View Full Version : The New Jersey Pine Barrens

September 26th, 2006, 05:03 PM
The New Jersey Pine Barrens;

25 years ago, an ambitious plan preserved natural wonder of the Pinelands
Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The New Jersey Pine Barrens stand among nature's grandest survivors.

In the 1960s, urban planners had grandiose visions of replacing the stream-filled forests of southern New Jersey with a giant jetport and a brand-new city of 250,000 people.

In the 1970s, federal bureaucrats thought it might be a good spot for 50 nuclear plants.

Around the same time, oil companies exploring off Atlantic City readied plans for pipelines and industrial plants in the Pine Barrens that were shelved only when the search for oil went bust. During one drought, there was talk of using fleets of tank trucks to cart the Pinelands' vast water reserves to northern New Jersey.

But the biggest threats to the environmentally sensitive region were the twin waves of suburban sprawl heading relentlessly from New York and Philadelphia.

Then-Gov. Brendan Byrne in 1981 approved an unprecedented state protection plan for the swath of about a million acres, which covers nearly a fifth of the state.

Pinelands supporters will celebrate the protection plan's 25th an niversary at a conference in New Brunswick this week. Because of the plan, the Pinelands remain New Jersey's last great wilderness -- vast, quiet and colorful.

There are cranberry and blueberry farms and rural villages, thou sands of acres of pine forests and picturesque rivers and lakes. There also are 95 threatened or endangered animals and plants.

It all sits atop mammoth underground aquifers that contain an es timated 17.7 trillion gallons of fresh water. In 1988, the United Nations recognized the global ecological value of the region by designating it the New Jersey Pinelands Biosphere Reserve.

"If we hadn't had this protective regulatory system, the Pinelands would not be anything remotely like it is now," said former Gov. Jim Florio, who as a congressman spon sored a federal law that designated the region as the Pinelands National Reserve. "Unfettered development would have destroyed this million acres in ways that would have been indefensible."

The chief goal of state efforts was to steer development away from the sparsely populated forests of Burlington and Ocean counties. The state plan created a "preservation" zone of nearly 300,000 acres in the heart of the region where, even now, the population density is only about 11 people per square mile. A larger "protection" area also was formed around it as a buffer for the environmentally fragile core.

Most new construction went to areas the plan designated for development, such as existing towns and villages.

Development is occurring in areas where it should occur and not in areas where it should not occur," said John Stokes, executive director of the state Pinelands Commission and an original member of its staff.

"We're still accommodating growth and development, but in a way that's protective of the Pinelands."

Stokes said today more than half of the Pinelands is permanently protected, either through public or private ownership. The plan allows those who live in the most sensitive areas of the Pinelands to sell their development rights to builders who can then construct in the designated "growth" areas.

Few were more instrumental in bringing about Pinelands protection than Byrne, who once called it the issue for which he would be remembered 100 years hence.

"The Pinelands had no supporters originally except me and John McPhee," the 82-year-old ex-governor said, referring to the author of the 1968 book "The Pine Barrens," a classic nonfiction work that be came an environmental call to action.

Byrne considers the Pinelands Act a success, but he still has concerns.

"I worry about whether the commitment will continue," he said. "I think you are starting to see a little bit of nibbling at the edges, and that worries me."

Some environmentalists share that assessment. Jeff Tittel, direc tor of the state chapter of the Sierra Club, said "The core area's still intact. We've lost some battles, but overall it's been a tremendous suc cess."

September 26th, 2006, 05:06 PM
However, Tittel and other environmentalists are angry over a Pinelands Commission decision in July to allow a developer to build a 363-acre residential and commercial park in Stafford Township in exchange for capping two old township landfills. In particular, they object to the relocation of the endangered northern pine snake and other threatened species to a part of the site that will be left undeveloped.

Stokes said the landfill capping will better safeguard area water supplies, which is the commission's main objective.

