Let’s Return to a Peaceful Forest

johnszurley-jemimamount

Let Us Reclaim Our Forest

A peaceful use proposal

Let us follow the lead of our state Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) by forbidding off-roading events in all of our state public lands. Let’s allow our hunters, fisherman, birders and hikers to not be subjected to off-roading events in our State Forest exactly the same pleasure they can enjoy in our WMA. They are all the same people or like in kind. And, after all, the WMAs are all part of the DEP, the same folks who manage our State Forest. There is not difference between that State Forest lands and the WMA land – they are forest and streams and meadows. State land is enjoyed by not only the groups mentioned above by but by kayakers, canoeists, equestrians, and botanist and many other people, too many to mention.

kayaking

Many of our WMAs and State Forests fall within the Pinelands National Reserve and come under the Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP) of the Pinelands. There is nothing in the CMP that requires use of our Pinelands by off-roading events. In fact the Pinelands Commission recently, unanimously, approved the use of a map to control motor vehicle use in Wharton State Forest. The beginning of a trend to control the use of motor vehicles in all of our State Forests that fall under the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan. The plan for the Pinelands only has to be implemented by the DEP.

tab_pnr[1]

http://www.state.nj.us/pinelands/   

We all have the responsibility to protect and watch over our public lands because they belong to all of us. No one has the right to cut their own trails throughout the forest, but the dirt bike/enduro community has done just that. The have cut 1000’s of miles of unauthorized trials (known as single tract trails) throughout the entire Pinelands region. These trails are used in their enduro races and are supposed to be a difficult challenge to the riders. They have not been able to use them during their authorized events but they still do by going off the purposed route onto their own trails. Now this community is starting to pressure the DEP into using them again. What is that about?????? Right now there is a plan underway by the enduro clubs and the DEP to allow the use of these illegal trails in some future enduro events. They have taken over 3000 acres of land and designated it “potential non-critical” lands, and it is cut though and though with single track trails, in Brendan Bryne State Forest. They, the DEP and the clubs, feel it is non-critical because nothing has been reported in these sections that have to do with threatened and endangered species of flora and fauna. Well, back a few months ago a group of 25 concerned citizens surveyed the area and found four nests of the threatened North Pine Snake and one very large pregnant female Pine Snake. All of this within feet of single track trails. We have many examples of destroyed habitat and killed endangered species along these trails as a result of the motor bike activity that goes on there day after day, year after year.

potentialnonsensitiveareas_btb_reduced-1

Non-ensitive areas at BTB

Wetlands Intrusions

Wetlands Intrusions

 

All off road events cause chaos in our Pinelands regardless of what the various groups profess. Here are just some of the issues:

  • Off road event create a culture of destruction. Their machines are made to “conquer” land whether it be sand, mud or water, the more obstacles the better.
  • These events aren’t “one and done”. The participants of these events come back day after day and year after year and run these same trails. If there are 300 participates in an enduro event and only ½ of them come back to run the trails that is 150 people not be monitored doing whatever they wish to the habitat.
  • These events are noisy and disturb the forest quiet
  • Off-road events disturb and kill wildlife, some of which are endangered.
  • They disturb and isolate habitat.
  • These events cause erosion with repeated use of the trails and sand roads.
  • Dirt bikes abuse fire cuts (push lines)
  • Dirt bikers have suffered serious injury, even death, during and after sanctioned events.
  • Hundreds of dirt bikes in a one or two day enduro event cause enormous amount of erosion.
  • Hundreds of 4 x 4 jeep type vehicles riding events in the Pinelands are destroying delicate habitat, devastating our delicate sand road system, create mud wallows from repeated intrusion into the mud holes in wet land areas.
  • They leave behind an inordinate amount of household type trash, bottles and cans, and even old clothing and shoes.
  • All the other users of the forest have to give way to these groups and wait till they all pass, all the while creating noise that people went there to escape.
  • With all the destruction and refuse left behind there is no performance bond required to be submitted to this events.
  • These events tie up township resources before during and after the events.
  • Off-roading events do absolutely NOTHING to help preserve and protect our forest!

