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Managing Our State Forests

By | May 25th, 2016

Cedar Swamp at Goshen Pond in Wharton State Forest

Cedar Swamp at Goshen Pond in Wharton State Forest

In our last blog post, we covered the ecological role of fire in the Pinelands and the use of prescribed burns as a management technique.  We know that prescribed burns are not the only management technique used in our forest, so how do we try to replicate natural disturbance events to promote overall ecological integrity and what should we prioritize in developing stewardship plans for managing our state forests?

While the type of management technique (burning, thinning, mowing, or logging) we decide to use is vital to the expected outcome – the frequency, intensity, scale, and location of a treatment is very important in mimicking natural events and maintaining ecological integrity.  Some points on disturbance we should keep in mind when thinking about forest management include:

1) Natural disturbances occur randomly over a landscape and their return intervals vary greatly.

2) Areas most susceptible to disturbance events are those with older, diseased, or stressed trees.

3) Middle-aged forests that have few early successional sites are functioning as expected.  Due to our past forestry and land use history, many sites that were cleared of trees have since been allowed to re-grow.   Open patches will naturally occur in forests that are allowed to mature.

4)  Natural disturbance events such as floods and fire may kill certain susceptible trees while maintaining their vertical profile.  These dead standing trees become critical habitat for many birds, bats and insects.

5) Another important factor is the scale of our treatment areas and identifying appropriate places for that treatment in recognition of its overall impacts to the landscape.

How we choose to manage our forests has a state wide implication, beyond the Pinelands region.  With recent forest stewardship plans, like Sparta Mountain, and proposed legislation to promote more forestry on state lands such as A2406, which would establish a forest harvest demonstration program in the Pinelands, now is the time to evaluate our past efforts and plan for the future.  We need site specific approaches to managing both the intact and many fragmented forests we have in New Jersey, the most densely populated state in the nation.

There are several items we must prioritize when assessing our forests, particularly on state land including:

1) Prioritize areas to control invasive species. They are most commonly found in areas of human disturbance.  We need to protect forests with few invasive species and recognize that the disturbance and open conditions created during forest harvests open the door for many non-native invaders.

2) Incorporate a plan for deer density in areas we plan to actively manage.  Not accounting for deer and their possible management can be detrimental to the expected forest regeneration.

3) Incorporate ecological surveys and rare species occurrences with an emphasis on the life history traits of uncommon species into forest stewardship plans.  Forest inventories (assessing what timber is available for harvesting) that are carried out prior to forest stewardship plans, such as those currently planned for Wharton and Penn State Forest, are focused on tree species and board feet of wood.  This is unacceptable for our state lands.  We must prioritize ecological surveys and forest stewardship plans.

4) Plan for additional human disturbance as a result of any management technique that opens large patches of forest.  As is evident in any right-of-way or fire service plow line in the Pinelands, off-road vehicles will repeatedly access open patches of forest negatively impacting the regeneration projected in any forest stewardship plan.  Ignoring this impact can compromise the effectiveness of our forest management.

5)  Identify which forests actually need management.  We need to identify which forests can benefit from management and which will be left alone, subject to natural disturbances and natural succession.  This is just as important as deciding which technique, what frequency and what scale we decide to use to actively manage a forest.

Many factors must be considered in developing forest stewardship plans and we shouldn’t rush the process just to increase the opportunities for harvesting trees.  In light of recent forestry plans, legislation and the Department of Environmental Protection’s unwillingness to address the off-road vehicle problem, we should not allow any forestry in the Pinelands until we address these current problems.

Fire in the Pines

By | May 11th, 2016

forestfirepond

After a recent forest fire in Wharton State Forest

Fire Gives Life to the Pine Barrens

Fire, like water, is an essential component of Pine Barrens ecology. Fire adds nutrients into the soil and creates open habitat essential for many species. For those of us who live within the Pines, we recognize that wildfire can be a risk from time to time and accept that some measures be taken to minimize the chance of damage to housing and infrastructure.  The compromise that we have collectively made is to conduct controlled burns that fulfill some of the ecological function of fire and simultaneously reduce the risk of a large forest fire that could potentially cause property damage. This is a more natural approach than clearing trees and opening the forest to damaging off-road vehicle activity. Read the rest of this entry »

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. Read the rest of this entry »

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

brendantbyrne-louslake3

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/