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Crusading for clean water in an outrigger canoe

August 28th, 2015

RELEASE: Aug. 28, 2015 – Volume XLVIII, No. 35

How far would you go to raise awareness of an issue? For paddler and clean water crusader Margo Pellegrino of Medford Lakes, the answer is thousands of miles!

This summer, Margo spent two months in her outrigger canoe, paddling 1,600 miles from Newark to Chicago via inland waterways. The journey took her up the Hudson River, through the locks of the Erie Canal and along the shores of the Great Lakes.

She launched in unseasonably chilly weather on May 20 and finished up in the heat of midsummer on July 18. In between, she paddled in sun, rain, wind and waves, averaging about 40 miles a day.

And she’s not done. Next summer she plans to paddle the second leg of her inland voyage, from Chicago to New Orleans along the Mississippi River.

“Our water needs to be protected. We’re abusing it horribly,” says Margo, who wore booties on her feet during the paddle, not just to keep them warm but to protect against rashes and infections from pollution.

Her concerns encompass a multitude of threats to our water, including chemical fertilizer runoff, trash from single-use plastic products, sewage overflows and more frequent flooding of coastal and riverfront cities due to climate change.

The “Big Apple to Big Easy” trip isn’t the first time the mother of two has done a long-distance paddle for clean water. In 2007, she paddled more than 2,000 miles along the Atlantic coast – from Maine to Miami – to raise awareness of threats to the oceans.

According to Margo, her activism was inspired by the birth of her first child 13 years ago and the death of her father – an attorney and early conservationist – two years later. “I felt a really pressing need to wake people up,” she said.

At regular stops during this summer’s paddle, Margo met with local media and citizen groups to discuss the health of our nation’s rivers, streams, lakes, watersheds and oceans. She slept in the homes of volunteer hosts, and spoke to people wherever she went.

“From the start to the end of this paddle, one observation stands starkly clear to me,” wrote Margo, who chronicled her journey with daily blog entries and social media posts. “Clean water and a healthy ocean have a bigger fan club than any elected officials, and it spans our current political divide.”

“I have not yet found one proponent of polluted water or a degraded ocean,” she added. “It seems pretty clear that our elected officials should not be turning a blind eye to this fact. We all need clean water and a healthy ocean to survive on this blue water world.”

So is it nuts to leave your family for two months to paddle for clean water? Not at all, says Margo:  “Allowing our water resources and ocean to be further degraded and dirtied so we can no longer count on them for life is crazy.”

Want to learn more about Margo and her paddling journeys? Check out her blog at or read more about her mission at the Earthjustice website at

To learn more about clean water and clean oceans, go to and

And to learn more about preserving New Jersey’s land and natural resources, visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at or contact me at

Speak up for the Land & Water Conservation Fund

August 21st, 2015

RELEASE: Aug. 21, 2015 – Volume XLVIII, No. 34

Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, Appalachian Trail, Camden Waterfront Park, Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Branch Brook Park, Seven Presidents Park in Long Branch, Spruce Run and Round Valley recreation areas, Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, Island Beach State Park,  Paterson’s Great Falls national historic site, Monmouth Battlefield, Higbee Beach Wildlife Management Area.

What would New Jersey be without these popular parks, beaches, monuments, recreation areas and historic sites?

And they’re just a handful of more than 300 special places in this state we’re in that have benefited from a little-known but vitally important revenue source – the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. New Jersey has received over $340 million from this fund in the past 50 years!

But the funds will stop without swift action by Congress to re-authorize the program, which is due to expire on Sept. 30.

The law establishing the Land and Water Conservation Fund was signed in September 1964 by President Lyndon Johnson. It created a dedicated, permanent means of funding land preservation and recreation – everything from magnificent national parks to small neighborhood playgrounds.

And it was done at no cost to taxpayers! The genius of the Land and Water Conservation Fund is that it is replenished entirely through a small portion of royalties collected by the federal government for allowing oil and gas companies to drill in public offshore waters. 

Over the past 50 years, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has been used to preserve iconic landscapes in every state, including  Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, Mount Rainier National Park in Washington, the Gettysburg National Military Park and George Washington’s Mount Vernon.