Let’s look at the blight of the typical hunter trying to enjoy his/her sport (you can substitute any sport you like for that matter). Hunters have large investments in their sport, clothing, equipment and fees.

th

Not unlike other peoples and their hobbies, including the off-road community. Hunters only have a short time to use our WMAs and SFs depending what form of hunting they do because it is controlled by hunting seasons and is not available all year around to them. If you are a bow hunter your sport is bases and quiet and stealth. So imagine sitting in your tree stand for most of the day and at the a critical time for game movement six dirt bikes come roaring down a fire cut you are on or down a single track you did not know was there.

images

You may as well that your $200 tree stand out of the location and just go home .Fire arms hunters have even a shorter period to hunt than bow hunters, they get 6 days in December. Many hunters schedule vacation time during their preferred hunting period and it can be scrapped because of loud noise, dust and excessive speed in the woods.

WMAs and State Forest are practically funded by hunting and fishing fees and excise taxes placed on some of their equipment that goes into a national pot. These areas are not funded by motor vehicles fees from Jeeps and dirt bikes. These lands were purchased to preserve and enjoy not making them into muddy, noisy, dusty motorsport arenas.

Let’s take back our forest and turn them to the peaceful, joyful, quiet places they were meant to be. Please not more mud holes, no erosion, no noise, no more ugliness, no more destroyed paleo hills and ice age gravel deposit hills. Let’s vote for beautiful wetlands, quiet forest, and abundant wildlife.

IMG_0133

Everyone can enjoy our forest if they suppress the noise, stay out of mud wallows and lowlands, observe the 20 MPH speed limit, stay off push lines and fire cuts and illegal single tracks, and get permits for over 20 people in any type of group.

 

We need your help! Contact the DEP and the Pinelands Commission and tell them what our forest should look and sound like as opposed to a motorsports arena

Albert D. Horner

Medford Lakes, NJ

Should there be off-roading events in our Pinelands?

April 9th, 2017, a day that will live forever in the minds of conservationist in New Jersey. That is the date of the DEP and the enduro dirt bike clubs have chosen to hold their mostly secretly planned Pine Barons Clock Run that will be the eventual destruction of Brendan T. Byrne State Forest. Here’s a description of the race in their own words:

2017 Pine Barons Clock Run Description

The Pine Barons Clock run is scheduled for April 9, 2017. The event proposes to use roads, fire cuts, and existing enduro trails in: (Remember “trails” equals illegally cut “single tracks”)

BTB forest

Penn State forest

Bass river forest

Wharton Forest

Keep in mind that BTB represents Brendan T. Byrne State Forest and the existing enduro trials means illegally cut single track routes through our Pinelands. Brendan T. Byrne SF has now been divided up into sections, Sensitive and Non-sensitive, at whose discretion I am not sure, or even why. At this time the only approval needed to put this race into action seems to be that of the Pinelands Commission.                                                                  See map below:

potentialnonsensitiveareas_btb_reduced-1

Yellow is considered Non-sensitive areas at BTB – black lines are enduro “trials”.                Isn’t it all SENSITIVE?

This event has been in the planning stages by the DEP personal from Superintendents of the State Forest to the top of the DEP, Bob Martin himself, and the enduro clubs for about a year now. Many of these meetings centered on the enduro club’s wishes to prevent the DEP from imposing a Menu of Options that restricts their use to certain areas of the forest. The plan was first developed in Wharton with the idea that it would be used as a template for future enduro runs in other state forest. Enduro clubs, for whatever reason, have a very cozy relationship with the DEP. No one who would object to these abusive uses of our state forest were invited to the meetings or even asked for an opinion. The route the event will take is kept a secret too, they claim they don’t want to let the entrants know in advance what the route is so no one will ride it in advance (BEST INTEREPTED AS NOT LETTING THE PUBLIC KNOW). I would bet that half of them were the ones who laid out the route and have pre-ridden it as well. Our Pinelands State Forest are being managed now for the sake of a few hundred dirt bike riders, and the 8 million citizens of New Jersey that own the public lands have no say.

Here is a look at what can be expected to happen if this dirt bike race is allowed to take place. These videos and still images below are being seen for the first time and were taken by various participates at various enduro events. THEY ARE QUITE SHOCKING!!!

This is a Typical Enduro Event

Water Invasion

For years the enduro community had said that they do not destroy the Pinelands. Their machines use only a narrow part of the forest and it is self-healing in virtually no time at all! See what you think.

Soil Disturbance

This what these innocent enduro bikes do to the soils in the Pinelands, for hundreds of miles.

Road Destruction and Go-arounds

Our Pinelands roads have been a mess for years and no one is taking blame for their destruction. For the most part that problem is assigned to the 4 x 4 community (that you can read about in many of the other blog post listed here). So now we can thank the enduro community for their efforts to stop the general public from enjoying the Pinelands because you can’t drive on its roads.

