Pine Barrens Under Siege

Our Public Lands are Being Devastated

Previously a vernal pool

Previously a vernal pool

When you think of our state forest, wildlife management areas (WMAs), Green Acres properties, private conservation preserves you may envision open fields, grassy meadows, tranquil streams, beautiful stands of native trees, all protected and out of harm’s way with the exception of, perhaps, forest fires.  This is not what my colleague and I have found during our recent, and on-going, tours of public lands, all locations visited were within the Pine Barrens.

Construction debris

Construction debris

Our mission was, and is, to record locations damaged by abusive operators of 4 x 4 Jeep type vehicles, dirt bikes, ATV (all considered off-road vehicles) and serial trash dumpers, all illegal activities.

There is pervasive eco-carnage going on day and night in our public lands.  We have begun identifying locations within our public lands that have been vandalized by these land assaulters and what we’ve found is quite astounding. Keep in mind that once we started our project we logged 115 locations that have been violated in a very short period of time. I can assure you this is only the tip of the iceberg. We have an additional long list of locations to visit from information gleaned from state and local officials plus our extensive personal knowledge.

031 05.08.14 site 023

Power Line Right-of-Way

Below is what we have found while conducting our surveys:

  • Hundreds (this could be more like thousands of acres once we calculate the size
  • Mucking up the wetlands

    Mucking up our wetlands

    of the areas damaged) of acres of public lands have been driven over by these motorized bandits as if our public lands are their personal Mad Max movie set. The vegetation, soils and waterways have been damaged, in many cases permanently, by erosion, compaction, crushing and deforestation. Noise pollution and fragmented wildlife habitat are also in the mix.

  • Ecologically valuable wetlands, vernal pools (breeding grounds for amphibians), open meadows, ice age formed hills and sand dunes, and stream beds have been forever damaged.
  • Thousands upon thousands of acres of our public lands are no longer accessible
    Mud Hole/Wallow

    Mud Hole/Wallow

    to the general public because these off-road machines have rendered them impassable to travel by normal vehicles. The mud holes and wallows that have been created by these off-road vehicles are now new breeding grounds for mosquitos.

  • Public utility right-of-ways are almost entirely unprotected and are havens for off-

    ATVs in the Pine Barrens

    roaders, wheelers, mudders and dumpers of trash.  We haven’t found one right-of-way that hasn’t been abused.

  • They practice a form of recreational bulldozing day and night, usually in groups. Consumption of large quantities of beer and open fires are common, even when our forest are under fire restrictions (just about every site we have visited is littered with beer cans and has the charred remains of a fire).
  • Organized 4 x 4 clubs from Maryland to New York routinely visit our state

    Dirt Bike In Pine Barrens

    forest and public lands. They act like a squad of Marines going on a mission, big trucks, big tires, beefed up suspensions (no expense is spared) – their enemy is our public lands. There are organized competitions, many of which are sanctioned by state authorities, with hundreds of


    Organized 4×4 Clubs

     participants. Some of these outings are sponsored by commercial for profit organizations where they pay a nominal permit fee, are not required to post any type of bond or insurance for damage they may cause and take their profits home.
  • Dumping is routinely practiced by contractors, landscapers and the general public.  Often the same areas are used again and again.  You don’t have to travel very far on any back road to find a dump site. I have seen more than one boat discarded in the woods.
Construction and Household Trash

Construction and Household Trash

All of our work has been within the Pine Barrens, a.k.a. Pinelands National Reserve, a most sensitive ecosystem that is recognized as a national and world wide treasure. Our goal with this study is to generate public awareness of this out of control land grab and return our public land to the public and out of the hands of a chosen few who use our lands as their own personal giant sandbox or profit making ventures.

The main reason our public lands have come to be known as a type of motor sports park or arena is that the DEP and the Pinelands Commission have for years issued permits for motor sport events, ORV events. This practice has created a culture among many that only see the Pine Barrens as their personal off-road vehicle (ORV) playground.  It would not be unreasonable to think that many of the off-road vehicles sold in this region are bought especially to off-road in the Pine Barrens.  New Jersey is the only state in this region that allows motor sport activities in state parks and public lands. Maryland, Delaware, New York and Pennsylvania to do not allow ORV events in state parks. Thus the reason So. Jersey gets so much ORV traffic from out of state – they can’t do it in their state.  What is more annoying ORV events are only staged in the So. Jersey Pinelands. These events are not permitted in Stokes State Forest, High Point State Forest, Round Valley Recreational Area or Spruce Run Recreational Area, just to name a few Northern State Parks that seem exempt for this activity.