When Byrne moved to tighten controls in the 1970s, his leading nemesis was J. Garfield DeMarco, a former Burlington County Republican chairman whose family was then the area's largest landowner.

DeMarco had chaired the Pinelands Environmental Council, a predecessor to the Pinelands Commission. The council drew harsh criticism from the Byrne administration for developing a master plan that might have allowed about 400,000 people into the area now designated for preservation.

David Bardin, then commis sioner of the state Department of Environmental Protection, called it a "land speculator's dream."

DeMarco, now 68, insists he was unfairly cast as the Pinelands villain and that the early master plan was just a draft. He said he op posed Byrne's initial Pinelands plan because he felt it didn't do enough to soften the impact of zon ing controls on municipal tax cof fers and private property values. He said both issues were later addressed.

Two years ago, DeMarco's family sold 9,400 acres of cranberry bogs and other open space in the heart of the Pinelands to the New Jersey Conservation Foundation. The price: $12 million, less than half the appraised value.

"To me, it would have been awful to see it developed," De Marco said. "I'm delighted to see it preserved forever, I really am."

Critics of the commission contend municipalities such as Egg Harbor Township were not prepared for the massive development steered to them in the effort to protect the inner woodlands. To ac commodate the growth, they were forced to quickly build schools, sewers and other infrastructure with little help from the state.

"They take these growth districts and just close their eyes to them," said Sen. William Gormley (R-Atlantic), who as young lawmaker once called for the abolition of the commission.

Richard Hluchan, a private at torney who helps builders navigate the Pinelands Act, said the once- revolutionary idea of limiting sprawl and steering growth elsewhere is becoming the norm in New Jersey.

Candace Ashmun, the only original member still serving on the commission, said she is "very optimistic" about the future of the act.

"I'm amazed at how well it has worked," she said.

Pine Barrens photos http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/dailyphotos/gallery.ssf?cgi-bin/view_gallery.cgi/njo/view_gallery.ata?g_id=7555

September 26th, 2006, 08:06 PM
New Jersey is such a scenic state! It gets a bum rap coz most folks know it from the Turnpike. The pine barrens, the shore, the mountains in the north and west...

Personally I find even the Meadows scenic. All that trusswork...

September 26th, 2006, 08:44 PM
NJ is a wonderful state. It is a shame that most people think of it in terms of industry and urban blight. NJ has a lot of scenic places to vist. :)

September 26th, 2006, 11:33 PM
Mountains? lol. Large hills may even be stretching it.

The view I get everyday:


And just 30 minutes away, the Presidential range of NH:


Both taken Oct 05. And that pales in comparison to the Rockies!

But yes, New Jersey away from the turnpike is pretty sweet. I love the shore. The girls, on the other hand.....they're nuts!

September 27th, 2006, 12:00 AM
Yeah, I've really lost all respect for the Appalachians since I first visited Colorado. The thing is, there are even better, taller mountains out west. My favorite range so far: the Cascades.

An old joke: what's the difference between a garbage bag in Jersey and a Princeton student? The garbage bag gets taken out once in a while… but, of course, they both still end up cold and lonely on the side of the New Jersey Turnpike.

September 27th, 2006, 03:41 AM
The Pine Barrens, the cranberry bogs, the swamps... are spectacular and that scenery is in my soul.

Garfield De Marco´s niece:



September 27th, 2006, 01:21 PM
just don't let the Jersey Devil get ya! :D

that's by far my favorite legend of the eastern US, there are sightings reported even these days

September 27th, 2006, 02:17 PM
just don't let the Jersey Devil get ya! :D

that's by far my favorite legend of the eastern US, there are sightings reported even these days

My favorite story of the Jersey Devil, is when he snuck up on a Pizza Delivery guy. That is a classic. :)

September 29th, 2006, 01:11 PM
I love the Pine Barrens. It New Jersey's own natural wonder. Can't wait for the Meadowlands to make a complete turn around.

