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Fabulous fall foliage hikes

October 9th, 2015

RELEASE: Oct. 8, 2015 – Volume XLVIII, No. 41

You might think you can only see spectacular fall foliage in New England. Think again!

Right here in this state we’re in, you can see vivid reds, oranges and golds at their peak in mid to late October, with leaves changing color first on mountaintops and along water.

And one of the best ways to enjoy the fall is with a hike.  Here are some favorite places – all top choices of New Jersey Conservation Foundation staff. Northern New Jersey’s mountains offer the most dramatic views, of course, but there are plenty of great hikes in the central and southern parts of the state.

Wildcat Ridge – If you want to see migrating hawks as well as fall colors, it’s hard to beat Wildcat Ridge Wildlife Management Area in Morris County. Hike a mile up to the Hawk Watch area and enjoy a bird’s eye view southeast toward Manhattan.

High Point – What could be better than standing atop New Jersey’s highest elevation, at 1,803 feet? High Point State Park in Sussex County is surprisingly rugged, rocky and spectacular.

Sunfish Pond – This glacial lake is located in a hardwood forest high up on the Kittatinny Ridge in Worthington State Forest in Warren County, near the Delaware Water Gap.

Jenny Jump – Located in western Warren County, the ridge at Jenny Jump State Forest offers beautiful vistas of the Delaware Water Gap to west and rural, rolling landscapes of family farms to east.

Apshawa Preserve – This Passaic County gem offers rugged Highlands terrain and rocky outcrops, with trails leading down to the scenic Butler Reservoir in the preserve’s core. 

Sourland Mountains – Their name notwithstanding, the Sourlands are a sweet spot to hike in central Jersey. Somerset County’s Sourland Mountain Preserve offers pretty trails through a boulder-strewn hardwood forest.

Delaware & Raritan Canal – For a fun fall hike on level terrain, the towpath at D&R Canal State Park in Hunterdon County is a great destination. Start in historic Stockton and head either north or south for views of the Delaware River and beyond.

Cheesequake State Park – At the gateway to the Jersey Shore in Middlesex County, you can enjoy a pleasant hike over rolling hills and along boardwalks crossing marshlands.

Wharton State Forest – The Mullica River trail in Wharton State Forest in Burlington County has great views of wetland habitats along the Mullica River that really put on a colorful show. There is no place like the Pine Barrens in the fall!

Belleplain State Forest – Covering 21,254 acres in Cape May and Cumberland counties, Belleplain is at the edge of the Pine Barrens, with a diversity of trees and shrubs. For pretty colors and water views, try the trails around Lake Nummy. 

Cape May Point – With its shrub- and vine-covered dunes, Cape May Point State Park in the fall has a unique, subtle beauty. For the best panorama of ocean, bay and dunes, climb the 199 steps to the top of the lighthouse.

Now’s the time to take a hike and enjoy New Jersey’s autumn beauty.  The combination of colorful scenery, fresh air and exercise will make you feel fantastic … and save you a drive to New England! Don’t forget your camera!

If you have a favorite New Jersey fall foliage hike, let me know at And to learn about preserving land and natural resources, visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at

Monarch butterflies, fall’s ultra-marathoners

October 2nd, 2015

RELEASE: Oct. 2, 2015 – Volume XLVIII, No. 40

As they alight on seaside goldenrod flowers or roost in Eastern red cedars, monarch butterflies are unmistakable, with their brilliant orange and black patterned wings.

Although their flight may seem meandering and subject to the vagaries of wind, monarchs are on an instinct-driven mission right now. These “ultra-marathoners” migrate over 2,000 miles to the forests of central Mexico. They hold the distance record among migrating insects, and their journey is one of the true wonders of the world!

October is the height of monarch migration, and New Jersey’s coastline is historically a good place to see them. But monarch numbers have declined precipitously due to widespread loss of milkweed plants, whose leaves are the sole food source for monarch caterpillars.

