinct and separate. One cannot help but feel an overwhelming appreciation for the land when exposed to it in totality. We, as biological creatures, need to drink from the stream and pond, not drive into it. We want to eat the huckleberries, blueberries, cranberries and teaberries, appreciate the orchids and wildflowers, and not have them crushed into the ground.  We can stop walking or paddling, crouch down to an open flower and breathe in the fragrance of the wild.

Encapsulated in a motor vehicle, one cannot appreciate the drops of dew on a blade of sedge or grass, or a spider web tenuously woven across a trail and gleaming in the morning sun. The motor vehicle has no connection to the land. It cannot drink the water, nor eat the berries–it is a thing without natural origin, powered by a mixture of compounds not found together in the natural world and hazardous to health and life. Some of those contained within these vehicles will have no more compassion for a vibrant pond than a toddler has for a set of building blocks–thinking without consequence to its destruction. To some, these vehicles seem to mask the truth of our dependence on the natural world.

With connection, comes empathy and understanding. Outside, we can touch the shrubs and trees, grasses and flowers, taste the air and the water, and experience both the cold and the warm breeze. It is much harder to destroy a thing when you know it, when you learn to have compassion for it, and feel rough fibers of its structure. We can’t let our only experiences with nature be through the windshield of a vehicle. We lose something important as human beings when we remove ourselves from the natural world in this way. We need nature’s resources for our survival but if we don’t have a connection with the natural world it is difficult to understand the need for its protection. There is a place for vehicles in the Pines, but the consequences of unregulated motor-vehicle access have already taken from us some of the most beautiful areas of the forest. We need a management plan that protects sensitive habitat from off-road vehicles and we need it now.

 

Here is what you can do to help:

  1. Pinelands Commission Meeting – February 12th and 26th at 9:30 am:  The public will have an opportunity to speak.  Directions to the Pinelands Commission are available on their website.  They are located at 15 Springfield Road in Pemberton NJ.
  2. Tell the DEP Commissioner to Protect Wharton State Forest: Use this link to send an email to DEP Commissioner, Bob Martin today.

 

References:

Duncan, D., & Burns, K. (2010). The National Parks: America’s Best Idea. United States: National Parks Films.

McPhee, J. (1971). Pieces of the Frame. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

Protecting Our Last Wild Places

By | January 27th, 2016

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Forbidden Pond – Wharton State Forest © Jason Howell

Thousands of acres of precious Pine Barrens habitat has been lost in recent years–taken from us not by suburban sprawl, not by commercial development, but by unmanaged and reckless off-road vehicle (ORV) drivers.  The Pinelands Preservation Alliance and our partners have been working to identify and document each area of wetland, upland, and riparian habitat that has been removed from its function in the ecosystem by ORV activity.  In the Pine Barrens alone, we are at 147 sites and counting. The ORV drivers perpetrating this activity have come to the forest, not for its splendor, not its diversity, not its serenity and quiet.  They come to it for a place to challenge oil, gasoline, and steel against the fibers of nature. Unfortunately, without intervention, nature rarely wins. That’s why it is up to us to put a stop to this wanton destruction.

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NJCF Ecologist Emile Devito surveying Forbidden Pond in Wharton State Forest © Jason Howell

Since the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) withdrawal of the motorized access plan for Wharton State Forest, off-roaders have returned to previously protected wetlands to see what their vehicles are capable of.  Undeterred, we have documented hours of video footage of this activity and we are filing dozens of violation reports, but enforcement can only be employed after the crime has been committed and the damage wrought.

The time it takes for a convoy of motor vehicles to turn a vibrant wetland into a lifeless mud pit is less time than it takes most people to mow their lawns.  Although some in the off-road community have attempted to reach out to their peers to stop the destruction, our evidence shows that self-policing is not a realistic solution.  We need strong, effective, and science-based management that keeps off-road vehicles out of the most sensitive areas of the forest. Anything less will simply allow the destruction to continue at the expense of every other user of the forest for generations to come.

Take Action Today – learn more.

Management, combined with aggressive enforcement, is the only real way to prevent the infinite beauty of the Pines from being lost forever.  Education and ethics cannot be forced and we cannot wait for an epiphany of moral compassion from the individuals who are laying waste to precious habitat.  Laissez-faire management by the DEP has already had ruinous implications for the land they are charged with protecting.

