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Pine Barrens Tree Frog by Robert Ferguson II. These treefrogs are endangered. Use your voice to protect them.

Pinelands Commission Needs to Make a Change

It’s time to demand that the Pinelands Commission fix how they handle endangered species surveys…

July 9, 2024

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Currently, the Pinelands Commission permits construction applicants to hire their own consultants to determine whether or not there are endangered species present in an area proposed to be bulldozed. The Commission does not qualify, test, or inspect the work that is done by the applicant’s consultant. Regulatory staff, who are not wildlife experts, sign off on the applicant’s survey methodology. The Commission’s science staff, who are wildlife experts, are wholly absent from the process. For the third-party consultant, since it is in their employer’s interest that nothing be discovered, there is a perverse incentive for the consultants to not find or report endangered species.  Who will applicants recommend to their contacts and networks– the consultant that accurately reports the presence of endangered species or the one who confirms nothing was there at all?

In one recent construction application to the planning board in Pemberton Township (for an area just outside the Pinelands), a simple search of the applicant’s wildlife consultant’s professional history revealed that although he self-describes as an “ecologist”, he does not possess a degree in ecology, wildlife biology, or zoology and has not been an author or co-author on any wildlife studies. The website listed for the company was full of “under construction” pages, which has been the case for over a year. There were no employees listed beside the lone individual who purported to be an “expert”. This consultant has been used in dozens of applications throughout New Jersey and is emblematic of the problem we need to fix.

The solution is simple.

This situation is easily solvable by relieving the applicant of the ability to directly hire wildlife surveyors. The Commission can require applicants to post bond for the Commission staff themselves to contract with wildlife consultants to perform surveys.  As seasoned experts in Pinelands area wildlife, the Commission’s science staff should be required to sign off on any proposed survey methodology and then perform inspections to see whether the work is being done correctly. The science staff may be required to expand to fulfill this priority, given the staff’s current time dedication to wildlife research that will help inform future surveys.

The current practice of allowing wildlife surveys to be performed with clear conflicts of interest and without inspections and rigorous standards must end. To regain public trust in the results of these surveys, the Commission can and should take action to address this situation now.

You can help by asking the Commission directly to require applicants to post bond and for the Commission itself to hire and qualify consultants.

The next full Pinelands Commission meeting is on July 12th at 9:30 AM, public comment is at the end of the meeting. We need you to ask the Commission to immediately address this situation during public comment. You can show up in person or call in – either option will be helpful. Details for the meeting are below. View the meeting agenda here.

Pinelands Commission Meeting
Friday, July 12th; 9:30 AM
15 Springfield Road, New Lisbon, NJ

OR

Watch the Meeting via YouTube, Call in During Public Comment
Call-in information is in the meeting agenda here.

There is a delay on the livestream, so if you call during public comment, you will hear the voice on the phone before you hear it on your computer. As soon as they ask you to speak on the phone, mute your computer and start your comment.

33 responses to “Pinelands Commission Needs to Make a Change”

  1. James Conroy says:

    Please make a commonsense change to this procedure. The Commision is absolutely the correct authority to hire and oversee a qualified expert in this determination.

  2. Joanie M Parks says:

    I just read that applicants hire their own consultants and that the Commission does not qualify, test, or inspect the work that is done by the applicant’s consultant. Regulatory staff sign off on the applicant’s survey. Further, Commission’s science staff are not involved at all. This is NOT what I expect from the Commission. Do you not care? You must do better … MUCH better.

  3. Laura Morgan says:

    The Commission should hire consultants with qualifications that meet the requirements for testing. These consultants should not have any prior conflicts of interest and should perform the necessary inspections. Our wildlife is precious and should be protected

  4. Kimberly Bayer says:

    I am an environmental voter!

  5. Vicki S. says:

    I can’t be there or attend by phone as I have a medical procedure is there some other option to weigh in?

  6. christina little says:

    You can judge a state by the way we wildlife

  7. Kathie DeMey says:

    Our Pinelands need to be preserved!!!!!!!!!

  8. Fred Fall says:

    Extinction is Forever!We cannot delay in taking whatever actions are necessary to protect endangered species.

  9. Dennis Schaef says:

    “The current practice of allowing wildlife surveys to be performed with clear conflicts of interest and without inspections and rigorous standards must end. To regain public trust in the results of these surveys, the Commission can and should take action to address this situation now.”