On this site we will post a “Destruction Site” blog page regularly (see Destruction Sites in sidebar) showing images and/or video of the destruction occurring in one of the many areas we have exposed.  You will be advised exactly where each site is with the GPS numbers and a description of the damage we found there and what types of flora and fauna are located there.

You can get involved, too, by reporting any motor vehicle damage or dumping you observe to 877-927-6337 (carry this number in your purse or wallet). The number is a Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) hotline where you can report violations of dumping and motor vehicle abuse. As shown in the video below.


Also, please pass this blog on to anyone you feel is deeply concerned about our public lands. Sign-up to follow our blog so as we update you will be notified of new post while the mission continues.

Upsetting Video – this video is a compilation of videos taken from YouTube.  The people responsible for the damage being done in our public lands are very proud of what they have accomplished, some even call themselves conservationist.




86 thoughts on “Pine Barrens Under Siege

  1. Patrick, thank you for your response. It was very thoughtful and protection of this wonderful natural resource we have here in New Jersey. If you would like to get more involved with this, and the many other issues ongoing in the Pinelands, please get in touch with Pinelands Preservation Alliance, PPA is always looking for fellow conservationist who interested in preserving the Pinelands. Hope the fight is ultimately successful.


  2. The Pinelands is a national reserve not a motorsports park period. I feel for the riders/drivers (I was young and did things like this too) since there are few places to ride legally in NJ. That doesn’t give you the “right” to trash an internationally recognized UN Biosphere though. Lobby for the creation of a motorsports park.

    We have the DEP and the Pinelands Commission to thank for this. The Pinelands Commission is SOLELY tasked with protecting the Pinelands and they do that by issuing permits for off road events…really?

    There’s a good reason all of the surrounding states don’t allow ORV use on state lands. Without regulation, these things turn into what you see today: destruction, illegal dumping, bonfires, and other lawlessness.

    Anyone who damages the Pinelands should be required by law to attend a class on Pinelands ecology and the impacts of their “recreation” on it or pay a fine of $5,000 at least. If you think it’s excessive, read up on the monetary value of ecological services.


  3. This guy is a joke. He dose not like certain activities and since he doesn’t like them no one else is allowed to participate in them. I do agree that the illegal dumping has to stop and the blazing of new trails needs to stop.

    With all of the BS that this guy spooss there never is any meantion of the pipeline that was voted in by his buartic buddies. So it is perfectly ok to build a pipeline just as long as you don’t ride your enduro bikes in the forest. I guess that the pipeline lined his pockets with some big bucks. Isn’t that what it’s all about Al? I also guess that all of the heavy equipment to build the pipeline isn’t going to destroy the forest either. What about when the pipeline leaks which it will? I guess that won’t cause as much damage as enduro bikes will it??

    Who the hell are you anyhow to tell other people what they can or can not do. You are a clown!!!!!


  4. there is no destruction going on just fake news by Al Horner. Stop lying and tell the truth for gods sakes.


  5. thank you! for bringing the issues to light. through the years i have encountered 4×4 organized groups traveling through the pines as well as ATV-S and dirt bikes too.few years back i saw the 4×4 clubs in STOKES state forest too but at least in the state parks theyve recently closed off many of the roads. lets not sugar coat this. they are not there just sight seeing enjoying nature. they are there to have fun challenging there equipment at a cost to the roads and land. why buy these machines or jack your vehicle up if you dont have a place to ride in the first place. i would never by my kids an ATV or dirt bike if i didnt own land enough for them to ride.cant believe people say theyve been coming to the pines for years and dont see a difference.maybe if you drive it a few times a year o.k. but if you spend enough time in the pines you can see that on main travel roads these off roaders will rip up and grind in oine spot the water holes to a deep tire sinking hole so that the average person cant use the road after a while.the end result is ripped out crapped on trashed sections of the roads that become re-routed having to use more land up. there are also sections of road that are fine sugar sand that they will drive in the middle and dig it all up so unless you have big tires yourself or 4 wheel drive you will get stuck.ive also hiked in a few miles to find where dirt bikes have travelled way off the roads on WMA areas. Id say there are more than a few doing this.if the state made a riding area for these clubs and riders that be a good thing for bringing in money and giving a place to ride but youd still have rule breakers. if you check the N.J. State tax transparency website and look at the maps you can see who owns the lands in the pines.