In Camden County, Forbidden Pond was purchased by the DEP in 1996.  According to local amateur botanists, it once contained the rare little floating heart (Nymphoides cordata), but today it is has become a partial-wasteland from ORV abuse.  After years of neglect, this pond was finally protected by the Wharton State Forest Motorized Access Plan, only to be stripped of its protections months later as DEP officials backed down to appease vehicle advocates.  Today, we are left with the consequences as vehicles have continued to drive in circles in this pond.  However, our resolve is strong to protect the wild places we have left and to allow degraded land a chance to recover. It is our duty as concerned environmental citizens to speak up and act out on this issue.

“In the final analysis, it is the citizens who will decide the ultimate fate of the Pine Barrens. It is our responsibility to pass this wilderness heritage on, in its natural state, to our heirs.” – Howard Boyd, A Field Guide to the Pine Barrens of New Jersey


Here is what you can do to help:

  1. Pinelands Commission Meeting – January 29th at 9:30 am: The Policy and Implementation Committee of the Pinelands Commission will be discussing the DEP’s motorized access plan for Wharton State Forest at this meeting.  You can see the agenda on their website. The public will have an opportunity to speak.  Directions to the Pinelands Commission are available on their website.  They are located at 15 Springfield Road in Pemberton NJ.
  2. Tell the DEP Commissioner to Protect Wharton State Forest: Use this link to send an email to DEP Commissioner, Bob Martin today.

 

Get Personal with Double Trouble State Park

By | January 20th, 2016

© Kathleen LaPergola

© Kathleen LaPergola, Double Trouble State Park

The Pinelands Preservation Alliance needs your help to protect the natural heritage of our state.  We are looking for people who are interested in taking part in projects that further the goals of conservation. Volunteerism is a critical component to the preservation of our public lands, and we need you to continue building on the success of the past.  A group of committed individuals, grounded by science and the philosophy of conservation, have more power to effect change than any other factor and we are calling on you to join in.

We are helping the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) gather volunteers for a volunteer day to complete forest stewardship activities in Double Trouble State Park.  These are the first activities of the recently-approved Double Trouble State Park Natural Resource Stewardship Plan.


The volunteer day is scheduled to take place at 9 a.m. on February 6th.  Double Trouble is located in Lacey Township, Ocean County just off exit 77 of the Garden State Parkway.  We need your help!


Located in the Cedar Creek watershed, Double Trouble is a popular paddling destination and is home to an important historic village.  Cedar Creek is a major contributor to Barnegat Bay and a very enjoyable paddle through its cedar and maple swamps. I have personally enjoyed Cedar Creek in late August, watching Common Nighthawks (Chordeiles minor) fly in graceful loops over the water in search of insects and have enjoyed canoeing gently over a beaver’s damn after observing it quietly swim into its fortressed lodge.  A 35-acre area of upland forest was severely affected by a wildfire in 1994 so state foresters planted pine and oak species to quickly establish forest cover. That area has now grown in densely and the state Division of Parks and Forestry is requesting help from citizens to thin the new growth.  This project will improve the stand’s resiliency and resistance to disease and insect outbreaks.

Here is a bit about the history about the area.

The name Double Trouble gives immediate rise to an inquisitive mind.  Upon hearing it, I recall The Witches Spell from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, “Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble.  Cool it with a baboon’s blood, then the charm is firm and good.”  I like to think that this poem would have been in the minds of those who worked the furnace and forge of nearby Dover, located just upstream, as they processed the bog ore. Henry Charlton Beck proposed a possible explanation for the name in his folkloric book Forgotten Towns of Southern New Jersey (1936). Beck recounts the story of J. Reed Tillman, the cranberry bog superintendent at that time, who claimed that the name came from a local preacher who took to fixing the earthen dam that provided water power to the sawmill in use at the time. Beck explains,

“It seems there was once a profusion of muskrats at the end of the lake where, today, the cedar water piles over with such a rush that a foam of white suds tops the surface beyond the sluiceway. The old preacher and those who lived there with him had to repair the dam many times because the wild creatures ate away at the barrier. On several occasions, this man, whose name Tilton has forgotten, called out, “Here’s Trouble!” When the dam was gnawed through twice in one week, the cry became, “Here’s double trouble!” And here is Double Trouble to this day—though all that was nearly a hundred years ago.”