September 29th, 2006, 04:24 PM
I live in Western Monmouth County and go to Atlantic City once or twice a month, I live right off Route 537 so I take that to Route 539 which I take all the way to Tuckerton.

Route 539 cuts right through the heart of the Pine Barrens, it's an amazing drive, for me it's quicker than the Parkway and also I avoid the dangers of driving at 1Am on a Friday and Saturday night on the Parkway (drunk drivers etc). Route 539 cuts right through Fort Dix's training ranges, along Lakehurst Naval Air Station's Western Boundary and right along the BOMARC site that is still relatively untouched since the Sixties (missle silos and their launch cranes are still visible). It then passes Warren Grove which is the main bombing/training range for Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Units from as far away as Massachusets, Ohio, Virginia etc.. On some days you might catch A-10s or F-16s making their bombing runs.

Brooklyn Playa
October 16th, 2006, 06:01 PM
i heard theres a dangerous devil that has been residing there since the 40's.

but i have also heard he is completely un-harmful and is just there to scare the people away from pine barrens...

October 17th, 2006, 01:35 PM
he also plays hockey

May 15th, 2007, 09:42 PM
Flare from fighter jet blamed for Pinelands fire

Posted by The Star-Ledger May 15, 2007 8:07PM
Categories: Fire

A major forest fire that has consumed some 5,000 acres of the Pinelands in southern Ocean County and damaged several mobile homes may have been sparked by a flare, officials say.

Officials with the New Jersey National Guard say they are working under the assumption that a flare dropped by one of their fighter jets started the fire.

"We believe it was one of our F-16s on a routine training mission that dropped the flare that started the fire," said Lt. Col. James Garcia, a spokesman for the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. "There's going to be an investigation."

Garcia said the flare was dropped by the fighter jet as it passed over the Warren Grove Gunnery Range in a flight pattern it would use in a bombing run.

"We try to make our training as realistic as possible. The flare would be dropped as a decoy to throw off an enemy weapons system like a heat-seeking missile," Garcia said.

National Guard officials are trying to determine the altitude the plane was flying when the flare was dropped. Garcia said flares are to be dropped at an altitude high enough for the flare to burn out before it reaches the ground. He said minimum altitude varies with every mission, based on factors such as wind speed and dryness of the brush on the range.

The plane that dropped the flare is assigned to the 177th Fighter Wing, an Air Guard unit near Atlantic City. The unit flies homeland defense missions on the East Coast and also has been deployed to Iraq.

The New Jersey Forest Fire Service and firefighters from local towns are struggling to get the fire, fueled by stiff winds, under control.

"We're working to contain it, but it could destroy up to 10,000 acres before it is brought under control. It's moving quickly," said Bert Plante, a division fire warden with the forest fire service.

Plante said officials are working to evacuate some communities along Route 72 in Stafford Township that could be threatened if the blaze is not stopped. At least six homes in a mobile home park in Barnegat Township have been damaged, and firefighters there are trying to protect the remaining homes, he said.

Neighborhoods in both Barnegat and Stafford townships were being evacuated, according to the Ocean County emergency-management office.

Elaine Makatura, spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said the fire started in the Warren Grove area of Stafford Township around 2:15 p.m. and burned 2,500 acres by 4:30 p.m. She said it jumped Route 539 and continued to head east into the Stafford Forge Wildlife Management Area.

"There's a lot to burn in that area," Makatura said. "It's dry. It's windy, and there's a lot of forest.''

Police closed Route 539 between Stafford Forge Road in Little Egg Harbor and Cedar Bridge Road in Stafford around 3 p.m. Meanwhile, State Police were watching to make sure it did not threaten the southbound lanes of the Garden State Parkway.

Firefighters set up a fire line along Route 72, the main road to the Long Beach Island seashore resort area, as part of the effort to contain the blaze.

Between 17 and 20 firetrucks, as well as a bulldozer and a helicopter with a bucket, are on the scene and are expected to be there most of the night, Makatura said.