All five of New Jersey’s national wildlife refuges were preserved with funds from this program, as well as local, county and state parks in every corner of the state. In addition, tens of millions of dollars have been used to preserve forested water supply lands in the Pinelands and Highlands.

Despite a half-century of preservation success and bipartisan support, the Land and Water Conservation Fund is in jeopardy.

The loss of America’s most important conservation program would slam the brakes on a powerful economic engine – recreation and tourism.

According to an Outdoor Industry Association report, outdoor recreation in New Jersey alone generates $17.8 billion in consumer spending every year. In turn, it supports 158,000 New Jersey jobs, which provide $6.1 billion in wages and salaries and $1.3 billion in state and local tax revenues. Outdoor recreation provides similar benefits throughout the nation.

So what can be done?

1. Speak up for the Land and Water Conservation Fund! Contact your congressional representative and urge him or her to co-sponsor bipartisan legislation (H.R. 1814) that reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund. To find your representative, go to

2. Remind your representative that parks, recreation areas and historic sites funded by the Land and Water Conservation Fund improve our quality of life, making New Jersey both a vacation destination and a place where people want to live and work. Research shows that every $1 in spending from the fund returns $4 to the economy!Here are the names, telephone numbers and website addresses for New Jersey’s Congressional representatives who have not yet signed on as co-sponsors:

3. Thank the New Jersey Congressmen who have already signed on as co-sponsors: Rep. Frank A. LoBiondo (R-Dist. 2), Rep. Frank Pallone (D-Dist. 6), Rep. Albio Sires (D-Dist. 8) and Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-Dist. 9).

To learn more about the Land and Water Conservation Fund, go to

And for more information about preserving New Jersey’s land and natural resources, visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at or contact me at

Putting the brakes on damage to Pine Barrens forest

August 14th, 2015

RELEASE: Aug. 14, 2015 – Volume XLVIII, No. 33

At 125,000 acres, Wharton State Forest in the Pine Barrens is by far the largest state-owned forest in New Jersey. In fact, it’s bigger than the land area of Essex and Hudson counties combined!

This sprawling forest in the heart of the Pine Barrens is notable for its diversity of wildlife, including rare plants and threatened and endangered animals like Pine Barrens treefrogs.  Since Wharton was purchased in the mid-1950s, motorized vehicles have been allowed to travel its network of sandy roads to tour the quiet of the forest’s interior, visit historic ghost towns and find places to put in a canoe.

But in recent years, motor vehicle use in Wharton has veered out of control. Powerful four-wheel drive vehicles have destroyed the old roads and blazed new ones through woods and stream beds to create places for off-roading and “mudding.” Old trails and fire lines never intended for motorized vehicles have been widened to access some of the forest’s most pristine areas.

The result is widespread damage to the area’s land and waterways, severely eroded stream banks, acres of denuded landscapes and cavernous mud pits that were once iconic Pine Barrens wetlands. In addition to harming wildlife and degrading pristine streams, this damage has made some roads so impassable that even robust Forest Fire Service vehicles have been left stranded during recent forest fires.

A new plan will help rectify these problems.

To protect the forest, improve safety and make public access easier, the state Department of Environmental Protection is launching a Motorized Access Plan (MAP) to encourage and enforce responsible use of motor vehicles.

For the first time, the state is clarifying which roads within Wharton are designated for motorized access, and distinguishing them from the trails that are set aside for visitors on foot, bicycles and horses.  The plan designates nearly 225 miles of sand and other unimproved roads – almost double the length of the New Jersey Turnpike – for street-legal motor vehicles.

“Wharton State Forest is unique in that it provides an extensive network of sand and gravel roads, remnants of the area’s rich history, that provide up-close access to secluded rivers, quiet forests, beautiful wetlands and sites of former villages and towns,” said Richard Boornazian, the Department of Environmental Protection’s Assistant Commissioner for Natural and Historic Resources. “The MAP program will ensure continued access to these features while educating the public and making sure the region’s sensitive ecology is protected.”