Earlier than this account, The Sun Newspaper of New York published an article on June 2, 1918 quoting Edward Crabbe, part owner of the Double Trouble Company:

“How did Double Trouble receive its name?” repeated Mr. Crabbe. “Good Luck, further down from Double Trouble, was the birthplace of the Universalist Church in America. In 1770, the clergyman who established the Universalist Church built a dam at this point and the beavers and muskrats, according to the story, broke through the dam and when the men came up to inspect it and saw the havoc wrought he remarked, “More trouble, double trouble”.  The name stuck.  If you will look at the topographic maps of New Jersey, you will see Double Trouble indicated. I have looked back over records in Perth Amboy and I find Double Trouble mentioned in deeds as far back as 1790.”

Cranberry operations were started at Double Trouble in the 1860s by the Burke Family who used the wetland areas left open from the logging of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Formed by Edward Crabbe in 1909, after the purchase of lands from the Burke Family in 1903, The Double Trouble Company eventually grew to be one of the largest cranberry operations in the state. Many of the company’s original structures are still preserved in the historic village, including a rare cranberry packing house and a saw-mill. (Smestad-Nunn)

Double Trouble State Park is now 8,000 acres and protects important historical and natural resources.  Your efforts aid in restoring this forest’s ecological function and help build a larger community of committed individuals with a conservation ethic. If you wish to attend, please RSVP to me at Jason@pinelandsalliance.org and I will provide you with directions and further details.

To learn more about visiting Double Trouble State Park please visit the state’s webpage here.  Guided tours of the historic village and exhibits are available.  Check with the state park for more information.

Citations:

  1. Beck, H. (1961). Double Trouble and Dover. In Forgotten towns of southern New Jersey (pp. 265-268). New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press.
  1. Good News From Double Trouble. (1918, June 2). The Sun. Section 7, Page 8. Retrieved January 17th From The Library of Congress, Chronicling America online http://1.usa.gov/1PhDtex
  1. Smestad-Nunn, J. (2015, June 19). From Cedar Mill to Cranberry Bog at Double Trouble Village. The Jackson Times. Retrieved January 17th, 2016, from http://micromediapubs.com/from-cedar-mill-to-cranberry-bog-at-double-trouble-village/

Balancing Use and Protection of Public Lands

By | January 13th, 2016

Tuckahoe Lake at Tuckahoe Wildlife Management Area

Tuckahoe Lake at Tuckahoe Wildlife Management Area. © Michael Hogan

The Pinelands Preservation Alliance supports and promotes the use of our state forests, parks, and fish and wildlife lands if done so in a responsible manner.  We also advocate for the preservation of lands specifically for wildlife and untouched by human disturbance.  Maintaining a balance between the two is always difficult, and we don’t claim to have all the answers.  What we hope to do is have an honest and open dialogue among public agencies, private entities and individuals so that we can reach a common ground.

This blog is our way of having this dialogue on a weekly basis.  We will share stories of problems, highlight successes, promote opportunities and ask that those who follow this blog do the same.  The end of 2015 highlighted the need for a continued dialogue about the balance between preservation and recreation.  The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) plays a major role in this effort and has taken action to reduce the impact of off-road recreation in some wildlife management areas. Read the rest of this entry »

Protecting Wharton State Forest – A New Plan Takes Shape

By | August 24th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 3.02.32 PMThe New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced the launch of a Motorized Access Plan (MAP) for the state’s largest tract of land, Wharton State Forest (125,000 acres). This plan consists of a map that delineates close to 225 miles of sand and unimproved roads intended for motor vehicle use while leaving other access areas for emergency vehicles, wildlife, walking and other low-impact recreation. It also includes a brochure that highlights the ecology of Wharton State Forest. The driving map and brochure will be available later this summer at Atsion Recreation Area and historic Batsto Village. Download the driving map 

I’d like to explain why the Pinelands Preservation Alliance supports the Motorized Access Plan (MAP), with the understanding that there is plenty of room for honest disagreement about whether this policy is the best response to the problems Wharton faces.

PPA’s Long-held Position: Stop the Destruction

For years, PPA has called for a set of actions to address what we see as a real crisis in the State Forest: the destruction being caused by illegal and irresponsible “mudding” and ATV use and dumping. One of those actions is the closing of some sand roads so the State Forest can focus its very limited resources on maintaining fewer roads and enforcing rules against illegal and destructive activities.

