Do Our Land Stewards Have They Heads Buried in the Sand?
For at least the last decade, Division of Parks and Forestry, seemly, have been unable to protect the public lands within their charge. The excuses are many and reality seems to be a total lack of concern for the environment. There have been complaints made daily about the abuse Pinelands State Forest are receiving from off-road vehicle (ORV) use. There have been multiple newspaper articles, user group meetings, editorials, videos published on YouTube and downright anger on the part of the low impact recreation community, that being hikers, birders, hunters, kayakers, equestrians about the abuse the forest and these users are taking from ORV traffic and events. Yet nothing has been done to stop the abuse. The latest straw is the Pinelands Commission’s unanimous vote to designate current topographic maps as the official road use map for Wharton State Forest………Parks and Forestry has done nothing to institute this ruling, ignoring the commission in charge of oversite our Pinelands National Reserve.
By following this blog you are well aware of the damage being done on a routine bas and some attempts to measures used to curtail it: like the Wharton Map plan that was scrapped once it was put into place, in addition to ridiculously confusing warning signs posted at many entries points of Wharton State Forest , beefing up of the Park Police in Wharton, Identifying over 200 damaged sites in Wharton alone by the Pinelands Commission staff and Pinelands Preservation Alliance, clean up and blockading of ORV destroyed areas by volunteers, volunteer watch groups to report abusing being done in real time, reporting the killing or injury of endangered wildlife and identifying their habitat, the list goes on. Still, the ORV crowd roars in and through the Pinelands like a wild west show. They are like the flock of geese that winter on your favorite lake, they may look good but they cause nothing but bacterial decay in the end.
There is a group of volunteers, about 400+ strong, who have at various times come to the rescue of our State Parks and Wildlife Management Areas. In the past this group of forest lovers has removed tons and tons of trash and debris from public lands, blockaded areas that were being damaged on private and public lands, planted trees to replace a grove of cedar trees that was destroyed by ORV usage, and rebuilt snake habitat. Now the volunteer group would like to start carrying out the mandate put in place with the map that the Pinelands Commission instituted. However Parks and Forestry do not seem interested in utilizing the volunteers’ services.
Below is a list of areas that need attention immediately to curtail ORV damage. A lot of the damage you are seeing in these videos that came from YouTube is currently being done even after the steps taken by the DEP. It only goes to show that a slight increase of the Park Police and new signs will not stop this damage from happening. The two most important steps the DEP can take to stop this ravaging is:
- Stop cultivating a culture of persons who believe that Pinelands is just barren land by continuing to issue permits for off road events.
- Institute the map set by the Pinelands Commission. It will stop ORV traffic from going anywhere but on the designated roads and give law enforcement the tool they need to summon people who are not obeying the map. This is not all that difficult so what is the hold up?????
Here is a list projects that need to get started right away before it is too late to have the areas recover from the ORV traffic.
1St Beach on the Mullica River. From the video below you can see the damage that has been and continues to be done in the face of the new signs and rules posted. This once was a nice little beach from where you could watch the river, have the kids play, or even take a dip during the heat of the day. Now you take your life into your hands being there when someone wants to run their monster truck through sand. It needs to be blocked off and heavily signed to prevent continue damage. It was not preserved to run trucks and dirt bikes through it.
Cherry Hill Rd just off of Rt. 206. You can see from the video that this is a long stretch of road that is so overrun that its only useable by ORVs now. It is not a road according to the PC map. Most of the area was a push line for a fire break that has been turned into and ORV playground. Paralleling the road are some very valuable wetlands that are also be intruded upon. This location needs to be blockaded to limit access to only foot traffic, equestrians or bicycle.
Maple Island Road – Waterford Twp. This is relatively new destruction of a typical intermittent pond, that is breeding grounds for all sorts of wetlands creatures, some of them very rare, many rare and endangered plants find their home here as well. This needs to be barricaded to stop further destruction.
Quaker Bridge Area. You can see by the video that this has become a huge sand pile because ORV traffic likes to run in and around the area. This is thought to be an historic site, the location of the taverns and hotels that bordered the Batsto River at Quaker Bridge in the 1800’s. This area needs barricading to allow it grow in naturally and keep the ORV traffic off.
Atsion Pond Area. Another area with a road not on the map and it should be closed down. The wetlands here are being overrun by ORVs.
Remember the Pinelands Commission staff and PPA jointly identified well over 200 distrubed areas in Wharton State Forest alone. The rest of the Pinelands is just as bad but Wharton was chosen to be the template for this endeavor to clean up, restore and blockade ORV damaged areas all over our Pinelands National Reserve. At the pace of the DEP and Parks and Forestry are going it will never get off the ground….again! Perhaps the new administration will put knowledgeable people in the DEP and Parks and Forestry , people who love nature, understand the value of this resource, believe in science and just plain give a damn. You can’t manage hundreds of thousands of acres within our public lands without good personnel and budget. We’ll see.
If you would like to be part of a volunteer group that is working hard to keep our forest clean and free from ORV usage contact Jason Howell at firstname.lastname@example.org