There’s plenty that needs protecting! Wharton State Forest is home to some 300 bird species, nearly 60 reptile and amphibian species, and more than 90 fish species. Forty-three of those animals are listed by the state as threatened or endangered, including bobcats, timber rattlesnakes and red-headed woodpeckers.

Wharton also has some 850 plant species, including wild orchids, sedges, grasses and insect-eating plants. Rarest among them include bog asphodels, curly-grass ferns and Pine-Barrens gentians.

The State Park Service will begin implementing the Motorized Access Plan by late summer. Brochures and maps will be available at the Batsto Village Visitor Center, located off Burlington County Route 542, east of Hammonton, and at the Atsion Recreation Area, located off Route 206 in Shamong.

This is a terrific way to balance motorized vehicle use with protecting sensitive areas! Thank you to the Department of Environmental Protection for addressing this critical off-road vehicle problem at Wharton in a thoughtful, responsible way. Hopefully, the Wharton State Forest Motorized Access Plan will become a model for the management of our other state-owned lands.

To see the Motorized Access Plan, go to:

Love the forest but not the damage? Show your support for the Motorized Access Plan by contacting the Department of Environmental Protection commissioner and your legislators at

And for more information about preserving New Jersey’s land and natural resources, visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at or contact me at

Time to fast track renewable energy

August 7th, 2015

RELEASE: Aug. 7, 2015 – Volume XLVIII, No. 32

For the first time in four years New Jersey is updating its Energy Master Plan, a blueprint for how this state we’re in uses and manages electricity. And unless you live “off the grid,” it affects you.

This month, the state Board of Public Utilities is holding public hearings and accepting public comments for updates to the 2011 Energy Master Plan. Here’s your chance to weigh in on key issues like where our energy comes from, how efficiently we’re using it and how we can protect our land and air.

The 2011 Energy Master Plan had five goals: Drive down the cost of energy for customers; promote a diverse portfolio of clean, in-state power generation; reward energy conservation and reduce peak demand; capitalize on emerging technologies for transportation and power production; and set a goal of 22.5 percent of our energy coming from renewable sources by 2021.

Here are a few suggested talking points for new goals if you’d like to comment: 1) Achieve greater energy efficiency. 2) Develop renewable energy sources that are clean, appropriately located and competitively priced. If we can meet these two goals, we can greatly reduce our reliance on energy from fossil fuels and protect land, water and air at the same time!

In its Energy Master Plan update notice, the Board of Public Utilities says New Jersey has made “good progress” in meeting the 2011 goals and related policy recommendations. Overall, the board said, the state has lowered energy costs and is advancing with energy efficiency, demand response and renewable energy.

The board’s focus on energy efficiency and renewables is right on track, but our state needs to invest much more in these areas.  And while natural gas will likely be part of our energy mix in the short term, it’s critical to assess the financial and environmental costs of the proposed expansion of the natural gas pipeline infrastructure, and the risks and hazards of over-reliance on natural gas.

Right now, New Jersey is facing an onslaught of proposed natural gas pipelines that threaten preserved open space and farmland, our air, our drinking water and our communities. Several new gas pipelines have recently been constructed in central and northern New Jersey, and three more are under review by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission or the Board of Public Utilities.

Many of these proposed pipelines would cross preserved farmland and open space – lands that New Jersey residents paid for with their tax dollars. Crossing preserved lands runs counter to voter support for land preservation and erodes public trust in preservation programs.

There is not clear documentation that these new gas pipelines are needed in New Jersey. In fact, the opposite is most likely true.

A recent analysis conducted by Labyrinth Consulting Services found that the proposed PennEast pipeline alone would result in a 53 percent surplus beyond current demand in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and concluded that gas is bound for other markets, including export overseas.  The current rush to build multiple pipelines in New Jersey runs the risk of significantly over-building, resulting in supply that far exceeds actual needs. 

Since pipelines are designed to last for about 50 years,  New Jersey could be saddled for decades with the costs of an extensive network of new pipelines that become obsolete in the near future as energy efficiency and renewables increase.