Aftermath of Enduros

This is a long video, around 3 minutes, but it is a walk about on SINGLE TRACK trails after an enduro. Please take the time to watch so you can get a good idea of what is left behind by enduros. Believe me, the enduro riders are not coming back to rake over a 100 miles of trails and replant the area with native plants!

Below is a series of never before seen still images that are hard to view – WATCH AT YOUR OWN RISK!

 

 

 

If this isn’t bad enough these people have the audacity to complain to the DEP after a race that they are not satisfied with the destruction they have already reeked on the Pinelands.

ome-omg

Department of Environmental Protection????

What part of their name doesn’t this DEP understand? Perhaps they need to have a definition of “environmental” explained to them. The DEP certainly needs to be schooled on the meaning of “protection” as opposed to “destruction” They can rightfully be called the Department of Environmental Destruction (DED) in this case, and many other cases.

What to do? Contact the office of Bob Martin, Commissioner of the DEP at:

Bob Martin, Commissioner
401 E. State St.
7th Floor, East Wing                                                                                                                                   P.O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402
phone: (609) 292-2885
fax: (609) 292-7695

and the Pinelands Commission at:

Pinelands Commission
PO Box 359
15 Springfield Road
New Lisbon, New Jersey 08064                                                                                                         Phone: (609) 894-7300
Fax: (609) 894-7330

Tell them that you will not stand to have our public lands destroyed this way. The enduros have been destroying the Pinelands for 75 years (their time frame) it is now time to give the Pinelands a rest by having a 75 year ban on enduros and all 4 x 4 off-roading events.

Change!                                                                                                                                 Here is a link for a petition on change.org. “Stop off-road vehicle races through protected habitat!” https://www.change.org/p/new-jersey-pinelands-commission-stop-off-road-vehicle-races-through-protected-habitat-36f3af3f-d5cd-4471-a954-bccfa5f18f18. Please go to this link and sign the petition to stop this habitat abuse!

Another View                                                                                                                                              What could be better than offering another view. Here is a video produced by enduro advocate Joe Springer offering “alternative facts”. You be the judge….what would like to see and hear in your Pinelands?

http://www.vimeo.com/86267015

Who Really Owns Our Public Lands?

 

Who Really Owns Our Public Lands????

I have long been advocating that The DEP and Pinelands Commission should cease issuing permits for off-road event in our public lands. These permits are first approved by the Superintendents of the State Forest, then on to the DEP and finally approved by the Pinelands Commission’s staff and Executive Director. Now my case has become even more critical. On April the 9th, 2017 an enduro group is planning a race that will encompass Brendan T. Byrne State, Bass River State Forest, Penn State Forest and Wharton State Forest. That is one hell of a race to cover all of that territory. The event is called the Pine Barons Clock Run and will have appx. 150 participants. Just the fact that they are planning this event and the DEP is in line to approve it is not enough – they want to re-open the use of illegally cut “single track” that have been banded for years and have divided the forest up into Non-Sensitive and Sensitive area (see chart below). “Single tracks” are narrow paths chain sawed through the Pinelands by the dirt bike clubs and groups themselves. They were long ago been forbidden to do such cutting but now they want to start using them again. In dirt biker lingo “single track” = “trail”. Keep that in mind when view the videos below – very important, comparable to “alternative facts”, a very popular phase these days.

See What Is Going On YOUR Public Lands!

The videos presented here are taken directly from videos produced by various enduro groups and published on YouTube. First and foremost, I want you to see what an enduro looks like, remember they are doing the filming themselves.

This Is What A “single track” Race Looks Like

This video is what a “single track” looks like. It is a path cut through the forest with chain saws and loppers to open up a trail that can cover a lot of territory. There was recently a new one discovered in Bass River State Forest that was 5 (FIVE) miles long.

This next video tells, in their own words, what these trails are and that they are NOT fire cuts or plow lines.

This video explains, again in their own words, why these “trails” are so important. Not so sure we want to help build their male/female egos by allowing them the luxury of using our forest for their events.

We Should All Get Along?

Why should we all get along as this video voice over suggest? They have no concern for the environment, they cut paths into the forest at random (it is illegal), the noise is disturbing not only to hikers, hunters, fisherman, equestrians and kayakers it also scares the hell out of wildlife. There have been recent incidents of Pine snakes being killed on “single track” routes and as you can tell from the videos these machines are not friendly to any part of the ground they pass over.

