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Fight for the Future of the Pines

Friday, August 19th, 2016
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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 IMG_2373chance 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.

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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.

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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.

Take action now 

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.

 

 

Grassroots call for more Federal participation in the Pinelands.

Thursday, August 11th, 2016
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Photograph by Albert Horner

Photograph by Albert Horner

 

A recent grass-roots petition calling for the upgrading of the Pinelands National Reserve to National Park status has gained thousands of signatures over the past few weeks.  While the language of the petition needs substantial flushing out, the desire for a higher level of federal participation has merit, especially as the interference of state politics grows in the agencies charged with the stewardship of the Pinelands.

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Bog Asphodel by Jason Howell

Although the re-designation of some part of the Pinelands National Reserve may not be a practical short-term proposal, Department of Interior and the National Park Service should take a stronger public role in the Pines. The Pinelands was designated as the Nation’s first National Reserve in order to fully protect the most important habitat while compromising in other areas to allow for the partial expansion of Pinelands Towns , Regional Growth Areas, and pre-existing agricultural use. Other cultural concerns were also taken into account, such as the highly valued practice of hunting and trapping. These multifaceted compromises were critical during the negotiations that led to the National Reserve’s designation, and this approach is the reason the Comprehensive Management Plan has been successful to date.

The Pinelands Protection Act(1979) was authorized by Congress due to the importance of the region to the Nation as a whole. The act ordered the creation of the Comprehensive Management Plan and directed the creation of the Pinelands Commission to oversee the plan’s implementation. This was truly a landmark land use agreement at the time and has been widely studied by other regions developing conservation arrangements with a large variety of public and private interests.

 

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Pine Barrens Treefrog

This model has functioned well for over three decades, but there are new concerns about the interference of State politics in stewardship decisions. Particularly concerning has been the executive branch’s efforts to replace the honest and dedicated Pinelands Commissioners who voted their conscious against the construction of the South proscar Jersey Gas Pipeline that is now being battled in the courts. This type of political interference is a serious threat to the integrity of the Commission and one that has been noticed by the citizenry and the press. The recent withdrawal of the Motorized Access Plan by the NJDEP has highlighted the negative effect special interest groups can have on the preservation of the land with the highest ecological value in the State. This failure of stewardship is not lost on the general public, and that is why we have seen such a strong public response to a petition that would take control out of the State’s hands.

The Federal Government should have a greater role in the management of this largest open space on the eastern seaboard between the everglades and the northern forests of Maine. As it stands today, the Department of Interior only has one seat on the Pinelands Commission, while seven Commissioners are appointed by the Governor of New Jersey and one Commissioner is appointed by each of the seven counties in the Pinelands Region. Additionally, the Chairperson of the Pinelands Commission is directly appointed by the Governor of New Jersey, and this combination has given the executive branch far more power than any other party.

With this new surge of grassroots energy to reestablish a federal relationship with the Pines, the Department of Interior should begin to take a more public role in the major decisions that need to be made by the Commission. If they do this, perhaps they can begin to rebalance the power relationship in the Commission and begin to put conservation first, instead of the desires of  special interests. As New Jersey begins to reach the build out of available private land, there will be more pressure than ever to cave in to the demands of the developers. We are in the midst of a renewed conservation movement to counter this pressure and we are going to need all the help we can get.

 

Poaching in the Pines

Monday, June 13th, 2016
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Northern Pine Snake

When the illegal business of poaching is brought up in media, it is most often in reference to the large mammals of the African Plains, the rare species of the Amazon, or the last of the great cats in Asia, but right here in the Pinelands National Reserve we face many of the same threats to our iconic species. Most notably, the Northern Pine Snake, the Timber Rattle Snake, Spotted turtles, Box Turtles, and juvenile American eels. In 2009, the NY Department of Environmental Conservation revealed a secret network of reptile smugglers in the Long Island Pine Barrens Preserve and New York State with connections to New Jersey, Maryland, Louisiana, and Ontario, Canada. Their investigation revealed part of the world of illegal trade in endangered and threatened species native to the Pine Barrens. The investigation began when an entire population of Spotted-Turtles that was being studied abruptly vanished. Investigators made connections at reptile shows where enthusiasts meet to buy, sell, and admire species. While the majority of those that attend these shows are law-abiding and conservation minded, it is also true that there are those who are willing to break the law in pursuit of rare species or a lucrative sale.

(more…)

Fire in the Pines

Wednesday, May 11th, 2016
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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. (more…)

Road Designations for the Pinelands

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016
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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. (more…)

Lenses of Nature

Tuesday, April 12th, 2016
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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. (more…)

A Renewed Effort

Friday, March 25th, 2016
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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. (more…)

The Death of a Pine Snake

Thursday, March 17th, 2016
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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. (more…)

Investing in Nature

Thursday, March 10th, 2016
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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

Thursday, March 3rd, 2016
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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.

 

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