  6. I agree with cams being set up i also agree with these large 4×4 clubs holding jamborees to not issue permits for this type of activities its not worth the small fee that they are charged. Anyone dumping should have their vehicles confiscated and sold at auction i have no sympathy for jerkoffs like that. Any illegal vehicle’s same thing just sell them at auction but when legal nj registered vehicle’s want to enjoy these lands this should not be an issue. I always respect the pines and just like you have a right to use it legally. If the state wants to just keep everyone off the land then they should just sell the property and put the money to better use otherwise its belongs to the tax payers period. Also its up to everyone to police the property to make sure we all still can use it years from now. I know if i see a dump truck go back there i would stop them.


  7. I don’t believe what these folks are doing in our pie land preserve has anything to do with preservation of our waterways and the pine barrens… their methods are pollution ridden.. noise ridden.. ATVS are illegal on public property and roads.. the state park rangers MUST do a better job.. these ORV events should be eliminated from public lands .. find a private property owner that will put up with this nuisance.. I submit that any vehicle roaming the pine barrens be subject to stop and a check of credentials and purpose if not obvious. .I applaud cams being set to catch dumpers, destruction, and to protect what’s still left of our “preserve”.. the state of Nj owes these ORV and 4 X 4 folks nothing… you buy the vehicles, now find a legal place to run them..


  8. Thank you for all that you are doing to preserve the pines and hopefully, inspire people to act responsibly while enjoying the roads and trails of the pines. Don’t let the nay sayers wear you down. I applaud your efforts!!!


  9. I agree somewhat. While both sides have valid arguments, I have to say the “under siege” crowd is the more vocal and uncompromising.
    I have been visiting there since 1978, and more recently with my son, riding our trail bikes. While I HAVE seen other riders leaving the trail and doing damage, most stay on the trails. I’ve also seen almost everyone picking up trash and cleaning up after themselves.
    Where we used to go off rt 539, I’ve seen huge piles of construction debris and cast off trash….most obviously NOT from a guy and his kid towing a trailer.
    THIS is the problem. The trash, not the ATV riders.
    Have a designated place for us to go, and I’m in. Make me get all the paperwork and pay a problem….fine me for an infraction….fine with me.
    All we are asking for is comprise.


  10. someone needs to hire a lawyer and take your ass to court Mr. Horner. You need to be sued for the BS you are putting out there. You need to be stopped quickly. You are dangerous, your BS is inaccurate. All this drama you are trying to create is to put you in the spotlight. I have been using the pine barrens on foot, in 4 x 4’s and on dirt bikes since the early 70’s. It basically looks the same. ORV are not destroying the pines, the pine barrens is not under seige we are under seige by your BS. Your drama needs to stop.


  11. You ack is if you and you only have a rigjt to enjoy the pinelands. These areas have been used for mining,digging, cutting of cedar. For centuries. Now you cry. You ack as if These people are ravaging the public lands . the jeep clubs you speak
    of have for years removed trash,vehicles. Etc. There is peasful sence i get from driving threw such beauty. For you to say all people who own a 4×4 are forrest destroyers is quite desturbing in many ways. We the people pay high tax bases. In every county in this state. I think for the most part the least the state can do is leave the public lands to the taxpayers to enjoy. I love the forrest and for bullies like yourself who want to act all holy about conservation. I think you have a problem and this is your way of screwing some political adversary, and that sucks for you to use your position for that.


  12. Y’all have so problems on y’all hand because if I see y’all I will shoot dirt and mud all over yall and crack your windshield. I will keep riding and mudding down back. Because y’all anit stoppin me. U fucking gay queers.


  13. Thanks for your comments. One of the ways of controlling everything within the state lands, at least, is to have a permit system. Many states do this and charge out of state visitors more than in-state residents. Most immediately we need to have three things happen to start controlling the situation. We need a map of the Pinelands that tell people where they can and cannot travel, we need to cease issuing permits for off-roading events so we can change the culture, and stop helping companies make money on public lands for a small event fee. This is all up to the DEP and The Pinelands Commission and right now it seems politics is more important than the preservation of our public lands.


  14. I saw an argument that we all pay for it in our taxes but what about all the people from out of state that use and abuse our lands are they paying for it. I dont think so. I think they shoud at least make it for nj residents and their vehicles must have nj tags period.