The area burned by the fire includes about 2,000 acres of the nearly 5,000-acre Stafford Forge Wildlife Management Area, which is controlled by the state Division of Fish and Wildlife. Plante said the blaze is moving away from the wildlife lands and toward private forests, but it could threaten homes.

"If it crosses Route 72, it's going to affect many communities. Hopefully we can stop it before that," Plante said.

The area burning is at the edge of the 1.1 million-acre Pinelands national preserve, about 25 miles north of Atlantic City.

The fire is not the first training mishap to take place at Warren Grove, a 9,000 acre training area just west of the Garden State Parkway in southern Ocean County that's used by Air Guard and active duty Air Force units from the eastern seaboard.

At least two previous brush fires have been started by ordnance dropped on the range.

In November 2004, an F-16 pilot from the District of Columbia Air Guard accidentally fired training rounds from a 20-millimeter cannon through the roof of a nearby school during a night mission. No one was injured. Military investigators ultimately blamed a combination of pilot error and a design flaw in the plane's computer system for the accidental shooting. The range was closed for more than a month during the investigation.

In 2002, an F-16 crashed during a training run at the range.

Contributed by MaryAnn Spoto, Brian Murray and Wayne Woolley, with material from the Associated Press

May 16th, 2007, 12:04 PM
Damn, I heard people say, "New Jersey needs to be bombed", but I think the military is taking it a little too far...

May 16th, 2007, 08:54 PM
Lol nice omega. In all seriousness though this is sad. The Pine Barrens are a natural wonder and this will take a while for this section of the Pine Barrens to recover. Hopefully this rain is helping the brave fireman and forest workers who are trying to stop it.

May 17th, 2007, 10:28 AM
In wake of fire, lawmakers call for gunnery range to close

Posted by The Star-Ledger May 17, 2007 9:38AM
Categories: Fire

As firefighters grapple with the remnants of the massive South Jersey wildfire sparked by an Air National Guard jet on a training mission, three state lawmakers are calling for the Warren Grove Gunnery Range to close, according to the Asbury Park Press.

The three Ocean County Republicans - Sen. Leonard T. Connors Jr., Assemblymen Christopher J. Connors and Brian E. Rumpf - contend that damage from the 14,000-acre fire make continued operations at the base difficult to justify, The Press reports.

To read more, visit app.com.

May 21st, 2007, 07:16 AM
The paradox: without fires, the Pine Barrens would not exist.

May 21st, 2007, 07:20 AM
May 21, 2007

From Beaches to Pine Barrens, a Study Puts Values on New Jersey’s Natural Assets

Keith Meyers/The New York Times
The Pine Barrens were said to be worth $1,476 per acre per year.


The New Jersey Pine Barrens are known for a lot of things: ghostly legends of a bat-winged Jersey Devil; weekend canoeing among mossy bogs; a place where Tony Soprano and company like to dump their dead.

The Pine Barrens, it turns out, also have an environmental value of about $1,476 an acre a year, based on their ability to provide the earth with water, animal habitat and pollination, according to a report being released today.

The report, by economists commissioned by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, tries to put a dollar value on the state’s natural resources, from the Jersey Shore to the Kittatinny Mountains, to places like, well, Weehawken.

Beaches like Sandy Hook and Sea Girt, with their environmentally essential sand dunes, had the highest value per acre per year, about $42,000.

New Jersey’s cities, which occupy more acreage than almost any other topography in the state, had no environmental value, except for parks, playgrounds and other occasional green spaces. Neither did the rest stops on the New Jersey Turnpike.

The report grew out of an environmental theory that is controversial in some quarters, but seems to be gaining some mainstream adherents. In recent years, number crunchers have been putting dollar values on peat bogs and coral reefs around the world.