The MAP actually reiterates rules that have been in place for many years, but haven’t been enforced. It leaves all public rights of way open for motorized vehicles, with the exception of a few that are currently too dangerous but will be opened when (and if) repaired. The roads the MAP closes to trucks, cars and motorcycles are all unofficial roads have been created by a variety of people and agencies over a long range of time.

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Jemima Mount in Wharton State Forest

Some key facts about the MAP that guide our decision to support it are these:

  • More than 220 miles of sand roads are open to the public for driving. All of Wharton State Forest is within one mile or less of these public sand roads or paved public roads. Check the maps: it’s true.
  • The liveries, including Pinelands Adventures and Micks and Bel Haven, as well as all other groups like PPA, are subject to the MAP just like the general public. There are no special deals for or against the groups supporting or opposing the MAP. PPA doesn’t get to charge people so they can go places in the woods. Like the other liveries, Adventures charges people for its livery service and boat rentals, not for access, because access is free to everyone (except the liveries, which pay the state for permits to the same places that are free to the public).
  • The Forest Fire Service strongly supports the MAP because it will keep the fire fighting roads it needs open and safe, whereas today many of those roads have become impassable and dangerous due to “mudding” by trucks and jeeps.
  • The only special accommodation in the MAP is for those with disabilities who cannot walk to their special places. The DEP states it will provide special permits to those with disabilities.

The MAP will only work if it is enforced by the State Park Police. Some people are justly worried that the people doing harm will ignore the rules and continue to use the “closed” sand roads, while law-abiding citizens will be the only ones excluded from driving on roads they have used for many years. The Department of Environmental Protection states that the Park Police will step up its game and make the MAP work. We will be watching to hold the State to that commitment.

If you need more information, you can download the DEP’s “Motorized Access Plan – Frequently Asked Questions document.”

The FAQs include information about how to share feedback with the state about the MAP and about stakeholder meetings that will be held on the MAP in September 2015. The DEP states that the MAP is a work in progress. The State Park Service will be evaluating the effectiveness of the plan and if possible some roads/routes may be opened in the future.

The Damage is Real

The Pinelands Preservation Alliance and the South Jersey Land and Water Trust documented some of the damage in 2014 when we mapped and surveyed sites of illegal off-road vehicle damage and dumping on state-owned lands in the Pinelands. We documented 114 damaged sites including sites in Wharton State Forest, which is by no means the complete list of the impacts our state lands have suffered from these illegal activities.

View an interactive map of the damage on our website.

We have heard from many people who use the Pinelands and Wharton State Forest to hunt, hike, drive and bike saying that in the last five to ten years they have never seen the roads torn up like they are now. Our own experience bears this out as a few of our staff have become stuck in deep puddles when out scouting routes for future field trips and have needed to get towed out. We have talked to tow truck drivers who had to change their equipment in order to reach customers in Wharton State Forest and elsewhere because the roads have become so bad.

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Erosion and stream sedimentation are a big concern for riparian and aquatic species as well as our State’s anglers. The complete destruction some drivers have caused to certain vernal pools has reduced the amount of breeding grounds left for the threatened Pine Barrens Tree-frog. When vehicles drive down the sandy banks of the Mullica and the Batsto Rivers, they greatly increase erosion which causes soil sedimentation and the degradation of aquatic habitat. The problem of erosion caused by irresponsible off-road vehicle use isn’t restricted to just the riverbanks. Unethical drivers will purposely rut trails and wetlands areas to cover their vehicles in mud. The erosion caused by rutting leads again to river sedimentation and habitat destruction. There is no doubt that extensive damage has occurred in Wharton State Forest and elsewhere.

Enforcement

Enforcement of illegal off-roading activities has been difficult for the Park Police without a well-publicized map clearly designating areas for motorized vehicle use and areas where motorized vehicles are prohibited. This plan and map make it possible for the State Forest and Park Police to use their limited resources effectively by placing some roads off-limits to motorized vehicles.

The Wharton State Forest MAP is no different from management plans in all National Parks and State Forests, where many sand roads are not open to driving by the public in the interests of protecting natural resources and public safety. This means that some visitors may not be able to drive on a sand road they had used before. It is a shame that the situation has reached this point after years of work increasing fines through state legislation and local ordinances, increasing public awareness about the issues and creating a State off-road vehicle park. But the problem persists, and the State of New Jersey has a responsibility to protect the natural and cultural resources of all the land it owns.