Instead of locking our state into long-term reliance on natural gas, the Energy Master Plan should catalyze a rapid transition to renewables and energy efficiency as the best means to meet the state’s energy needs and lower carbon emissions. Superstorm Sandy showed us very clearly what our coastal state has at stake from climate change.

Renewables and energy efficiency also offer greater economic opportunities, since they generate more sustained jobs and economic activities than those associated with pipeline construction.

Speak out to encourage greater energy efficiency measures and a quick transition to renewable energy sources! Email the Board of Public Utilities at by the public comment deadline of Wednesday, Aug. 24.

To read the 2011 Energy Master Plan or find details on the upcoming hearings, go to  

And for more information about preserving New Jersey’s land and natural resources, visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at or contact me at

Kick the plastic habit and help marine life!

July 31st, 2015

RELEASE: July 31, 2015 – Volume XLVIII, No. 31

During hot summer days at the Jersey shore, beaches are crowded with folks having fun in the sun. Unfortunately, lots of litter is left behind. All beach trash is bad, but the plastics that wash and blow into the sea are especially harmful.

Plastics have become a major threat to marine life in the world’s oceans and waterways. Plastic trash never completely goes away … it only breaks apart into smaller and smaller pieces.

It’s estimated that more than 100,000 marine mammals, turtles, sea birds and fish die every year from either ingesting or getting tangled up in plastic ocean trash.

Clean Ocean Action, an ocean advocacy group based in New Jersey, is on a mission to improve the ocean’s health … and the well-being of the creatures that live there.

Every spring and fall, Clean Ocean Action holds beach “sweeps” where hundreds of volunteers pick up and catalog thousands of pieces of trash and debris. Not surprisingly, most of it is plastic, including bags, bottles, drinking straws, eating utensils, food wrappers, bottle caps and packaging.

This summer, Clean Ocean Action is urging beach lovers to kick the plastic habit and choose better options. Here are their dozen great suggestions:

  • Recognize your plastic habit. Look at your trash and take special note of single-use items and those with excess packaging. Make a list of disposable items and make it your goal to reduce or ban those items.
  • Know the numbers. Recycling more plastics starts with being familiar with the recycling number system. The “chasing arrow” symbol indicates it’s recyclable. The number inside the arrow indicates the source of the plastic material. Check with your town or county to see which types are accepted for recycling.
  • Be straw-free. Americans use about 500 million plastic drinking straws a year! Just say “hold the straw.” There are plenty of reusable straw options, such as glass, stainless steel or bamboo.
  • Ban the bead. Avoid using any products with microbeads. Look for the ingredients polyethylene and polypropylene. Microbeads are found in many toothpastes, skin care products and cleaning products.
  • BYOB. Bring your own bag and bottle. Keep a reusable bag in your car, briefcase, backpack or purse. Carry a reusable bottle for beverages.
  • Fork it over. Don’t accept plastic ware for take-out. Bring your own silverware instead. When packing your own meals, use a reusable lunch box or bag, along with reusable sandwich bags or containers.
  • DIY at home. Clean your house with products like lemons, vinegar and baking soda, and save money while avoiding avoid harsh cleaners in plastic containers. Look online for cleaning “recipes.”
  • Can it. Choose cans over plastic. Aluminum is recyclable, and most cans contain 50 percent or more recycled aluminum.
  • Be a smart shopper. Look before you buy and avoid items with excessive packaging.
  • Support action. Stay informed about plastic and microplastic policies, and take action to support those banning microbeads.
  • Rally more converts. Help friends and family members understand the importance of reducing plastic usage.
  • Join the campaign. Get involved in Clean Ocean Action’s campaign for research on microplastics.

Ready to kick the plastic habit? Take the pledge! Go to and click on “Sign the pledge to reduce your plastic footprint” link.

Want to help get plastics and other litter off the beaches? The next beach sweeps are scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 24. To find out more, go to

And for information about preserving New Jersey’s land and natural resources, visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at or contact me at

Show spotlights NJ’s endangered creatures, and those working to save them

July 24th, 2015

RELEASE: July 24, 2015 – Volume XLVIII, No. 30

What’s more fun than standing in a chilly downpour at night in March, filming volunteers as they help salamanders cross Shades of Death Road?