  15. I spend time each week either hiking, biking or kayaking in Wharton State Forest. It is a beautiful place that offers me an escape from the developed suburbs and provides a wilderness experience. I use a few of the main roads (Quaker Bridge and Hampton) to access kayaking spots along the Mullica and Batsto rivers. When there is a decent sized rain event I have to alter my plans because my AWD Subaru can not make it through deep rutted out holes full of water. This is frustrating because the kayaking is better when the water level is higher. This means I can not access my favorite spots when the conditions are ideal. In my opinion, the M.A.P. is a step in the right direction and was a good compromise between people who want to enjoy WSF from a road and other people like the writer of this blog. I think this blog unfairly assumes all people who drive off a paved road are destroying the forest. Mr. Horner, you make very good point that you are not advocating shutting down people from accessing recreation, instead, are trying to stop the abuse and destruction of a public owned resource. Besides reporting obvious illegal activity in WMAs and in restricted areas, how can I get involved?


  16. I am most certain that various words in all of my blogs are never read or completely ignored. Nowhere, and mean nowhere, within the pages of this blog, or any public statement I have made, have I suggested that people be prevented from using our public lands, I will repeat, nowhere is this suggested.
    Trash can be cleaned up anytime, and often, at some point, it is. Most trash does not physically harm the land it is an eye soar and a problem. Not that dangerous chemicals are not dumped out in the Pinelands, there are, but it seems rare.
    The real problem is the day in and day out operation of off-road vehicles that have destroyed many valuable environmentally sensitive acres, all for the sake of testing the expensive vehicles that someone purchased. IT IS PUBLIC LAND – for sure – but it is not an ORV motorsports park and should never be seen as such, but it is and by many people. The attitude that the Pine Barrens is perfect for motorsports activity has been fostered by the issuance of ORV event permits, going back decades, by the Pinelands Commission and the DEP. All under the deception ORV use is recreational use. It is machine use! The people who like to quietly enjoy our public lands, the reason they are preserved to start with, are the ones being shut out by the dust and roar of Jeeps, ATVs and dirt bikes.
    There have been places set aside for ORV use, two of which I am aware of, have been failures. The ORV communities want it ALL, not just a piece. Yes, fines should be high, so you should make an effort, like so many others have tried, to have the local judges see this as crisis and issue a stiff penalty. Stiff penalties are rarely issued if they exist at all.
    Don’t complain – get involved!


  17. Blaming AV riders for all the problems is a problem in itself. I don’t think they are the one dumping truckloads of construction debris along the roads.
    I’ve been riding the same area off RT72 since the 70’s. The few times I’ve spend overnight, I took out more trash than I made. Last summer ( 2015) there were even signs other riders placed on Jones Road saying ” Don’t ruin it for others Take out your trash!”
    Are there irresponsible riders? certainly. I’ve sen them ride off the trail and plow through the fields. I’ve also seen piles of food wrappers and coffee cups left at the tree line by hunters ( Right turn off 539 north of rt 72)
    I think the best would be to designate an area for ATV. Require a yearly registraton, and impose HEAVY fines for bad behavior. Get caught trashing the woods of littering? 2 grand fine….I assure you, they wont be doing it again.
    Those woods are state land…MY land…I pay for it. let me enjoy it.


  18. No one is talking about shutting anyone out. The discussion is about how it is to be used, not what anybody and everyone want to do with it for their own purposes. What you and all of us are paying for it the protection of a world-renowned ecosystem. The ecosystem the holds all of the water for South Jersey, the ecosystem that filters the air in South Jersey, the ecosystem had is home to many rare and endangered species both plant and animal (many of which has been destroyed by excessive off-road vehicle use), the ecosystem that people recreate in.
    So with your method, we just deem it wide open territory because we all pay for and we do what we want. When it is destroyed, smashed and run over what do we do then? What is it you want to show your/our children? a huge mud wallow. I don’t want to hear the argument that it is resilient because that is a cop out and that argument has been proven scientifically to be B.S.


  19. This whole thing is a joke. A few elite people want the pines for themselves. This is public land. And as such we all have the right to use it. There are a lot of ways to make this work for all groups involved, but shuting it off to everyone but a select few is not the answer.
    Yes some people may abuse it but that is true anywhere you go. That will never stop unfortunately.
    We can be responsible and enjoy the Pines at the same time. It’s done in Arizona, Utah and New Mexico as well as other states.
    People have the right to use state land that their taxes pay to maintain. You want to shut me out? Well than I should’nt have to pay the taxes that maintain it just for an elite few who will be driving their vehicles around doing just as much damage.
    Your as bad as those whole think they are always right and everyone else is wrong, with no room to negotiatie. Your the type who cut down trees to save them. Great rational there.