Wetlands in Florida, another recent study reported, are worth $11.3 billion each year, or about $3,190 per acre, just for storm protection. In New York, where wetlands are much scarcer, the total is $271 million, or about $20,691 per acre per year. Advocates of the study of “natural capital” or “ecosystem services” — imagine Adam Smith running the Sierra Club — say it is a way to give greater legitimacy to environmental arguments, and make people realize more fully what they give up if they sacrifice nature.

“It’s kind of making it clear that these are valuable assets and need to be stewarded for the public good,” said Robert Costanza, director of the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at the University of Vermont and one of the foremost advocates of this approach.

The New Jersey study was done by Dr. Costanza and others at the Gund Institute, including Matthew Wilson and Austin Troy, as well as staff members at New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection. To finance the study, the state received $200,000 in grants from two foundations.

The researchers analyzed studies of wetlands, forests and other aspects of the environment. They also assessed the cost of providing artificial equivalents of services the natural world provides, like flood protection. The study also considered the costs necessitated by damage to the environment and the price people would be willing to pay for outdoor recreation.

By putting price tags on features of the natural world, Dr. Costanza and others reason, polluters can be fined more accurately for the damage they cause. Should an oil spill ruin New Jersey’s entire coastal shelf, for example, state officials might cite the report’s estimate of an environmental value of $1,299 per acre per year as they tried to recoup damages from those responsible.

New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the nation, filled with car-clogged shopping malls and cursed with the pungent perfume of oil refineries and chemical companies.

It is also, of course, graced with refuges like the Delaware River Valley and the Pine Barrens, which lost 14,000 to 17,000 acres of trees and brush last week in a fire started by a flare dropped at a military firing range.

The researchers calculated values for each type of natural resource, like freshwater wetlands ($11,568 an acre a year), croplands ($866), grasslands ($77) and what the report called urban green spaces ($2,473).

In general, the coast and far southern reaches of the state tended to have the most environmental value, the report said, exceeding $8,000 an acre a year in some areas.

Economists in this field calculate each value on a per-year basis, as opposed to its value right now, which Dr. Costanza likened to renting a property versus owning it.

The present value, Dr. Costanza said, can be calculated by dividing the annual value by 0.03. So beaches, at $42,147 per acre per year, would be worth $1.4 million per acre in today’s dollars, and forests, at $1476 per acre per year, $49,200, he said.

Environmentalists and regulators plan to use such figures as ammunition against developers aiming to build in forests, or to bolster arguments for environmental regulations or preservation money from state legislatures.

“One of the most significant challenges we constantly face here is the idea of sprawl,” said Lisa P. Jackson, commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection. “I think it is important when we deal with people on the economic growth side to be able to use the common language of dollars and cents when we talk about the land we’re trying to save.”

Dr. Costanza and the other researchers concluded that New Jersey’s total natural capital is worth about $18 billion per year. Nature, he says, turns out to be about as economically valuable to New Jersey as the state’s construction industry.

“Developers on one side are doing studies showing that development brings jobs and economic growth, and municipal officials are eager for anything that could keep property taxes down,” said William J. Mates, a project manager with the Department of Environmental Protection, who worked on the report.

He continued: “What’s been lacking on the other side is a quantified picture of natural resources. We can make the case qualitatively till the cows come home, but now we can say, ‘Hey, there are economic losses if we convert farmland to housing.’ ”

Some economists feel that putting a price on the environment is meaningless. Some environmentalists shudder at expressing nature’s worth in numbers.

“To approach the issue of biodiversity as if it were an exercise in global bean-counting is fundamentally wrongheaded,” wrote Timothy C. Weiskel, an environmental ethicist, in an essay while he was director of Harvard’s environmental ethics and public policy program.

Mark Sagoff, a philosopher specializing in environmental policy at the University of Maryland, said the approach was “just a politically correct exercise.”

The benefits that nature provides either “can’t be cut and divided,” are “already priced by the market, like timber and farmland,” or “are too cheap to measure, like wind,” he said.