For Jared Flesher, not much!

An independent documentary filmmaker and New Jersey native, Jared revels in being outdoors and telling stories about nature, animals’ struggles for survival, and human efforts to help.

And he doesn’t mind getting soaked to document the lengths volunteers go to make sure salamanders cross safely to their spring breeding grounds in vernal ponds. “It was a ton of work, but I love going out on a rainy night for something like that,” he said.

The salamander footage is now part of the first episode of The Creature Show, Jared’s new video series, which debuted on July 15 at

The Creature Show spotlights animals in New Jersey that are designated as threatened or endangered species. Creatures like bats, snakes of the Pine Barrens, bobcats, the Red Knot sandpiper and turtles are a few of his subjects.

The “villains of global extinction” – habitat destruction, climate change, invasive species and wildlife disease – will be explored on the series.

The heroes are the scientists and ordinary citizens who devote themselves to protecting biodiversity. “It’s about the biologists and conservationists, the people who are trying to keep these creatures from going extinct,” he explained.

A few weeks ago, Jared filmed biologists in Wharton State Forest in the Pine Barrens and Sparta Mountain in the Highlands as they put out fine “mist nets” at night to capture bats, so the creatures could be evaluated and tagged. Bat populations throughout New Jersey have plummeted as a result of White Nose Syndrome, a disease that causes lesions and scarring on delicate wing membranes.

To everyone’s delight, a healthy long-eared bat – an endangered species – flew into the net at each location.

“The two long-eared bats looked really healthy, which is a promising sign in a situation that overall is pretty dire,” said Jared. The biologists, he added, “were joyful. That kind of passion really comes through.”

Jared got the idea for The Creature Show last fall after finishing “Field Biologist,” a full-length documentary on New Jersey resident Tyler Christensen’s research on neo-tropical migratory birds in Costa Rica.

“Two things I like to do is spent time in nature and tell stories,” he said. “What could be better than running around in the woods of New Jersey trying to tell stories of conservation?”

New Jersey is the perfect place for such a series, Jared believes, because of the Garden State’s geographic diversity. “All of the drivers of global extinction are represented in New Jersey on a small scale, as a microcosm,” he said.

Who will watch The Creature Show? “I hope anyone anywhere who is interested in conservation, biodiversity or just a good nature film will be interested,” he said. The show is offered for free on the internet, so he’s also hoping teachers will use The Creature Show in their classrooms.

Jared raised $10,000 for the first Creature Show episode through an online Kickstarter campaign. But he knows that he can’t finance the entire series that way. He has now partnered with New Jersey Conservation Foundation to help him apply for nonprofit grants and individual gifts.

To watch the salamander episode, go to While you’re there, check out the fascinating blog on the making of the show.

And to learn more about preserving land and natural resources in New Jersey, visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at or contact me at

A strong voice urges climate action

July 17th, 2015

RELEASE: July 17, 2015 – Volume XLVIII, No. 29

“The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all,” wrote Pope Francis in his recent encyclical, or papal letter.

The Pope’s letter focused international attention on climate change, and he called on developed countries to limit use of non-renewable energy and help poorer nations deal with the impacts of global warming. A “very solid scientific consensus,” he wrote, indicates a warming of the climate mainly due to human activity.

Predictably, Pope Francis’ message was cheered by climate scientists and jeered by “climate skeptics.”

Global warming, or climate change, has become one of the polarizing issues of our time. Many consider it the most serious threat to mankind, while others dismiss it as a natural fluctuation in our planet’s climate cycles that requires no corrective action.

What the debate means for ordinary folks is often confusion over what to believe.

This confusion is entirely understandable, says Dr. Eric Chivian, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and former Harvard professor.

According to Dr. Chivian, “Our brains are wired to see what is happening right in front of us right now—we don’t do very well with seeing things that are not obvious, that happen incrementally, or that occur over large areas or in other parts of the world.”

Dr. Chivian was among a group of physicians who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985 for their efforts to prevent nuclear war. But as he noted at a New Jersey land conservation conference in March, it’s much harder to convince people to take action against climate change than to persuade them to stop nuclear war.