  10. Christopher Ford says:

    Require pineland contractors to post a bond to fund endangered species surveys

  11. Tyler Putman says:

    I support this Commission adapting its policies to require applicants to post bond and for the Commission itself to hire and qualify consultants for all environmental and other reviews!

  12. Elizabeth Batten says:

    Directly higher wildlife surveyors!

  13. Bonnie Herman says:

    The current practice of allowing wildlife surveys to be performed with clear conflicts of interest and without inspections and rigorous standards must end. To regain public trust in the results of these surveys, the Commission can and should take action to address this situation now.

    I am requesting the Commission directly to require applicants to post bond and for the Commission itself to hire and qualify consultants.

  14. Ray Kentz says:

    Fix this. Listen to the Pinelands Alliance.

  15. M Rossner says:

    Being self-appointed guardians of the planet, shouldn’t we be saving as many species as possible?

  16. Mary Ellen Stanzilis says:

    Regarding endangered species surveys: Construction applicants should not be able to hire their own consultants. This is a clear conflict of interest that should no longer be tolerated. It’s shocking that the Pinelands Commission finds this acceptable! Please require applicants to post bond and for the Commission itself to hire and qualify consultants!

  17. Louise Barton says:

    Any survey deemed important enough to be taken should be done by those expert enough to do the job properly. The presetvation of the lives of many species, the ecology, and our planet are not to be sacrificed just so some companies can make more money.

  18. Tracy Foster says:

    Please do all you can to save northeastern species in our forests.

  19. Unrealistic to continue with this system.

  20. Edward John Tenthoff says:

    Having construction applicants hire their own consultants to determine whether there are endangered species present is about the same as having a fox watch the hen house. Please find a better way to have honest and acceptable reviews.

  21. Donald F Weigl says:

    I currently understand that the Pinelands Commission permits construction applicants to hire their own consultants to determine whether or not there are endangered species present in an area proposed for development.

    This is like asking the fox to guard the henhouse! This is ridiculous as findings will always, unfortunately, be tainted to report what is favorable to the applicant who pays for it. There also are no requirements to the education and certification(s) of the “specialist”.

    Therefore, I am adamantly requesting that the Commission directly require such applicants to post bond and for the Commission itself to hire and qualify consultants or at least require that the applicant use a certified specialist for such reporting.

  22. Aly Robb says:

    The current practice of allowing wildlife surveys to be performed with clear conflicts of interest and without inspections and rigorous standards must end. To regain public trust in the results of these surveys, the Commission should take action to address this situation now. The commission should oversee the screening and hiring of scientists to conduct surveys .

  23. Ray Elberson says:

    The Pinelands is a unique environment. It can’t be replaced. Please do all you can to protect this resource for all the generations to come. Thank you.

  24. Robert DiMona says:

    The current practice of allowing wildlife surveys to be performed with clear conflicts of interest and without inspections and rigorous standards must end.

  25. Bharat Shrirang Adarkar says:

    It’s time to demand that the Pinelands Commission fix how they handle endangered species surveys…

  26. Albert Mikutis says:

    I agree 👍

  27. James A. Quinn says:

    Please make certain that an unbiased “ecologist” with ESA Certification does the survey.

  28. Joseph says:

    Why post a bond? Simply increase the application fee to cover the study.

  29. David Long says:

    Hello: The current practice of allowing wildlife surveys to be performed with clear conflicts of interest and without inspections and rigorous standards must end. To regain public trust in the results of these surveys, the Pinelands Commission can and should take action to address this situation now.

    Please require applicants to post bonds and the Commission should hire qualified consultants.

  30. Patricia Williamson says:

    The current practice of allowing wildlife surveys to be performed with clear conflicts of interest and without inspections and rigorous standards must end. To regain public trust in the results of these surveys, the Commission can and should take action to address this situation now.
    The Commission needs to require applicants to post bond and for the Commission itself to hire and qualify consultants.

  31. Kathie Jannuzzi says:

    To allow someone with no wildlife training or knowledge to make decisions that effect the lives of the animals and people that live here, especially with a clear incentive to rule in the “companies ” favor is absolutely criminal !

  32. Sam mufalli says:

    another industry regulating itself like the airplane manufacturing business.

  33. Renee Ducker says:

    The Commission Must hire the workers in order to ensure the future of endangered species.

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