Across the country, the monarch butterfly population is down by more than 95 percent over the past few decades, from an estimated 1 billion in the mid-1990s to just 35 million in early 2014. Many wildlife experts believe monarchs deserve protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Cape May is one of the great gathering places along the fall monarch butterfly migration route, just as it is for birds. Waves of butterflies rest and refuel along the tip of the peninsula before hazarding the Delaware Bay crossing.

New Jersey Audubon Society’s Cape May Bird Observatory hosts the Monarch Monitoring Project, an annual nine-week census conducted during the fall migration since 1992.

Throughout September and October, observers make three counts per day along a five-mile route crossing various coastal habitats. This year, said Mark Garland, communications director, the Monarch Monitoring Project has expanded to include counts at Stone Harbor Point and East Point on the Delaware Bay.

Census results vary tremendously due to yearly weather fluctuations, but trends can be detected due to decades of Cape May Point data. In 1999, observers counted an average of 359.8 butterflies per hour; but only 8.9 butterflies per hour were seen in 2004. So far this fall, Cape May’s average has been 36.7 monarchs per hour, about the same as last year.

The spring migration is very different from fall.

In spring, monarchs travel northward relatively short distances before mating, laying eggs on the underside of milkweed leaves and dying. The eggs hatch and larvae fatten up on milkweed leaves, ultimately metamorphosing into adult butterflies. The new adults continue the cycle. It takes about five monarch generations to complete the migration to the northern United States and Canada.

But in the fall, monarchs spend their energy on migration rather than reproduction. A single generation makes the long trip south. The only goal of the great-great-grandchildren of the butterflies that departed from Mexico in spring is to instinctively get back to the endangered forests of Oyamel fir in the mountains above Mexico City, a place their non-migratory parents had never been!

“It’s really remarkable,” said Garland of the migratory monarchs. “There’s some environmental cue that makes them behave entirely differently from previous generations.”

The fall journey to Mexico takes the better part of two months, and once there the butterflies roost with hundreds of thousands of others until it’s time to begin the spring migration and reproduction cycle anew. This autumn’s generation of monarchs will have a lifespan of eight or nine months, far longer than the spring and summer generations.

So what can be done help monarch butterflies rebound? You can plant milkweeds, and allow meadows to grow up naturally along edges and hedgerows, instead of mowing flat every last patch of vegetation. Milkweed seeds are available at native plant nurseries, and many schools, businesses and nonprofit organizations sponsor planting programs.

If you spend time on or near Cape May, consider becoming a “Monarch Ambassador” and help out with butterfly counts and tagging. To learn more about monarchs and their lifecycle, visit the Monarch Monitoring Project at .

Another great resource is the Monarch Teacher Network at /.

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

Don’t let ‘flawed’ pipeline process allow land condemnation

September 25th, 2015

RELEASE: Sept. 25, 2015 – Volume XLVIII, No. 39

Eminent domain, or condemnation, is the power of the government to take private land for public purpose, even if the property owner objects. Needless to say, it’s a highly unpopular use of government authority. Nobody likes being forced to sell against their will, even if fair compensation is paid.

But did you know that private, for-profit companies can also use the power of eminent domain?

This could happen in Hunterdon and Mercer counties, if a consortium of companies known as PennEast gets permission to build a 118-mile natural gas pipeline from Luzerne County, Pa., to Mercer County, N.J. In New Jersey, the route would cross more than 4,000 acres of preserved open space and farmland, and the property of over 500 landowners. And most of these landowners don’t want it!

PennEast filed its formal application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Sept. 24. If PennEast ultimately receives what’s known as a Certificate of Authority, it would gain the right of eminent domain to seize private lands, even those preserved, to construct the pipeline.

For more than a year, the vast majority of New Jersey landowners along the potential pipeline route objected strenuously to the proposal. One hundred percent of New Jersey municipalities along the route passed resolutions opposing the pipeline, and federal, state and county officials from both parties have spoken out against it.

This week, affected communities officially gained a powerful ally: Congressman Leonard Lance, 7th District.

