In the Pinelands National Reserve, we are in the midst of a major cultural challenge. The majority of visitors and residents of the Pines are law abiding, respectful, and conservation-minded, but a small minority has opinions that are counter to the conservation values that we all work so hard to instill. On July 12th, as part of a restoration effort, hard-working volunteers planted 300 Atlantic White Cedar trees on private land that had suffered from tremendous abuse by off-road vehicles. The total cost of the 3-6 foot tall Atlantic White Cedars was over $2,000 dollars, not including the hours spent in the hot July sun by these committed volunteers. The roots began to take successfully and it appeared that this restoration had a strong chance of success, but on the night of August 6th, a group of off-road vehicle drivers decided differently.
They drove their vehicles in circles purposefully in the site, rutted the soil, and drove over the freshly planted saplings. They then got off their vehicles and physically pulled the tender trees out of the ground as the roots clung to the native soil. The ORV drivers then piled the saplings in a large mound, poured gasoline on them, and lit them on fire. This despicable behavior is all too common in the off-road vehicle culture as just last week another ORV driver was arrested for striking a police officer while fleeing the scene of a crime. Whether it is a historic site, ice-aged pond, paleo-dune, stream, or river, off-road vehicle drivers have shown no mercy to the Pine Barrens. We have to work to stop this or we will continue to lose many of the most beautiful and unique habitats of the Pinelands.
Time-lapse footage of volunteers planting Atlantic White Cedar saplings
Video of the aftermath of Off-road Vehicle vandalism on the restoration site.
In another example, just two weeks after volunteers cleaned and repainted the grounds and structures of Apple Pie Hill, individuals returned and threw televisions off the tower once again, littered beer cans and other refuse, and spray painted profane language across signs and guardrails. This landmark destination in the Pinelands is a microcosm of what has been happening across the National Reserve and the State forests within it, but we are not discouraged. This weekend we will paint back over the graffiti and clean up the refuse left by these individual in order to give the other visitors of the Pines the experience that they deserve.
Even in witness to this incredible behavior, we will not be discouraged, our resolve is steadfast and we will eventually succeed in the effort to protect the land and water from off-road vehicle abuse and the other threats. We are in this for the future of the Pinelands National Reserve and we will continue to fight to prevent further damage and work to restore areas that have already been lost.
Come to the next Pinelands Commission meeting and tell them to stop off-road vehicle abuse in the Pinelands. The next meeting is Friday, September 9th at 9:30 AM.