Who Is Dividing Up Your Forest?

Somewhat secret meetings, starting around March of 2016, between the dirt bike community and representatives of the DEP have shown that there is a very friendly attitude toward the enduro crowd by the DEP. There have been proposals made to the DEP by conservation minded groups to help protect areas of the Pinelands that are getting constant abuse by off-roading practices but the DEP has yet to respond. They, the DEP, don’t want to accept help to preserve our forest but they will help enduro groups destroy it. Go figure! The map below of Brendan T. Byrne State Forest shows the forest divided up into Non-Sensitive (yellow) and Sensitive areas (green). The black lines in the Non-Sensitive (yellow) areas are routes that have been used by enduros – seems like every inch of the land is being run over by dirt bikes. It is thought that this same plan is also going to be applied to all the other State Forest in the Pinelands, Bass River, Penn State, and Wharton. DID YOU HAVE A VOICE IN THIS DIVISION OF OUR STATE FOREST???????  Most of us know that the entire Pinelands IS SENSITIVE.

potentialnonsensitiveareas_btb_reduced-1

Why just the Pinelands?

There are appx. 20 off-roading events approved by the DEP per year in the Pinelands. None of these event are held in Stokes State Forest, Round Valley Reservoir, or Island Beach State Park. What has the Pinelands become in the eyes of the DEP – a dumping ground for the events no one wants up north?  All of these events are never short lived. After these events participants from all over our state and the adjoining states, where this is not legal, return day after day, month after month and year after year to abuse our public lands because no one is watching. These events have developed a culture that believes our Pinelands is nothing more than a motorsports area – it seems the DEP feels the same way!

 

 

 

Sometimes we need the hear the truth about our Pinelands and its real problems.

Yesterday I received this email from NJOA, NJ Outdoor Alliance (see below), https://www.njoutdooralliance.org/, a non-profit group representing “outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen” and a lobbying group to fight for their represented group’s rights, mainly around hunting and fishing and trapping issues ( a subject for further debate). They also claim to represent forestry and animal welfare groups (? on the latter). In any case, I take issue with the content of this email in regards to the first sentence which claims to have implemented the Wharton State Park,( known to many of us as Wharton State Forest), Motor Vehicle Plan (Wharton State Forest is appx. 125,000 acre State Forest in Southern New Jersey and our state’s largest State Forest). I also have to assume that the word “inpliment” used in their email, which is not a word, was it to mean “implement” (?) which is a word that closely resembles their word but which most directories explain to mean “to put into effect”. When it comes to the Wharton Motorized Access Plan (MAP) the NJOA did NOTHING BUT BLOCK its implementation, after the MAP went into effect, with their money and lobbying power. By some sort of proxy, they really represented Mudders (4×4 off-roaders who abuse the forest), dirt bikers (enduro riders) who have appx. 20 sanctioned events in the Pinelands every year but continue to abuse the forest day in and day out after their events (an interesting note is that the Pinelands is the only part of the state authorized to hold these events, they are not held in Stokes State Forest, Round Valley reservoir or other state parks like Island Beach State Park) , and ATV riders who operate illegally in on all public lands in New Jersey. NJOA claims to have a “voting block of 800,000” outdoor peoples (who knows how each of those 800,00 really vote – they make a large assumption that these people vote in favor of NJOA objectives – and reality is the our lawmakers fall for this type of rhetoric). Yet NJOA doesn’t seem to represent the hikers, kayakers, birders, equestrians and all folks who are interested in the “quiet” enjoyment of our forest, heck, aren’t they outdoor folks too (perhaps it is because they are the quiet majority that like QUIET in stead of uproaring voices, mud, destroyed wetlands, and noise in their forest)? Opposing the MAP was a HUGE MISTAKE by NJOA. They apparently misrepresented that the Wharton MAP was something that was going to close all activities, especially hunting and fishing, in Wharton and was going to be eventually impossed on all of our State Forest in the favor of “tree huggers” (this idea could have stemmed from the possibility some of its management may have friends and family who are, in fact, off-road abusers). Well, the suppossed,”800,000 persons” voting block were possibly  hoodwinked! The Wharton MAP would have given hunters, and others needing access, a permit to do so but in the meantime would have prevented the continued destruction of our State’s largest natural resource. It would have given hunters access to the forest without huge mud wallows that are not traversable, quiet enjoyment during their hunt ( who wants to be on stand waiting for the prized buck when 15 dirt bikes come roaring through your hunting area), and roads that first responders can not use to get to hunters in case of any emergency that may befall them. That is just the stuff that hunters have lost out on because of NJOA’s interference, what about the birders, hikers, kayakers, and parents taking their young ones on a hike to teach them the quiet enjoyment and peacefulness of our forest (the original intent for the preservation of our public lands)? NJOA did not help anyone but the off-road crowd to allow them to continue their relentless destruction of our beautiful public lands. Don’t get me wrong, as a past hunter and serious offshore fisherperson (I made a handsome living as a fishing tackle sales representative for many national companies in the industry), I feel that NJOA has done terrific work in many areas – but they BLEW this one!!!
It appears that “conservation” voting is for the betterment of the people and their natural resources, “conservative” voting appears to be a vote for special interest and money.

