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Pinelands Commission Plan Review

The Pinelands Commission is required to review its regulations and recommend amendments every five years. The Pinelands Commission completed its most recent review in 2012.



Under the Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP), the Pinelands Commission staff is required to review its regulations and recommend amendments to the full Commission every five years. The Pinelands Commission completed its most recent review in 2012. Unfortunately, as of today it has taken no action on important substantive reforms.

Fall along a Pinelands dirt road. © John Giatropoulos

Read PPA’s comments on the Plan Review

The Pinelands Commission completed a set of “efficiency” changes, mostly designed to limit public information and comment, in December 2017, but failed to move on the important substantive changes needed to make the Pinelands protection program work better in key areas.

PPA advocates that the Commission move quickly on the first three amendment proposals outlined below:

  • Kirkwood-Cohansey Aquifer protection,
  • the Black Run Watershed protection, and
  • Pinelands Development Credit changes.

During the public comment process PPA submitted the following recommendations outlined below. Click here to review detailed comments.

1. Black Run Watershed protection in Evesham. The CMP should be amended to prevent intensive development in the headwaters of this pristine watershed at the edge of the Pinelands.

2. Pinelands Development Credit (PDC) changes. The rules for PDC use should be changed to provide a financial incentive for more efficient use of land in the Regional Growth Areas that are slated to absorb the demand for housing and business development.

3. Kirkwood-Cohansey Aquifer protection. The CMP should require applicants for new and additional water withdrawals to account for hydrologic impacts of groundwater diversions from the Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer on stream flows and wetland water levels. The Pinelands Commission should incorporate into the CMP language requiring applicants to use the findings of the Kirkwood-Cohansey study to identify the probable ecological impacts of induced streamflow and groundwater-level changes on aquatic and wetland communities.

4. Stormwater rules reform, including low impact development (LID) requirements. Because stormwater runoff carries pollution from developed land into the aquifer, streams and wetlands, it is critical that Pinelands rules be reformed to require the most effective methods for designing buildings, parking lots and stormwater treatment systems.

5. Public comment procedures reform. Public review and comment of Pinelands Commission actions is absolutely critical to the success of the Commission in meeting its mission. The Pinelands Commission has changed its public comment procedures in the past few years, fixed some problems in its procedures, and made some problems worse. The rules governing public comment need a comprehensive overhaul and clarification.

6. Intergovernmental Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) rules reform. The MOA procedure allows the Commission to enter contracts that promote development in violation of normal protection rules. This process has become a real Trojan Horse that is weakening the Commission and the CMP from within. The procedure needs to be eliminated, or at least reformed to ensure it is only used for genuinely public projects.

7. Vegetation standards and roadside protections. Improve the CMP’s weak language regarding landscaping and re-vegetation that consist only of “guidelines” for planting native plant species, the use of soil and fill matter, and the use of fertilizer and liming agents to requirements and explicit restrictions. The list of native plant species must be updated as well to exclude non-natives and promote local varieties that are available on the market.

8. Amending CMP threatened and endangered plant list. The CMP’s list of threatened, and therefore protected, plant species is outdated and very incomplete. The list of protected plants needs to include all plant species occurring in the Pinelands that are listed as “species of concern” by the NJ DEP Natural Heritage Program.

9. Sustainable growth fixes for the CMP. Remove the CMP’s endorsements and promotions for the development of single family sprawling dwellings. Several areas of the CMP must be updated to promote and incentivize compact, mixed-use development that will ultimately provide greater protection to Pinelands natural resources.

10. Applications for enduros and similar events. Require all special use applications for off-road motorized events to submit a bond to cover potential damages from illegal trails and to pay for the actual costs for the Commission staff time to review these applications. Otherwise, illegal trails and use of state land will continue to occur by off-road vehicle riders.

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