In a letter to FERC chairman Norman C. Bay, Lance said he has “significant concerns” about PennEast’s proposed path along environmentally-sensitive lands within the Delaware River Watershed and thinks it would be “fiscally and environmentally irresponsible” to use taxpayer-protected open space in this way.

Lance expressed “strong reservations” about the potential use of eminent domain to compel the sale of rights-of-way along the proposed pipeline route, citing his constituents’ fears of losing their land. “I respectfully request that FERC use eminent domain authority only in the most limited and extreme cases that benefit public use and not private corporate entities,” he wrote.

Under the National Environmental Policy Act, federal agencies are required to thoroughly evaluate projects with significant impacts to the environment, and consider cumulative impacts, a range of alternatives and – most important – public need. The agencies get at these questions through an Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS.

But FERC’s process for conducting the environmental impact statements is flawed, in that each pipeline project is reviewed in a vacuum, as if others did not exist. Imagine developing a highway system with this flawed process!

To effectively evaluate PennEast, Lance argued, FERC must consider not only each individual pipeline proposal but all existing and proposed pipelines within the same region and energy market.

Rather than conducting a limited, individual environmental impact statement, wrote Lance, “I urge FERC instead to conduct a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for the PennEast line that will more accurately and comprehensively establish the need for and impacts of the proposal.”

Without the establishment of a clear public need, why would we ever agree to give a private company eminent domain authority?

Lance isn’t the only member of New Jersey’s Congressional delegation to question the way FERC reviews pipeline applications.

Earlier this year, Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, 12th District, labeled it a “flawed process,” pointing out FERC failed in past reviews to comprehensively consider the need for natural gas transmission infrastructure. Instead, she said, the agency evaluated each pipeline proposal in isolation.

The seizure of land through eminent domain is a tool designed to benefit the public. The FERC process must prove and guarantee that the pipeline will first and foremost benefit the public. But current information points to the opposite conclusion.

There is already strong evidence to suggest that the natural gas PennEast would deliver to New Jersey is not needed in New Jersey. An analysis conducted by Labyrinth Consulting found that building the PennEast pipeline would result in a 53 percent surplus beyond current demand in New Jersey.

“There is no justification based on need or cost to bring additional natural gas to New Jersey via PennEast or any other source,” the study concluded. It added that the apparent intent of PennEast is deliver the gas to interconnecting pipelines bound for other “downstream” markets outside New Jersey, including potential export overseas.

 In other words, New Jersey residents face the threat of losing both private and public lands, and risking the health and security of their communities, without benefit to this state!

Members of the PennEast consortium include PSEG, South Jersey Industries, New Jersey Resources, Spectra Energy and UGI.

FERC is hearing from New Jersey’s elected officials, but it also needs to hear from you. Please contact FERC at or 202-502-6088 and urge the agency to conduct a full and comprehensive environmental review on PennEast, and to demand a clear demonstration of public need.

In addition to approval from FERC, PennEast will also need numerous permits from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. Fortunately, the Department of Environmental Protection has refused to consider permit applications from PennEast without complete information. Please thank the Department of Environmental Protection for its stand on PennEast’s incomplete application and urge the agency to stand firm and continue to protect our state’s resources and communities. You can contact the commissioner’s office at 609-292-2885.

For more information about PennEast and other pipelines, go to

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


Coyotes, New Jersey’s wild dogs

September 18th, 2015

RELEASE: Sept. 18, 2015 – Volume XLVIII, No. 38

You’re in bed when suddenly the nighttime quiet is broken by a clamor of howls and yips.  Or maybe you spot what looks like a stray shepherd-mix dog in your yard.

They may be Eastern coyotes, wild relatives of domesticated dogs. Coyotes are now regularly seen even in New Jersey’s not-so-wild places.

According to Andrew Burnett, a principal biologist for the state Division of Fish & Wildlife, there are an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 coyotes living in New Jersey.

“They’re seen pretty much everywhere in the state,” he says. “They’re in all 21 counties and at least 430 municipalities.” In fact, he said, the only places coyotes haven’t been reported are in the area around Camden and in a cluster of small Bergen County towns.