“Global environmental changes, unlike explosions, can be very hard to see. They often occur slowly or intermittently, sometime almost imperceptibly and on global scales,” added Dr. Chivian. What’s more, they can be obscured by normal swings in temperatures and rainfall.

It doesn’t help, Dr. Chivian said, that climate scientists often speak in technical language and discuss probabilities, based on observations, rather than certainties. However, the “climate deniers” are always 100 percent certain, he said.

Climate change is also seen by some people as hypothetical, since it relies on computer models and projections. “Some will say, for example, ‘How can you tell what the climate will be in 2100 when we can’t even tell with any certainty what the weather will be like next week?’ ” he said.

Then there’s the human tendency to avoid unpleasant news. “The storms and floods, drought, fires, famine, extinctions, and epidemics associated with changes to the global environment are too frightening and overwhelming for most people to think about,” said Dr. Chivian, “and seem too large and difficult to solve, making them feel hopeless and helpless, feelings we all will do anything to avoid experiencing.”

Finally, Dr. Chivian said, there has been a “widespread, well-funded, sophisticated and highly effective campaign, much as there was by the tobacco industry, to cast doubt on the science of global environmental change and to discredit the scientists.”

All these factors have combined to create confusion and paralysis.

Dr. Chivian didn’t claim to have all the answers, but he suggested that global warming may be understood better if explained in terms of human impacts instead of average global temperature or concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

In a way, that’s what Pope Francis did – pointing out the massive human suffering that will result if nothing is done to reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

What remains to be seen is whether the Pope’s powerful words about saving “our common home” will help change public thinking about climate change, and lead to action.

“We need to strengthen the conviction that we are one single human family,” he said. “We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it.”

Looking for reliable information about climate change?

Here are some of the best resources: The NASA global climate change website at, the Climate Central website at and the World Health Organization website at To read Rutgers University’s state of the climate report for New Jersey, go to And for a longer list of web resources, go to

And to learn more about saving land and natural resources in New Jersey, visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at or contact me at

A.J. Meerwald, New Jersey’s tall ship

July 9th, 2015

RELEASE:July 9, 2015 – Volume XLVIII, No. 28

If you were asked to name a maritime state, New Jersey might not come to mind.  But if you’ve cruised on New Jersey’s official state ship – the A. J. Meerwald –you know otherwise!

This summer, you might have spotted the 70 feet high and 85 feet long oak-on-oak schooner as it sailed along New Jersey’s coast for the Tall Ships Challenge, an event with several ports of call.  On June 25th, it left from Bivalve on the Delaware Bay and sailed to Camden’s waterfront before travelling up the coast to be New Jersey’s ambassador for a July 4th event in Greenport, N.Y.

Schooners – the “workhorses” of tall ships – were a common sight a century ago.  Thousands of them once sailed up and down the nation’s east coast. As many as 500 schooners similar to the A. J. Meerwald sailed up New Jersey’s west coast each spring to harvest oysters. 

But New Jersey’s oyster industry declined dramatically around the time of the Great Depression, and the age of tall ships passed on.

Only the A.J. Meerwald remains under sail as she was on Delaware Bay, and is available for all to experience a sail and learn about its history.

Built in 1928 in Dorchester, New Jersey, at the height of the Delaware Bay oyster industry, the A.J. Meerwald survived the years by adapting to changing times. For four decades, the schooner served several uses, including a stint as a fireboat for the U.S. Coast Guard.

Meghan Wren, Founder and Executive Director of the Bayshore Center at Bivalve, New Jersey, knew that the schooner would inspire and educate people about the ecology and history of the Bayshore when it was donated to the Center in 1989. The Bayshore Center was founded the previous year to motivate people to take care of the history, the culture and the environment of New Jersey’s Bayshore region. The ship was the perfect vessel to entice people to the Center’s education and preservation mission.

“The A.J. Meerwald is not only a reminder of the days when oysters were king,” says Wren, “but it is also a symbol for the importance of the Delaware Bayshore.  The region is an area of open space, historic landscapes, agriculture and natural biodiversity and the ship helps people celebrate and learn about that.”