The MAP will keep vehicles out of places that are currently being damaged, so these places can recover, and keep undamaged areas from becoming the next ORV playground.

PPA has helped organize volunteers to assist Wharton State Forest to protect and restore damaged areas. All volunteers work at the direction of the State Forest, not the Pinelands Preservation Alliance. No live trees were cut by volunteers. Blocking informal and illegal access ways to streams, wetlands and upland habitats is an important part of this project.

If you have any questions about this project please contact Wharton State Forest at 609-268-0444.

Pinelands Preservation Alliance Releases Annual State of the Pinelands Report

By | December 22nd, 2014

On December 15, 2014 the Pinelands Preservation Alliance (PPA) released its 2014 State of the Pinelands Report.  This past year has shown just how crucially the Pinelands depends on the support and will of two key players: the state Pinelands Commission and the governor of the day.  We discuss the South Jersey Gas pipeline issue at length in this year’s State of the Pinelands Report because it points out how Pinelands protections were almost subverted for a major development project and remain very much at risk.

State of the Pinelands Report_2014 cover imageThe report focuses on the state of Pinelands preservation and rates how specific actions of government agencies have either helped or harmed the Pinelands during the past twelve months. The report rates the actions of government officials and agencies that include the governor, Pinelands Commission, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), New Jersey State Legislature, local government, and other governmental agencies. Since the fate of the Pinelands rests primarily with decisions by government, the public needs a way to hold these agencies accountable for their performance through an annual report.

PPA believes there is real cause for concern in the actions of government agencies responsible for safeguarding the Pinelands.

South Jersey Gas Pipeline Still an Issue

The most well-know threat to the integrity of the Pinelands protection rules over the past year is the South Jersey Gas pipeline issue.  The good news was that in January 2014 the Pinelands Commission did not approve the special deal that was presented to authorize the pipeline in direct violation of the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP).  But the Commission’s vote was 7-7 — evenly split.  “That is cause for profound concern.  This should have been an easy decision since the CMP is not ambiguous in barring this kind of new infrastructure in the Pinelands Forest Area,” states Carleton Montgomery, PPA’s executive director, in his introduction to the report.

And the threat still lingers.  South Jersey Gas has stated in multiple forums that it intends to get the pipeline built, despite the Commission’s decision.  Shortly after the 7-7 vote the governor submitted two nominations to replace sitting members of the Pinelands Commission who had voted “no” to the deal.

Stacking the Deck on the Commission

“These nominations, which are still pending before the state Senate for confirmation, are a transparent effort to pack the Pinelands Commission with reliable ‘yes’ votes for a pipeline deal that directly violates the protections of the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan,” Montgomery explains.  “It is up to the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to stop this assault on the Pinelands and good government.”

“These nominations are an effort to pack the Pinelands Commission with reliable ‘yes’ votes for a pipeline deal that directly violates the protections of the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan.” — Carleton Montgomery, PPA

Despite a number of environmental setbacks, some good initiatives and outcomes came about this past year. The annual Pinelands Short Course sponsored by the Commission continues to grow in popularity. Since its inception the Short Course has provided a wonderful opportunity for people to learn more about unique natural, historic, and cultural aspects of the Pine Barrens. The Short Course is something that the Commission takes great pride in, and deservedly so.

The Commission also took action to prevent electronic billboard signs from being placed in the more environmentally sensitive areas of the Pinelands when it required Monroe Township in Gloucester County to change the ordinance that would have allowed their placement in these areas.

Crackdown on Illegal Dumping

This past year the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection launched a crackdown on illegal dumping with the support of the State Police and Attorney General’s office.  According the DEP this program has resulted in 28 enforcement actions and more than $450,000 worth of pending fines.  Strategically deployed motion detector cameras have been set up in select parks and wildlife management areas to help catch violators.  The DEP manages over 813,000 acres in the state of New Jersey with the largest tracts of lands being in the Pinelands.

