Restore Independence

Oct 31, 2018

To the Editor:

The New Jersey Pinelands, which includes portions of seven counties, is an area of vast natural resources and home to many important fauna and flora. The area plays host to the Pine Barrens tree frog, the corn snake and about 100 species of migrating and wintering birds, such as bald eagles. The Pinelands also is home to a bounty of plants and flowers seldom found elsewhere in the world.

In addition to unique wildlife and plants, the Pinelands sits atop the Kirkwood-Cohansey Aquifer, a crucial resource that provides drinking water to over one million people, as well as water for irrigation by farmers. Four major river systems within the Pinelands – Mullica, Wading, Basto and Oswego – empty out into the Atlantic Ocean. Unfortunately, many threats face the Pinelands, including over-pumping of the aquifer, pollution and overdevelopment.

Overseeing the management of this critical area is the New Jersey Pinelands Commission, a regional planning authority established in 1979. The Pinelands Commission consists of a board of expert volunteers and several committees that tackle issues facing this 938,000-acre piece of land. Each Pinelands Commission committee has many responsibilities, all of which are meant to contribute to the overall well-being of the land and water. The Pinelands Commission sets and enforces guidelines for community members and approves or rejects development in the area, using the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan as a guide.

While the Pinelands Commission is charged with the critical job of protecting the area’s natural resources, in the past, members of the commission have been pushed to advance projects that conflict with the agency’s mission and actions have been taken to diminish the independence of the Pinelands Commission, hindering commissioners from acting in the region’s best interest.

With threats to the Pinelands ever on the horizon, it’s now, more than ever, important to protect the region. Gov. Murphy must carefully consider Pinelands Commission appointments, supporting those who have qualifying experience and believe in the mission of the agency. Pineland appointments determine the future of the Pinelands, and the governor has a great opportunity to protect New Jersey’s jewel.

Eric Stiles, president and CEO

New Jersey Audubon



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