While the schooner was originally restored as a sailing classroom, it has since become more significant for all New Jerseyans. In 1995, the A.J. Meerwald was listed on the National Register of Historical Places and in 1998, Governor Whitman declared it New Jersey’s Official Tall Ship.

Along the coastline, tributaries, headwaters and forests of New Jersey’s Delaware Bayshore, wildlife and beauty abound.  Thanks to the Pinelands Protection Act and tens of thousands of acres of preserved lands, the Delaware Bayshore has some of the highest quality wetlands, natural environment and best farmland in the state.  The A.J. Meerwald schooner and the Bayshore Center at Bivalve are perfect starting points for all New Jerseyans to learn more about this incredible region.

Take a sail this summer and learn more about our maritime state! The A. J. Meerwald has many ports of call this summer – not only in Bivalve, but also in Jersey City, Alpine, Long Beach Island, Barnegat Light, Atlantic City and Cape May. 

Or visit the Bayshore Center at Bivalve in the restored oyster shipping sheds on the Maurice River.  For more information or to purchase tickets for the A. J. Meerwald, visit

And for information about preserving New Jersey’s land and natural resources, visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at or contact me at

A summer playlist

July 2nd, 2015

RELEASE:July 2, 2015 – Volume XLVIII, No. 27

Summer is time to be outdoors … hiking, swimming, bicycling, fishing, camping, kayaking, horseback riding, birding, surfing and more.

Whether you’re at the shore, on a mountain, by a river or in the forest – or stuck inside WISHING you were outdoors – a soundtrack can come in handy.

Here’s a playlist of songs about nature and the outdoors to inspire you, pump you up or put a smile on your face.

For inspiration to get out and enjoy sun and fresh air, it’s hard to beat the energetic U2’s “It’s a Beautiful Day”. “This Land is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie is sure to get you itching to hit the road and explore our country’s lovely places.

The mother of all conservation songs has to be Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi,” with its oh-so-true lyrics about not knowing what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone. On the flip side is “Nothing but Flowers” by the Talking Heads, a humorous riff on the opposite of paving paradise and putting up a parking lot.

The Beatles sang more about love, love, love than nature, but “Mother Nature’s Son” is a good addition to any outdoor playlist. Another classic about getting back to nature is “Apeman” by the Kinks, actually a protest against nuclear war.

If the heat and humidity are getting you down, try “Summer in the City” by the Lovin’ Spoonful. Gotta get away? The antidote is Canned Heat’s “Going Up the Country,” a Woodstock era classic.

Sunny days are the very essence of summer, and a couple of good songs are “Blue Sky” by the Allman Brothers and “Mr. Blue Sky” by the Electric Light Orchestra. “Sunshine on my Shoulders” by John Denver also fits the bill, although just about anything by John Denver is outdoorsy.

If the shore is your thing, you’ll need songs about the beach and water. No shore playlist would be complete without the Beach Boys – how about “Catch a Wave”?  Otis Redding’s soulful “Dock of the Bay” tells how nature can be a refuge from loneliness. And Weezer’s popular “Island in the Sun” practically makes you feel warm rays on your skin.

Are you a birder? If so, your soundtrack should include Jack Johnson’s “Upside Down” since birds provide the best of Mother’s Nature’s songs. There’s also the funny “I Like Birds” by The Eels. And for those who may be working on your life list, there is “Fly Like an Eagle” by the Steve Miller Band, “Blackbird” by the Beatles, “Hummingbird” by Seals & Croft, “Mockingbird” by James Taylor and Carly Simon and “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley. (And, yes, not all of those are really about birds!)

A reverence for nature is beautifully expressed in “Morning Has Broken,” an old hymn updated by Cat Stevens. “One Sweet World” by the Dave Matthews Band is an ode to Mother Earth. And “Leaves that are Green” by Simon & Garfunkel uses nature as a metaphor for the passage of time.

Raising your environmental consciousness? Try Julian Lennon’s “Saltwater,” the Pretenders’ “My City is Gone,” Neil Young’s “Who’s Gonna Stand Up?” and “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)” by Marvin Gaye.