Funding for Open Space

This year’s report also recognizes the great work of the state legislature to pass a measure allowing New Jersey residents to vote on funding for preserving parks, open space, historic sites, farmland and flood-prone areas.  The measure passed overwhelmingly on November 4, 2014.  This was the 14th open space ballot question approved by New Jersey voters since the 1961.

But in addition to the issues surrounding the South Jersey Gas pipeline the report notes some important setbacks by municipalities and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

The townships of Monroe, Stafford and Manchester continued to take actions to develop land that was previously preserved as open space for their residents.  In each case the proposed development will impact habitat for plants and animals and reduce the amount of useable open space for its residents.  These issues will only get more complicated as New Jersey becomes more populated.

The DEP has failed to release the updated Statewide Water Supply Plan.  The “current” plan is 18 years old despite the fact that five year updates are required by law.  The purpose of the Plan is to improve water supply capacity, investigate the status of major aquifers and plan for future water supply needs.  The time has long come and gone for this plan to be released.

MOA’s Weakening the CMP

One of the fundamental weaknesses that PPA identifies is in the way that the Pinelands Commission seems now to view is own regulations. Over the past several years, there has been a slow shift in philosophy from applying the Pinelands CMP as rules with regulatory teeth, to seeing the CMP as guidelines only, to be negotiated around in deference to developers and ratable-chasing local governments.

This disrespect for its own rules can be seen in the Pinelands Commission’s Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) process that it increasingly uses to allow private developers, municipal and county governments to avoid basic Pinelands environmental protections in order to promote profit-driven new development that does not meet Pinelands rules. This is the waiver method which the Pinelands Commission staff wants the Commissioners to use in approving the natural gas pipeline through the Pinelands Forest Area.

“This year’s report once again points out how the MOA process can be used for the wrong reasons and, in doing so, undermine respect for the Pinelands Commission and harm natural resources,” stated Richard Bizub, Director for Water Programs for PPA.

The past few years have cemented PPA’s conviction that if the Pinelands is going to survive as a unique place for future generations, it is going to require more than government regulations and PPA watching over the Pinelands Commission.

“The long-term survival of the Pinelands is going to take a citizenry committed to holding our elected and appointed officials’ feet to the fire. And perhaps most of all, it is going to require a new generation of citizen activists to accomplish this important task,” stated Bizub.

PPA hopes this eighth annual State of the Pinelands report will both inform and provoke, all with the good intentions of protecting the Pinelands for current and future generations.

The complete report is available and can be faxed or emailed upon request.  For more information please contact PPA at 609-859-8860.

A good start to 2013

By | February 14th, 2013

by Jaclyn Rhoads, Director for Conservation Policy

A few may recall, but most likely don’t remember that the passage of state-wide legislation requiring the tagging and registration of off-road vehicles in 2009 contained a last minute provision that prevented the law from being implemented until the state designated one park for ORV riding.

Well, the day has come after four years since passage of the legislation.  The opening of the first state-owned off-road vehicle facility in January was a pleasant surprise to environmentalists and ORV enthusiasts alike.

All ORV owners are required to register and tag their vehicles.  The Motor Vehicle Commission will institute the new regulations under the law starting April 1st and charge owners $50 for the registration with an additional $10 going into an ORV fund for new parks.

More information to follow in our May newsletter, but for now enjoy the good news and thanks to all for your help in this significant campaign to establish greater protections for our public lands and private property from off-road vehicle damage.

Click here for information about the new ORV park in Woodbine.

Where are our Legislative Environmental Champions?

By | July 5th, 2012

by Jaclyn Rhoads, Director for Conservation Policy

Every year in June, legislators scramble to get their bills finished before summer recess.  Deals are made, and usually the environment gets sacrificed.  Some years are worse than others, and 2012 will rank high on the list for environmental deregulation.

The Permit Extension Act of 2012 (S743/A1338) passed easily.  Nearly every legislator voted for this act, which claims to create new jobs but in reality only hands builders more time to delay projects, wait for values to rise and make more money while escaping compliance with any environmental protection adopted since 2007.  If the legislature truly wanted to generate jobs, then it should have required permit holders to start building within the next three years to get its environmental exemptions.  The Act doesn’t provide any incentives for moving forward on projects – only for delaying further.  Worse in many ways, environmentally sensitive areas like the Pinelands, Highlands and Barnegat Bay are now included, allowing developers to skirt around environmental protections even in these areas that have passed within the past six years.