Coyotes resemble small German shepherds, but with longer snouts and bushier tails. Their coloring can range from gray to black, brown, blond and red. One good way to identify them is by tail position: unlike most domestic dogs, coyotes tend to hold their tails below a horizontal position while standing, walking and running.

Coyotes are not native to New Jersey, and how they got here is somewhat of a mystery.

The state’s first reported coyote sighting was in Lambertville in 1939. While it’s possible coyotes naturally migrated to New Jersey from the west and north, some wildlife officials think private citizens may have smuggled some into the state prior to 1950. Contrary to rumor, said Burnett, New Jersey Fish & Wildlife has never “imported” coyotes from other states.

Like white-tail deer and black bears, coyotes have proven very tolerant to living in close proximity to humans and development. Yet, they are generally shy and afraid of people.

They primarily hunt rodents and rabbits, but they’re omnivorous and opportunistic and will make a meal of just about anything, including garbage, pet food and roadside carrion.

Coyotes are mainly nocturnal, but parents raising a litter of pups may be seen hunting during the day. In late summer and fall they usually stay in small family groups, but by the time their February breeding season approaches they’ll become more solitary.

Coyotes may not be native to this state we’re in, but they’ve come to play an important role by keeping rodent populations down in urban areas in the absence of native predators like snakes and hawks. They may also be helping to reduce New Jersey’s over-abundant deer population, said Burnett, although there haven’t been any scientific studies to confirm that impact.

One thing for certain, said Burnett, is that coyotes are here to stay: “They’re extremely adaptable.” 

Fish & Wildlife offers the following tips:

  • Never feed coyotes – it causes them to lose their natural fear of humans.
  • Don’t feed pet cats or feral cats outdoors; both the food and the cats could attract coyotes.
  • Put garbage in tightly closed containers that can’t be tipped over.
  • Bring pets indoors at night.
  • If you see coyotes in your yard, make loud noises, throw rocks or spray a garden hose to let them know they’re not welcome.

If you observe coyotes in the daytime that show no fear of humans or appear aggressive, contact your local police and the Division of Fish and Wildlife at 908-735-8793; outside of normal business hours call the DEP Hotline at 877-WARN-DEP.

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


New pump project latest threat to Barnegat Bay

September 11th, 2015

RELEASE: Sept. 11, 2015 – Volume XLVIII, No. 37

Nearly three years after Superstorm Sandy ravaged the New Jersey shore, the state is in the final phase of a massive project to rebuild Route 35, the main artery on the barrier island in northern Ocean County.

As part of the project – which was actually in the planning stages prior to Sandy – the New Jersey Department of Transportation constructed an elaborate drainage system to keep Route 35 high and dry during heavy rains. Nine new pumps were installed to move stormwater off the highway and into Barnegat Bay.

But the pump system has seemingly gone awry, adding further threats to the already-precarious health of Barnegat Bay. Even during an extremely dry summer, the new pumps were running almost constantly, gushing water into the bay through large outflow pipes.

“For nearly a month the weather was bone dry, yet these pumps were running like Niagara Falls every day,” said Britta Wenzel, executive director of Save Barnegat Bay, a grassroots watchdog group that works to protect the bay’s water quality and marine life.

The issue came to the forefront in early August, when a large plume of silt coming out of one pump system spread like a stain in the bay off Seaside Park. A state investigation concluded that the plume was a temporary problem resulting from silt that built up in the pipes during construction and the disturbance of existing muck on the bay floor.

But local citizens and Save Barnegat Bay suspect a larger problem: a design flaw in the system that allows groundwater to infiltrate the pipes.

“Everybody on the island is concerned that this project is just a disaster,” said Wenzel. “The local people love the environment – they love the birds, the crabbing and the fishing.” But already, she noted, they’ve noticed fewer waterfowl near the outflow pipes and impacts on crabbing and fishing.

In order to speed up rebuilding efforts, environmental impact assessments on the Route 35 project were waived in the aftermath of Sandy. Had the assessments been required, this problem might have been avoided.

