Fight for the Future of the Pines
In the Pinelands National Reserve, we are in the midst of a major cultural challenge. The majority of visitors and residents of the Pines are law abiding, respectful, and conservation-minded, but a small minority has opinions that are counter to the conservation values that we all work so hard to instill. On July 12th, as part of a restoration effort, hard-working volunteers planted 300 Atlantic White Cedar trees on private land that had suffered from tremendous abuse by off-road vehicles. The total cost of the 3-6 foot tall Atlantic White Cedars was over $2,000 dollars, not including the hours spent in the hot July sun by these committed volunteers. The roots began to take successfully and it appeared that this restoration had a strong chance of success, but on the night of August 6th, a group of off-road vehicle drivers decided differently.
They drove their vehicles in circles purposefully in the site, rutted the soil, and drove over the freshly planted saplings. They then got off their vehicles and physically pulled the tender trees out of the ground as the roots clung to the native soil. The ORV drivers then piled the saplings in a large mound, poured gasoline on them, and lit them on fire. This despicable behavior is all too common in the off-road vehicle culture as just last week another ORV driver was arrested for striking a police officer while fleeing the scene of a crime. Whether it is a historic site, ice-aged pond, paleo-dune, stream, or river, off-road vehicle drivers have shown no mercy to the Pine Barrens. We have to work to stop this or we will continue to lose many of the most beautiful and unique habitats of the Pinelands.
Time-lapse footage of volunteers planting Atlantic White Cedar saplings
Video of the aftermath of Off-road Vehicle vandalism on the restoration site.
In another example, just two weeks after volunteers cleaned and repainted the grounds and structures of Apple Pie Hill, individuals returned and threw televisions off the tower once again, littered beer cans and other refuse, and spray painted profane language across signs and guardrails. This landmark destination in the Pinelands is a microcosm of what has been happening across the National Reserve and the State forests within it, but we are not discouraged. This weekend we will paint back over the graffiti and clean up the refuse left by these individual in order to give the other visitors of the Pines the experience that they deserve.
Even in witness to this incredible behavior, we will not be discouraged, our resolve is steadfast and we will eventually succeed in the effort to protect the land and water from off-road vehicle abuse and the other threats. We are in this for the future of the Pinelands National Reserve and we will continue to fight to prevent further damage and work to restore areas that have already been lost.
Take action now
Come to the next Pinelands Commission meeting and tell them to stop off-road vehicle abuse in the Pinelands. The next meeting is Friday, September 9th at 9:30 AM.
All riders in the pines know that the office opens at 9 am and promptly closes at 4 pm . Everyone who uses the pine barrens know that after 4 pm and on the weekends, no one is monitoring the area.
It is a big area, with too many roads. Magazines and web sites advertise the pine barrens as a place where you can ride and go mudding with any type of vehicle.
The pine barrens, wharton, etc should up date their own web sites to the effect of what will not be tolerated in plain language. The new signs stating “bla, bla, bla,bla say nothing.
Dumping, littering and vandalism occur nationwide. Best way for us to reduce and mitigate it from occurring in the Pines is to be the eyes and ears of Law Enforcement. If you see dumping or clear indicators of a “party spot’ (dozens of beer bottles etc) while exploring the Pines contact the State at 1-877-Warn DEP so they can be made aware of the location for future law enforcement oversight. Meanwhile, I am sure many of you bring trash bags to collect litter, keep doing that and encourage others to do the same. PPA has several thousand members, and OTNJ several hundred, regular anti-litter cleanups could be a great way to meet fellow Pines lovers and reduce litter. Working together (Law enforcement, general public as well as groups like PPA and OTNJ) we can make a difference.
I suggest a very aggressive reaction to this horrible vandalism. NJ News w/the before, elapsed time planting (maybe slowed down a bit), the impressive “after”, then the horrible destruction. The Governor watches NJN. Also, a story in the local newspaper. Along with that, offer a generous reward. This was very likely shared on social media. 90℅ of the people in the NJ Witness Protection Program are low-lifes who ratted out their low-life acquaintances. I was one of the volunteers. I am sickened. I will contribute $500 towards a reward fund. If this hits the news there will be a group of very anxious thugs.
Pinelands Preservation folks – thank you for your work and perseverance. It’s beyond understanding why some of those who enjoy the pine barrens, also enjoy trashing it. Unfortunately, the expense of security or police guards must be beyond local budgets. I have enjoyed going to a pine barrens lake, but visitors throw trash into the bushes and along the sand roads. I know I’m in the barrens by the beer detritus alongside roads. With each lake visit, I now bring a trash bag and gloves and spend a few, grimacing minutes picking up – beer bottles, plastic Wawa containers, dirty diapers! People defecate, (there’s a composting toilet),dogs are not cleaned-up
after, charcoal is dumped, broken pool toys left behind. Perhaps public schools can reduce this destruction a bit through more education. The peace I once felt after leaving the lake won’t return. Homo sapiens always disappoint.
The culture of using the Pine Barrens as a motorsports arena and mudding area has a deep history with the DEP and Pinelands Commission issuing permits for off-road vehicle events like enduros and Jeep Jamboree. It has instilled into hundreds of off-roaders that the Pine Barrens is barren and only good as an off-roading playground. What the DEP and Pinelands Commission fail to understand is that these events prevent the quiet enjoyment of our public land by those who have supported them. Off-road event participants return to the scene week after week, month after month, year after year, bringing their other friends to wreck havoc on the Pine Barrens while unpermitted and insured. We pay the price! There is not one ounce of good these event bring to the ecosystem. The events are not recreational in nature they are competitive events to test man and machine against the environment. No other regional states permit these types of events in their State Forest and Public lands. So, they all come to New Jersey where it is the wild west because of the lack of political will to curb the destruction. Off-road events are only held in the Pine Barrens they are not held in Round Valley and Spruce Run Recreational Area, or Stokes State Forest. Perhaps they should hold these events on the George Washington Bridge on a busy weekend, it could be more challenging for everyone and no one would mind the noise.