If that isn’t bad enough, the resolution to override DEP’s new “Waiver Rule” was passed by the Assembly but held from a Senate vote by the Senate President, south Jersey’s own Stephen Sweeney.  Were deals made with the Governor for some goodies?  We will never know but the signs are all there, since the resolution enjoyed wide support among Democratic lawmakers.  The resolution, SCR59, would have stopped the Waiver Rule from going into effect, now scheduled for August 1st.  DEP adopted the Waiver Rule to authorize widespread, discretionary waivers of environmental protections for the benefit of developers and polluters who don’t want to follow the law.

Not only have the legislature turned their back on environmental protections, but the state will run out of funds for open space, historic and farmland preservation this year.  The Governor had promised to protect Barnegat Bay and fund open space preservation, but both the Governor and the legislature have apparently opted to put these goals off for another day.

There are a few environmental champions in the legislator, but unfortunately, so many are turning their backs on important bills.  Learn how your Assemblyperson and Senator voted for these bills, and call them with your concerns.

(Click on this link – http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/ and enter bill number on the right side of the page under Bill Search, click on the bill and at the bottom of the page select roll call to view the legislators vote.)

DEP Gives Wal-Mart a “Way Around” Environmental Protections in the Pinelands

By | May 15th, 2012

by Carleton Montgomery, Executive Director

Last week, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) granted a permit for construction of a Wal-Mart super-store in the Pinelands National Reserve in Ocean County, even though DEP had twice denied this development for violating regulations that are supposed to protect rare species, water quality and natural habitats.

After the second denial, the Asbury Park Press quoted newly-installed governor Christie as saying “There may be a way around it.  The DEP is working on it.”

So it was no surprise when DEP announced a proposed “settlement” to approve the same development plan that DEP had previously denied.  The agency’s rationale was that the developer will pay for compensatory habitat enhancements on several other, disconnected and distant pieces of land.  Before adopting such a settlement, DEP has to open it up for public comment.  So PPA and other groups submitted extensive comments showing the settlement was both legally and scientifically wrong.

There are two more important facts to consider about this deal with Wal-Mart:

First, DEP is no longer calling it a “settlement” of litigation.  Now they’re just issuing a permit, as if there was nothing unusual about the case.  Calling the deal a “settlement” was actually a candid admission that the plan couldn’t be approved under the Department’s regulations.  But after taking public comment, DEP may have realized the law doesn’t allow them to violate their rules just by calling it the approval a “settlement.”  When government tries to find “a way around” its rules, it always gets itself twisted up in such contradictions.

Second, we now know more about what kind of company Wal-Mart has become.  While sending millions of dollars to national environmental groups, it seems to have been sending even more millions in bribes to government officials across Mexico to buy permits in violation of environmental and other development rules.

In a detailed expose, the New York Times has revealed that Wal-Mart carried out, then covered up, a multi-million dollar campaign of bribing officials throughout Mexico to obtain development permits.  When a Wal-Mart lawyer got wind of the bribes and started to investigate, top management transferred the investigation to the very company official in Mexico who was deeply involved in directing the bribery campaign.  There it died until the Times started its investigation.

According to the Times report, the bribery campaign and subsequent cover-up were approved at the highest level of the company, including top managers in the U.S.  Wal-Mart is not denying the allegations, which are now being investigated by the Justice Department.  Bribing foreign officials directly violates American law, as well as foreign laws.  It’s also terrible for the economy and welfare of foreign countries, as each bribe begets more bribery and more artificial, bureaucratic rules on which more corrupt officials can hang their demands for cash.

Is it appropriate or seemly for our State to give a special deal to a company that has used bribery to get land use permits in blatant violation of American and foreign law, then tried to bury the evidence?  Is this the kind of company to which our governor and DEP Commissioner should give special dispensations on behalf of the people of New Jersey?

The bribery scandal should be the straw that breaks the camel’s back on this bad deal in the Pinelands.  Governor Christie should simply withdraw the permit and hold Wal-Mart to the letter of the law if it wants to build a store in the Pines, or anywhere else in New Jersey.

For more details, including the prior DEP permit denial, the proposed “settlement,” and PPA’s and other groups’ objections to the “settlement,” please go to the Pinelands Preservation Alliance web site at www.pinelandsalliance.org/protection/work/currentissues/development/walmarttomsrivermanchester