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Archive for February, 2016

A Call to Art

Thursday, 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


Healy, D. (2009, September 13). Early photographer key to park’s preservation. Retrieved February 1, 2016, from

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

State of the Pinelands: The Year in Review

Wednesday, 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.

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

Taking Direct Action

Thursday, February 11th, 2016


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 or call 732-839-0878

The Pinelands Preservation Alliance is a sponsor of this training.


Connecting to the Land

Friday, February 5th, 2016


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


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 topamax 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.



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.


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