For more contemporary songs, try “Back to the Wild” by Langthorne Slim, “Mount Marcy” by Frontier Ruckus, “Country Calling” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, “Time Forgot” by Conor Oberst, “Northern Lights” by The Cave Singers and “The Wild Hunt” by The Tallest Man on Earth.

You can probably think of lots more.

Enjoy music and nature together this summer! Look for our “NJ Conservation Summer Playlist” on Spotify. Write to me at and share what’s on your playlist.

And for more information about preserving New Jersey’s land and natural resources, visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at

Economy and environment: A redesign that works for both

June 26th, 2015

RELEASE:June 25, 2015 – Volume XLVIII, No. 26

Must we choose between strong environmental protections and a robust economy? No – it’s possible to have both!  And here’s proof.

New Jersey Conservation Foundation, Scenic Hudson, the Natural Resources Defense Council and many partners reached an historic agreement with LG Electronics on a new 360,000-square-foot corporate headquarters in Englewood Cliffs that will meet the highest standards of sustainability while protecting the iconic vistas of the Palisades cliffs, a National Natural and Historic Landmark, and creating new jobs.

It was a happy ending to what could have been a tragic story for an American treasure, the steep Palisades that rise up dramatically from the Hudson River.

The Palisades cliffs were formed 200 million years ago, were gazed upon by explorer Henry Hudson when he anchored his ship there in 1609, inspired the Hudson River School artistic movement, and are now viewed and visited by millions of people a year.

Several years ago, the South Korean firm LG Electronics conducted a nationwide search for a home for its new American headquarters. After evaluating more than 200 locations, the company chose to purchase land in Englewood Cliffs, its base for two decades.

The original design for the new LG headquarters building made a strong statement. Too strong. The 143-foot building would have dominated the view of the Palisades north of the George Washington Bridge -a place where building heights had historically been kept low so as not to interrupt the natural panorama.

Opposition erupted on both sides of the Hudson, resulting in a legal appeal of the zoning variance that permitted the higher building.

Luckily, four former New Jersey governors, all with a strong history of protecting the environment, stepped up to the plate.

The former governors – Brendan Byrne, Thomas Kean, James Florio and Christine Todd Whitman – have strong environmental legacies and worked closely with New Jersey Conservation Foundation for many years. In fact, all serve as members of the foundation’s Honorary Board of Trustees.

The four governors sent a letter to the CEO of LG Electronics, asking for a lower-profile building that respected the Palisades’ significance as a natural landmark and historic site. The voices of the governors, when added to the grassroots opposition, made for a powerful groundswell of public opinion.

Englewood Cliffs Mayor Joseph Parisi called upon all parties to come together and resolve the conflict.

Discussions began nearly a year ago, with the goal of securing a “win-win” solution.  Trust between the parties grew over the months as options were explored.

To LG’s credit, corporate executives listened and understood, demonstrating a genuine appreciation for the Palisades’ significance in the American landscape.

This week, LG and its former foes together announced at a press event that a newly-designed building would be just under 70 feet, less than half the height allowed by the variance. The low-rise building will hug the contours of the Palisades and will not mar the historic viewshed.

The new corporate campus will allow LG to double its employment to more than 1,000 by 2019, and in the short term create thousands of construction jobs.  LG is aiming for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum standards – the highest for energy efficiency – and the design protects surrounding woodlands and wetlands as well.

The four former governors applauded the agreement, saying it “demonstrates that a strong economy goes hand-in-hand with strong environmental protection. With the construction of the new sustainable, low-rise LG headquarters, New Jersey will retain a solid corporate partner along with much needed jobs and tax revenues. And one of America’s most visible natural and historic landmarks will be protected for future generations.”

A sincere thanks to LG for being a conscientious corporate citizen and partner in the protection of the Palisades. The agreement shows that economic development, when done right, can go hand-in-hand with environmental and historic protection. 

To find out more about the LG agreement, go to and

And to learn more about preserving New Jersey’s land and natural resources, visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at or contact me at

New Jersey Conservation Foundation           Bamboo Brook, 170 Longview Road, Far Hills, NJ 07931           908-234-1225 

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