Pinelands Overview

The Pine Barrens of New Jersey is a unique, beautiful and fascinating natural treasure.

The Pinelands Preservation Alliance advocates for Pinelands preservation before government agencies like the New Jersey Pinelands Commission and seeks to educate the public about the Pinelands and the threats facing its natural resources.

Advocacy work is focused on four basic themes:

1. Monitoring public agencies, especially the Pinelands Commission,
2. Protecting the water quality of the Pine Barrens ecosystem,
3. Protecting the water supply embedded in the aquifers underlying the Pinelands and sustaining both the human and the natural communities of this region, and
4. Improving habitat protection for the distinctive, rare, threatened and endangered plant and animal species of the Pinelands.

Image of Fall emerges on Cedar Creek.Fall emerges on Cedar Creek. © Carleton Montgomery/ PPA

Today, as throughout our history, human beings depend on the health and vitality of the Pine Barrens’ ecosystems. Wander through the region’s forests and you will find a surprising variety of scenery, habitats and species in this island of biodiversity within the most crowded part of North America. You will find the largest surviving open space on the eastern seaboard between the northern forests of Maine and the Everglades of Florida. Ghost towns, historic sites and legends such as the Jersey Devil preserve the Pinelands’ unique culture, telling the many stories of how humans have used and depended on the natural world around them. The “Pinelands” is an area of 1.1 million acres designated for special growth management rules. It is one of America’s foremost efforts to control growth so that people and the rest of nature can live compatibly, preserving vast stretches of forest, rare species of plants and wildlife, and vulnerable freshwater aquifers.

It is the largest surviving open space on the eastern seaboard between the northern forests of Maine and the Everglades of Florida.

Image of Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan map.[+ ZOOM] Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan map.

In the 1960s and ‘70s, citizens, scientists and farsighted politicians realized that the Pine Barrens was something special that we needed to save. They understood that the Pine Barrens was threatened by the sprawling development that was eating up New Jersey’s open spaces in the great post-World War II expansion.Their efforts led Congress to pass § 502 of the federal National Parks and Recreation Act of 1978 and New Jersey to pass the Pinelands Protection Act of 1979. These laws created the Pinelands National Reserve and the New Jersey Pinelands Commission. Adopted by the Pinelands Commission in 1980, the Comprehensive Management Plan regulates where development can take place by creating conservation and growth zones and applying stringent environmental standards to all development. The goal is to protect the Pinelands’ natural resources while allowing agriculture and urban/suburban development that is compatible with the overriding environmental protection goal. Download: Comprehensive Management Plan Map (PDF)

Pinelands Commission

The New Jersey Pinelands Commission is an independent state agency overseen by a 15-member board of unpaid volunteer Commissioners. The Commission has the power to override all local land use and development regulations, and municipalities are required by law to conform their local master plans and zoning ordinances to the regional plan.

Image of Development in and around the Pinelands threaten water systems and habitat.[+ ZOOM] Development in and around the Pinelands threaten water systems and habitat. © Kevin Sparkman

Protecting the Pinelands is an enormous challenge. As land around the Pinelands, and land in the Pinelands’ growth zones, is developed, the pressure only grows to make changes or exceptions to the rules against development of the conservation zones. Even when enforced to the letter, today’s rules are not strong enough to save the Pine Barrens from the cumulative impacts of development. In many areas, new and better policies are needed to make the Pinelands the protection ideal succeed over the long run.

The Comprehensive Management Plan implements the powers granted to the Pinelands Commission by the 1979 New Jersey Pinelands Protection Act and the Federal National Parks and Recreation Act of 1978. The regulations and standards it contains are designed to promote orderly development of the Pinelands so as to preserve and protect the significant and unique natural, ecological, agricultural, archaeological, historical, scenic, cultural and recreational resources of the Pinelands.


Interactive Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan Map

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