Celebrating 30 Years Protecting the Pinelands
We are delighted to be celebrating 30 years of protecting the Pinelands this year! Learn more about our vision for the Pinelands.
By Becky FreeJuly 16, 2019
The Pinelands Preservation Alliance was created in 1989 to ensure that there was one citizens’ organization whose mission was to watch over the Pinelands. For 30 years, we have built public support and made the case for protecting the Pinelands’ unique natural resources and respecting the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP).
Our work has prevented political and economic forces from revoking the Pinelands Protection Act and CMP. This advocacy work has also enabled public and private land trusts to buy far more land for conservation than they could without the CMP in place – more than 300,000 acres of Pinelands forests, and 60,000 acres of farmland, have been permanently protected since the rules came into effect in 1980.
PPA was officially incorporated as a nonprofit organization in July of 1989. In August 1989, thanks to funding from the Victoria Foundation, we hired our first Executive Director, Sally Price, and in 1990, we hired our first employee, Theresa Lettman. During those early years PPA had an office in historic Whitesbog Village located in what was then known as Lebanon State Forest. (Lebanon State Forest was renamed Brendan T. Byrne State Forest in 2002 by Governor James McGreevey in recognition of Governor Byrne’s work to get the Pinelands Protection Act passed.)
By the summer of 1993 we had outgrown our space in Whitesbog and moved our offices to an old bank building in the borough of Pemberton. The staff had grown to five. In May 1998 PPA hired its second ever Executive Director, Carleton Montgomery, who continues to serve and has guided PPA through complicated issues and significant organizational growth.
In 2004 we had grown enough financially to move to our current home, the Bishop Farmstead in Southampton. This property includes a farmhouse, converted carriage shed and newly renovated barn on 12 acres surrounded by farmland. The Bishop Farmstead has allowed us to host programs, events and a small visitor center. The Farmstead is on the State and National Registers of Historic Sites. We are proud to ensure the preservation of this site.
In 2015, we created Pinelands Adventures, an outfitter based at Atsion Lake in the Pine Barrens that is taking thousands of adults and children for trips in the Pine Barrens. We created Adventures to help spread love for the Pinelands through recreation that has a low impact on the environment and a high impact on the people.
We have grown in staff, expertise and effectiveness since 1989. We now have 13 full-time and four part-time staff. Protecting the Pinelands requires intense, consistent focus over a long period of time. Many of our victories were decades in the making. But we always remember that in this work every defeat is permanent and every victory provisional!
What does it mean to protect the Pinelands?
We have spent a lot of time considering how to answer this question. We believe we will succeed in protecting the Pinelands if:
- The Pinelands’ large, contiguous forests survive, because everything else – water, wildlife, botanical heritage, air, scenery and recreation – depends on saving these big connected forests.
- People use Pinelands water resources sustainably, meaning we enjoy their benefits without depleting these resources or harming natural habitats by draining streams and aquifers.
- Natural Pine Barrens water quality and soil chemistry are protected from contamination and alteration, so they will continue to sustain native communities of plants and wildlife.
- The habitats of native and rare species of wildlife and plants are preserved from development and other damage, so they sustain the species that thrive there.
- Historic and cultural resources that make the Pinelands distinctive are protected and enjoyed by the public, helping build interest in and loyalty to the Pinelands.
We believe the Pinelands can be managed for people and for nature if we are smart about it. This premise depends on the following basic strategies for protecting the Pinelands:
- Respect the boundaries of conservation and growth areas established by the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP) – the core blueprint for preservation and development in the Pinelands.
- Make policy and permitting decisions based on science.
- Educate and engage the public to ensure government and business respect New Jersey’s Pinelands protection policies and maintain the integrity of the public agencies charged with implementing those policies.
- Promote the stewardship and restoration of natural lands and waters in concert with citizens and State and local officials.
In 2019 we are focused on five main issues. First, we are working closely with members of the public and our partner organizations to ensure that Governor Murphy makes good on his promise to reform the Pinelands Commission. See the article on page 4. Second, we continue to fight two gas pipelines proposed for construction in the Pinelands. Our legal appeals are pending. Third, we are pressing the Pinelands Commission and the DEP to implement better and more aggressive land management strategy to protect our forests and wetlands from damage. Fourth, the Pinelands Commission must make critical regulatory improvements, including standards to protect the Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer, for the long term health of the Pinelands. Finally, we are working with advocates throughout the state to advance clean energy policies, forest stewardship practices, new and improved stormwater treatment and cleanup of water pollution like leads and PFOAs.
Building public support for the Pinelands is at the heart of what we do. In the past five years, thanks to our members, we have been able to pursue new initiatives to grow the love and activism in defense of the Pinelands. Recent projects include creating Pinelands Adventures to help people of all ages and abilities explore and enjoy the Pinelands (www.PinelandsAdventures.org). In 2017 we created Save the Source, a video series telling real stories about people who depend on the Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer for their livelihoods and well-being (www.SavetheSource.org). We are helping to launch the Hammonton Health Coalition whose first project is to help young people overcome Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). Finally, we have worked with hundreds of people through our Land Protectors volunteer stewardship program. These volunteers have removed thousands of tons of garbage from the Pinelands, helped maintain trails and protected habitat.
As we move into our next 30 years it is clear that the future of the Pinelands protection effort lies in your hands. We will continue to work side by side with you so that future generations will come to love and experience the Pinelands just as we do.