njoa-email

Email from NJOA

 

Preserved Environment or Motorsport Arena

 

“It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment”, strong words from famous landscape photographer Ansel Adams! Although spoken many decades ago it is a daily fact in our world, here in New Jersey it ubiquitous. Our environment is assaulted daily by either unneeded pipeline proposals, refusal to allow alternative sources of energy to get a foot hold, water quality degradation, or some assault on the Pinelands National Reserve, a.k.a. The Pine Barrens, to name a few. For purposes of this blog I will stick with the Pine Barrens as my area to defend.

                                                           

When you track the evolution the creation of the Pinelands National Reserve you would think that our government would be standing on its head to see that it is maintained and preserved for the original purpose intended by the National Parks and Recreation of 1978, the Pinelands Protection Act of 1980, the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan of 1981 and the honor of being named a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1988. Lots of time, money and effort went into preserving our Pinelands now there is no time, money, or much of an effort to continue its preservation.

For me specifically it is the wanton destruction taking place in Wharton State Forest and the massive amounts of destruction being caused by the off-roading community throughout the Pinelands. Personally, I liken it to the Wild West.

4 x 4 Jeep types, dirt bikes and ATVs (ATVs are illegal in all NJ public lands) come and go as they please as if the Pine Barrens is a motorsport arena. We could rename it The Pine Barrens Raceway and it this point it may be appropriate. A culture has developed over decades that our Pine Barrens is just that, barren, and you can run over it with any off-roading machine that you can afford. The off-road community feels that “they” own the Pine Barrens and therefore they can do what they desire there. Even with established laws governing our parks and forest these laws are not well enforced, almost completely ignored by the off-roading public. I am not referring here to the everyday person who owns a Jeep or 4×4 vehicle or dirt bike that loves traveling in the Pinelands to see what is there, enjoying the quiet, the flora and fauna, hunts or fishes, hikes it trails and just loves being in nature. These are the people who park where they should, travel the many sand roads that are usable, obey the 20 MPH speed limit, and leave nothing behind to spoil the visit of the next person. No, the people I am talking about are the ones who operate ATVs in every conceivable corner of the forest because they have a machine that can get them there, operate dirt bikes at high rates of speed, cut unauthorized single tracks into the woods, run up and down fire breaks, create a lot of noise, blow up dust and more or less make the other users of the forest get out of their way, Jeep types that climb every hill that is over 18” high, cut donuts over and over again into paleo dunes, destroy the faces of the ice age gravel hills, run through vernal pools and other wetlands because that is where the mud is, leave behind mounds of beer cans because they can’t get caught with an open container of liquor in NJ, run through the Pine Barrens in large groups (clubs) day and night over the already fragile sand roads, crash through puddles in the roads over and over again until they become mud wallows that have made many roads unusable by anyone but their own kind. Those are the people of New Jersey should all get angry about.

What I have described above does go on every day, especially on weekends, in your Pine Barrens. There are people who travel from New York to Virginia to have the above described fun in our Pine Barrens. Just go to YouTube.com and type in NJ Pine Barrens, NJ wheeling, NJ mudding, or just Pine Barrens and you will get to see hundreds of videos shot by the very people you see in them showing their bravado and the ability of their machines. Just Google “Pine Barrens off roading” and you will see hundreds of still images depicting the culture to which I am referring. There have been ads by Toyota suggesting if you live in NYC you take your Tacoma to the New Jersey Pine Barrens as there is over 500 miles of trails to ride. Companies have run ads showing the use of their after-market off-road equipment performing in the Pine Barrens. Companies exist that teach people how to ride our sand roads on dirt bikes for a fee of $500+ dollars, and others how to use your Jeep in our wetlands. Here is part of an ad for the Pine Barrens Jamboree from Jeep Jamboree, a California based company that annually hold a rally in the Pines, they charge participates $500 per family to ride through miles and miles of our Pinelands: ……..”Water flows from the Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer – one of the largest on the continent. There is usually an abundance of water, so expect to get your feet wet and your Jeep® 4×4 muddy in the many mud holes and water crossings.” Google “images for jeep jamboree Pine Barrens” and you will get a flavor of what they offer. Dirt bike groups hold enduros, multi-mile one and two day motorcycle races, with hundreds of participants who are charged a fee to participate. Jeep and 4 x 4 clubs hold what they call “runs” through the Pines and many times with 20 to 40 jeeps participating, the activity is unregulated.