  20. You are not well tuned into what is going on in New Jersey’s largest State Park and all over the Pinelands National Reserve. It is the user’s responsibility to respect the natural resources to preserve for all that come behind them and to ensure it is there for the next many years to come. There is no budget in the S.F. for such maintenance. The budget for maintenance is lower that the landscaping upkeep of the some homes I know. The destroyed wetlands, paleo dunes, forest, and roads did not get that way because of a small group of errant riders. Trash is always a problem, but dumped trash can be picked up almost any time, the forest does not recover from rampant destruction. Everyone deserves to have a 4 x 4 truck/Jeep, an ATV or a dirt bike, they just don’t have to right to challenge them on public land, which is only available in a small quantity, and destroys the quiet enjoyment of the non-offroading public.


  21. Characterizing those who use ORV as reckless nature haters who are the sole destroyers of natural habitat is wrong. Instead of demonizing a single sport, point your fury towards poor park management. It’s up to the park management to make sure the trails are well marked, maintained and monitored. Those who drive 4x4s and dirt bike riders want to experience nature just as much as the next person and are just as invested as hikers in keeping trails open and usable. While there are several roads that are impassible to normal vehicles, they were allowed to get to that point to provide a recreational area specifically for those who want a challenge driving through that type of terrain. Worried that natural habitat is being destroyed? Do an actual ecological study and present that to the park service so they can MOVE the road to another area. I guarantee the ORV folks didn’t create those dump sites and leave a boat and construction material behind – that would destroy their paths. And you’re painting a picture that implies ORV folks are the sole perpetrator of fire rings and beer cans – there’s plenty of walk-in people who do the same thing for the same lazy reasons. Are there bad riders out there? Yes. But trying to place the blame for everything you find on a single segment is just a devious way of trying to deny others the right to enjoy public lands just because you don’t happen to like their sport.


  22. I have been riding for over 50 years now and cherry hill road as always been there.
    Other than the 4×4 digging deep mud holes this road has not changed one bit.


  23. Cherry Hill Rd. has been there for sometime in one form or another. I say this because I had an older citizen of Shamong tell me how it got its name years ago. According to him there was actually a cherry tree growing on a hill there. Now it is discussing mess. I believe there are 52 water holes along that piece of road. It was suggested that the DEP close it down but their answer, apparently, is that only people with the right type of vehicle can get access to that road so no one else will try to use it. Hope they will pay the towing and repair bills for the poor sucker who gets jammed up there. Then again, with their attitude toward the road they are just turning this road over to the mudders who made the problems in the first place. Yes, it is very critical wetlands, but the DEP has lost interest in protecting lots of stuff, go figure. The Department of Environmental Protection is not PROTECTING!


  24. Reviewing “Cherry Hill Road” on google earth I find it hard to understand how any road/trail is permitted through what is clearly wetlands. Any idea when this road was created? Does it appear on topo maps from the 80’s or 90’s? The state has existing statutes protecting wetlands why are they not being enforced?


  25. And where is it you learned, or observed, that Pinelands Adventures is lobbying to close “this ground” off to the public? Who is doing the lobbying on their behalf? Who are they making deals with? Where did you hear such an absurd idea? If any thing Pinelands Adventures has educated many many people about cherishing and protecting the Pinelands in it’s short existence, and will continue to do so as it continues to grow. You ought to stop in at Pinelands Adventures during the season and I am sure their competent staff would be glad to show you around and go over their future plans to educate people of all backgrounds about the joys and wonders of the Pine Barrens.


  26. I love the Pine Barrens and do not want to see it wrecked. I also see groups associated with Pineland Adventures lobbying to close this ground off to the public so I have to turn around and hire them to see it. Enforcement? These alleged egregious activities are illegal. Also when you come up with your estimate of 100’s of acres destroyed please deduct damage that occurred to pre-existing roads and trails and provide a percentage based on the 115,000 acre land area. Things could certainly be handled better in the Pine Barrens but closing it off so a select few (who asked for it to be closed) can sell us the privilege of a tour through our own land is a joke.


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