The State’s Motorized Vehicle Access plan in Wharton was an attempt to reign in the destruction of critical habitats and roads. While some characterized its creation and implementation as flawed, it was an attempt to clearly delineate areas that should be off limits to motor vehicle traffic and make it more likely that police could both catch and convict law breakers. It wasn’t an attempt to shut down the forest to responsible users; it was an effort to protect critical wetlands areas, rare species and protect roads for all users include the Forest Fire Service. Unfortunately the efforts of “scrap the map” lobbyists chased state parks officials back to their offices in Trenton with little to show for three + years of work and planning. Wharton and other state parks and lands are seriously underfunded both in terms of maintenance and enforcement. Destruction of lands by illegal off-roading affects all state lands. While PPA and even some of the scrap the map groups are now working with the state on restoration and protection efforts, all involved see how incredibly difficult it is particularly since many of the scrap the map off roaders were emboldened by the “defeat” of the Wharton MAP. It will take sustained volunteer and financial support of efforts like these by PPA to develop rational policies and “MAPs” that protect public lands while allowing access to all; it will take the public to agree that certain sacrifices are necessary in order to protect Wharton and other public lands from unbridled destruction.
So sad and senseless some people don’t understand the importance of preservation of Pinelands and
Many of the ‘good apples’ of the off-road community kept arguing throughout the MAP processes that they can police themselves. We’re waiting………
The PPA needs to reach out to regional and national ORV groups (the Blue Ribbon Coalition is a national example) and tell them that if they want their activity to be respected and if they want to continue to have places to ride then they need to step up, take responsibility for the damage done by irresponsible users, and help with money and/or labor to repair the damage caused by their fellow ORVers.
Is there no way to install security cameras or something to stop these atrocities from happening? So very sad that the precious little trees that were taking root and were so kindly planted by volunteers were burnt up.
Why not have the meeting outside of “9-5” hours when more people would be able to attend?
You paint your picture with a very wide brush. Keep in mind that there are responsible off road riders as well; in fact, many off road motorcyclists actually help to maintain the very trails you use. Am I condoning the destruction and misuse chronicled here? Of course not, but I see comments being made that insinuate that “drastic measures” should – and will – be employed, whatever that means. Those of us trying to do the right things (registering and insuring our bikes, cleaning up after ourselves, staying on the approved lanes, etc.)shouldn’t be lumped in with those scofflaws seeking to create mayhem and destruction. Some
Vandals are sick people themselves. Such determined destruction of public-spirited efforts is indicative of a deep anti-social mentality. They believe that because the site is remote, that their actions will have no repercussions. Can we get some volunteer wardens with some authority to identify and prosecute these people?
I have been going down to the pines to enjoy the quiet and beauty for over 40 years. It is a sin and sad to see the damage to the land from the off road vehicles and the beer bottles thrown on the sides of the roads. There should be more arrests and confiscation of illegal/unlicensed vehicles. I hope there is a way to stop the morons so there is a future for more generations who want to enjoy the peace of the pine lands and feel one with nature. It is good for your health and very up lifting.
I have been going down to the pines to enjoy the quiet and beauty for over 40 years. It is very sad to see the damage to the land from the off road vehicles and the beer bottles thrown on the sides of the roads. There should be more arrests and confiscation of illegal/unlicensed vehicles. I hope there is a way to stop the morons so there is a future for more generations who want to enjoy the peace of the pine lands and feel one with nature. It is good for your health and very up lifting.
Drastic measures against these hoodlums is required. I will leave it at that.
We love the Pine Barrens. It’s such a special place. Who would vandalize it?
This is terrible and needs end ASAP! No appreciation for the environment. A few spoil it for many. As a hunter and conservationist I respect and enjoy the outdoors. I’m sure this kind of destruction will affect access at some point like it has in many other locations.
This is so sad. Thank you for persevering through the ignorance of this sub culture. Perhaps it is time to ban ATV use completely from these beautiful lands.
That video of the burned trees literally madw me sick to my stomach that people could actually destroy a place where they ‘enjoy’? going. What the hell is wrong with people like this? I hope they catch them and are made to pay for and replant the trees
Saying all ORV are tearing up the Pines is wrong. I am disabled and can’t walk or hike through the pines and the only way I can enjoy them is by trailriding. I have NEVER ran a tree over or went down a road that wasn’t already a road. A friend of mine and I were back in Apple Pie Hill one night and a bunch of kids were up there when we pulled up and were in the process of dragging a refrigerator up to the tower. We were out numbered but didn’t care and we MADE them put the refrigerator back into their truck and tried to explain to th how twhat they were doing was gping to ruin it for everyone else. Well I don’t know if they took our lesson to heart but I do know that you arenot allowed up there at night any more which is a shame cause I used to go up there to see meteor showers and saw (which they said) was the best meteor shower people in our life time would ever see and boy was it! There were meteors every couple seconds! We saw 10 lifetimes worth of meteors that night. It is sad that because of a few a$$holes everybody lost a fine place to see Mother Natures beauty.