Such an approach will backfire against environmentalists if they argue against development by saying a wetland or forest is economically valuable, Dr. Sagoff added. That will only cause a private landowner to demand more money for the land, money the government cannot afford to pay.

The state has a trust fund to buy land for preservation. But just last week, Gov. Jon S. Corzine worried some environmental advocates when he said he would not support a referendum on borrowing $1.75 billion over the next 30 years to replenish the fund. The governor said he preferred to add to the fund by selling off state assets like toll roads and the lottery, rather than borrowing.

Patrick J. O’Keefe, chief executive of the New Jersey Builders Association, said attaching economic value to natural resources was “valid” and “meritorious,” but could increase the cost of available land and reduce the acreage that could be developed.

“If our policies to reduce flood hazards are accomplished in ways that increase the cost of housing,” Mr. O’Keefe said, “those who are priced out of the housing market therefore have to find shelter in circumstances that may be less healthful and less safe.”

Dr. Costanza is comfortable pushing the envelope. In 1997, he and other researchers created a stir by estimating that the total value of the natural world averaged $33 trillion a year, nearly twice what was then the world’s gross national product of $18 trillion.

This year, he and others formed a corporation called Earth Inc., which will, among other things, produce “earth shareholder reports” that will put dollar values on everything from rain forests to snail darter habitats.

Dr. Costanza also helped draft legislation in Vermont to establish a trust to collect fees from polluters. The money would be used, among other things, to pay the owners of private land to keep it forested.

A similar agency exists in Costa Rica. It collects money from urban water users and hydroelectric dams and uses those fees to pay landowners to grow trees instead of raising cows.

Still, even eco-friendly Vermont is not quite ready for such a proposal, said the bill’s sponsor, State Senator Hinda Miller.

“There were some people who said, ‘I really like this idea,’ ” Ms. Miller said. “ ‘Not today, not this moment, not this session, but I really get it.’ ”

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

June 6th, 2007, 02:56 PM
coincidence, a coworker told me about the pinelands today :)
are there any car accessible picnic spots in the pinelands, where one can bring a yappy dog with impunity?

June 6th, 2007, 03:11 PM
Sounds like the dog's gonna get wacked.

June 6th, 2007, 04:40 PM
The Warren Grove Gunnery range is too important to the 177thFW at Atlantic City, as well as Marine Corps Reserve Helicopter Units from PA moving to McGuire. If it wasn't the flare then something else would have sparked the fire eventually, the range is too important to the future of the military presence in the Northeastern US.

July 31st, 2007, 11:47 PM
Parkway tunnels to offer safe passage for critters

by Tom FeeneyTuesday July 31, 2007, 9:07 PM

Snakes, frogs and salamanders may never be stuck in Shore traffic again.

The long-planned widening of the Garden State Parkway through the Pinelands will include a series of wildlife tunnels designed to let five threatened or endangered species of reptiles pass safely from one side of the highway to the other.

The passages and 6.7 miles of concrete walls to channel the reptiles into them and off the road will cost about $9 million, Turnpike Authority officials said.

The widening project will disrupt the habitats of 14 animals on the federal or state threatened or endangered species lists, a Turnpike consultant found. Nine of the animal species were birds. The other five - the timber rattlesnake, the northern pine snake, the Pine Barrens tree frog, the Cope's gray tree frog and the eastern tiger salamander - would have to slither, hop or walk through traffic to cross the newly widened Parkway if the wildlife passages weren't built.

The DEP has told the Turnpike Authority it must build the tunnels to qualify for the permits it needs to widen the road.

The Turnpike Authority plans to spend $135 million to widen the Parkway from two lanes in each direction to three between Toms River and Manahawkin, a stretch of 17 miles.

Because it might want to expand other sections of the Parkway in the future, it has applied for permits to widen the full 50-mile stretch of the road between Toms River and Somers Point.

Read the full story in Wednesday's Star-Ledger.