Protecting Roadside Vegetation
In violation of the Pinelands regulations, road maintenance crews have been destroying the natural vegetation along roadways throughout the Pinelands.
Pinelands Preservation Alliance wants the Pinelands Commission to protect and restore the native vegetation communities on our public roadsides.
[+ ZOOM] Hydroseeding of roadside on Rt. 70 © PPA
The Natural Resources
- Common native plants that thrive in open, sunny conditions, including many beautiful wildflowers, have long been one of the cherished natural resources of the Pinelands.
- Populations of many Rare, Threatened, and Endangered plant species have been found along roadsides of the Pinelands for hundreds of years.
- Experts have estimated that the shoulders of our roads include about 10,000 acres of Pinelands habitats.
- Road shoulders are the most readily visible aspect of the Pinelands.
In violation of the Pinelands regulations, and mostly in the recent past, road maintenance crews have been destroying the natural vegetation on our road shoulders and replacing it with weeds, litter, non-native grasses, and sometimes invasive plant species.
- Grading of road shoulders and application of hydro-seed mixtures effectively wipe out the native plant community. Example: Route 539.
- In some places road maintenance crews have been filling potholes and other low areas on the roadsides with rich soil mixtures that include trash and debris from municipal composting facilities. Example: Route 528.
- Typically, roadside mowing effectively cuts down wildflowers either before they can blossom or while they are in their prime display. Example: just about everywhere.
Some of the Soil Conservation Districts have been requiring that whenever soil is disturbed on road shoulders, it must be stabilized by applying lime, fertilizer, and non-native plants.
[+ ZOOM] A rare Pine Barrens Gentian after mowing along roadside. © PPA
The Pinelands Commission has not been addressing these violations, but has recently begun working with PPA to address the problem.
How Serious Is This Problem?
Local botanical experts and other naturalists have been bemoaning the loss of native wildflowers on the road shoulders for decades. They cite scores and scores of examples of plant populations lost due to official carelessness and negligence.
If current practices were allowed to continue, eventually all the native vegetation along all road shoulders along paved roads in the Pinelands would be exterminated. We believe, though, that these destructive practices can change.
- Although road maintenance frequently entails some minor disturbance of road shoulders, there is never any good reason to replace the native vegetation.
- Although the Pinelands Commission has agreements that allow the counties and towns to do routine road maintenance without processing an application, these agreements refer strictly to road maintenance, and are not a license to destroy road shoulder vegetation.
What Are PPA and the Pinelands Commission Doing?
- We are working together with state, county, and municipal agencies as well as the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to implement best management practices in the Pinelands. Some of these suggested practices are outlined in a report created by Michael Van Clef, Ph.D. for Pinelands Preservation Alliance.
What Does PPA Recommend to the Commission?
- Implement the rules you have to stop the flagrant violations. You have the opportunity, during review of proposed projects, to require sensible measures to protect the native flora.
- Revise your rules and policies, if need be, to get a better handle on the issue.
- Initiate a program to restore areas where the native plant populations have been destroyed.
Public testimony on roadside vegetation issue provided at March 13, 2009 Pinelands Commission meeting by Pinelands resident.
Recent News coverage: