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Voters Support Open Space Funding

NJ residents send a pro-environment message to the next governor and legislature.

November 4, 2009


New Jersey voters once again sent the message in yesterday’s election that they want more open space – and are willing to put their money where their mouth is even in such dire economic conditions as we have now.  The Keep It Green campaign, in which PPA was a very active member, led the fight for open space funding.

Prevailing by a vote of 52% to 48% in favor of Question #1, supporters of the open space measure overcame some incredibly unpromising facts:

  • The only candidate for governor who supported Question #1 was Jon Corzine, the deeply unpopular incumbent Democrat who lost his post to Chris Christie, the Republican challenger.   Christie opposed Ballot Question #1.
  • The economy is still bad, unemployment is still high, and most people are worried about the economy, their jobs and taxes.
  • The state budget is still in terrible shape, with tax revenues continuing to fall behind the costs of state and local government programs, public pensions and benefits, and the public debt.
  • The Keep It Green campaign was hampered first by the opposition, then by the tepid-at-best support of two of the state’s largest environmental advocacy groups – the Sierra Club and the New Jersey Environmental Federation.  These groups aggressively fought against putting Question #1 on the ballot at all, then did little or nothing to get out their members and supporters to vote for open space.

To me, the fact that Question #1 prevailed in these very difficult circumstances means the voters of New Jersey do care a great deal about the environment and do not want to see open space funding – or other key environmental programs – taken apart in the name of “economic necessity.”  And they did not elect Chris Christie to gut environmental laws and initiatives.

One of those key environmental initiatives is the Pinelands Protection Act and Comprehensive Management Plan.  In the coming years, the Pinelands Plan will probably become a target once again of development interests frustrated by its severe restrictions on development of Pinelands forests and critical habitats.  Some development interests will use the economy as a reason to press the new governor and the legislature to weaken the Pinelands Commission – and to make economic growth a driving goal of the Plan.  Some have already started that effort, as we see in the builders’ petition to remove the Northern Pine Snake from the list of threatened species whose habitats are supposed to be protected by the Pinelands Plan.

So all those who care about the environment and the Pinelands need to remind governor-elect Christie and their legislators that Tuesday’s vote was a mandate for the environment.

– Carleton Montgomery

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