Save Barnegat Bay is now pressing the Department of Transportation to hold a public hearing so the public can voice concerns and those overseeing the highway project can provide answers. This needs to be done, Wenzel believes, before the project is completed and the contractors paid.

“It’s like buying a new house,” says Wenzel. “You need to make a hit list of things that need to be fixed.”

Barnegat Bay is a New Jersey treasure, a place where generations of residents have fished, crabbed, swam, sailed, hunted and enjoyed the beauty of nature.

But it’s also suffered terribly from the impacts of over-development in its watershed. The bay is part of the National Estuary Program, a federally-funded project to improve water quality. And helping Barnegat Bay recover has been one of Governor Christie’s highest environmental priorities.

Given Barnegat Bay’s importance to this state we’re in, it seems like common sense that the Department of Transportation would share residents’ concerns about impacts to the bay and want to hear what they have to say. Citizens and taxpayers deserve to have their questions answered and problems with the system addressed.

It’s said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and Save Barnegat Bay has done a thorough job of documentation. To see dramatic aerial photos and videos of the discharge into Barnegat Bay, visit Save Barnegat Bay’s Facebook page at

To find out more about clean water efforts in Barnegat Bay, visit the American Littoral Society website at

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

Your brain on nature

September 3rd, 2015

RELEASE: September 3, 2015 – Volume XLVIII, No. 36

Want to do something nice for your brain? You could eat fish, the reputed “brain food,” or try problem-solving, mend-bending exercises and puzzles.

Or you could step into a quiet green space and give your mind a mini-break.

A growing body of evidence suggests that one of the things you can do for your brain is visiting a park or natural environment. It’s soothing and may even help you function more efficiently at work!

Gregory Bratman, a graduate student at Stanford University, conducted two recent studies designed to measure how spending time in green, natural spaces impacts our brains.

In the first study, Bratman and his colleagues found that volunteers who strolled through a quiet, leafy section of campus were happier and more attentive than those who walked for the same length of time near a loud, busy highway.

The second study aimed to find out why … if and how spending time in nature actually changed the brain in some way. Bratman and his team examined what walking in a natural setting does to our tendency to brood or worry about our lives.

Known to scientists as “morbid rumination”, this kind of brooding can lead to depression. It’s associated with a part of the brain called the subgenual prefrontal cortex.

The study showed that a 90-minute walk in nature decreases rumination, as reported by participants, as well as neural activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex. A 90-minute walk in an urban setting, on the other hand, had no impact on rumination or neural activity.

According the authors, the study “suggests that accessible natural areas within urban contexts may be a critical resource for mental health in our rapidly urbanizing world.”

Another study, this one by Kate Lee of the University of Melbourne in Australia, found that even smaller bursts of exposure to nature make a difference.

In Lee’s study, 150 students were tested in their ability to maintain focus and attention. They had to quickly tap or not tap a keyboard key in response to a series of numbers flashing by rapidly on their computer screens.

The students performed the so-called “Sustained Attention to Response Task” test twice, with a short break. During the break, half the students were shown an image of a cement building rooftop, while the other half were shown a building rooftop covered in grass and flowers.

The results? You guessed it! The students shown the pastoral green roof scene performed better on the task, showing less fluctuation in reaction time and making fewer errors. They also reported “restorative” feelings after seeing images of grass and flowers.

“Nature can provide cognitive benefits in much shorter timeframes, and in smaller amounts than previously demonstrated,” the authors concluded.

For anybody who works on computers all day in an office– and that’s a lot of us – the implications are clear. “Modern work drains attention throughout the day, so providing boosted ‘green micro-breaks’ may provide mental top-ups to offset declining attention,” Lee told the Washington Post.

So do your brain a favor and get into nature.  You have few excuses to stay inside since there’s no shortage of parks and preserves all over New Jersey where you can soothe your mind, increase your mental functions and get some exercise to boot.

For an online map of trails in New Jersey, visit these sites:, and

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

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

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

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