Now you can see where the culture comes from and why people travel many miles to “ride” in our Pinelands. What is worse is that has all been sanctioned by the NJ DEP and the Pinelands Commission. They have been doing this for decades. These authorities have to approve the route(s) of each event, assuming they apply for a permit, and charge the groups and fee of $5.00 per mile of the planned route. So, if the route is 100 miles their fee is $500. These groups do not have to post a bond to cover any damage that they may do during their event. I, personally, have never heard of any group repairing the damage they cause, and they do cause damage. Just think of 70 Jeeps or 200 motorcycles roaring over the trails and sand roads hour after hour and over a course of two days. Their machines are made to challenge land, and that is what they do during their contest. These events go by names like Jeep Jamboree, Curly Fern Enduro , Ride in the Pines, there is a Pine Barrens 500 and a 300, and quite a few others. Some of these events have a long history but that does not make them anymore correct environmentally. Authorities have made an error for decades approving such contest. These events are held only in the Pine Barrens, they are not held in Round Valley Reservoir, Spruce Reservoir or Stokes State Forest. In states that adjoin NJ these events are not permitted on public lands and are only held on private property. The worst of it is not the event itself it is the aftermath of the event. Without permission or permit or financial commitment people who participate in these events return week after week, month after month, and year after year. They come back with friends and relatives, they come from neighboring states, the come to make the “run” again. No one stops them. These USERS become ABUSERS!

In a recent time frame Lacey Township in Ocean County developed a task force to corral ATV and off-road vehicle operators because of the abuses that have been reported by property owners, many of them coming from out of state and N. Jersey. At one arrest it was reported that a police officer was run into by a suspect trying to avoid arrest. Winslow Twp. recently had a task force in conjunction with Wildlife Management Area enforcement. Over one weekend of trying to control off-roading in the township there were multiple arrest for trespassing, alcohol consumption, in park after hours, illegal swimming, people with warrants for their arrest were located and motor vehicle violations.http://www.nj.com/camden/index.ssf/2016/08/undercover_cops_target_illegal_off-road_riding_swi.html  New Jersey Conservation Foundation held a tree planting volunteer day along the Forked River to refurbish the stream banks that have been destroyed by off-roading. Within days hundreds newly planted cedar trees were ripped out of the ground and burned in a pile, all protest from off-roaders for shutting down their area. A volunteer group did a watch program over the Labor Day weekend to observe known off-roading areas. In a four or five hour period they observed and recorded and/or videoed 12 off-roading violations in only four locations. Some offensives were committed by youthful unlicensed drivers with unlicensed vehicles. Many of these violations were reported to the Park Police while the actual violations were taking place, but none of the calls were responded to. It was a holiday and the Park Police still don’t have enough manpower and they seem to lack all the equipment they should have, I will give them that, but to my knowledge there was no follow up or call back. And, recently there was a report of a Forest Fire Warden having his truck hit head-on by a dirt bike operator traveling at high speeds on a sand road. The rider got up and fled the scene. The list goes on and on and this Wild West behavior continues.

Last year the DEP developed what was known as the M.A.P. map(motorized access plan) for Wharton State Forest in hopes of using that plan as an outline for future motor vehicle access in other State Forest. The off-roading folks screamed and yelled very loudly about losing their access. After some political maneuvering the group succeeded in having the DEP back off the plan. The DEP’s answer to the problem was to beef up enforcement, and everyone agreed enforcement was sorely needed. Its not working. There are many sites of off-road destruction that have been monitored on a weekly basis and the information indicating that even though enforcement is being stepped up these areas continue to be abused. The weekly information was fed to the DEP and the Park Police but no action has been taken in the monitored areas.

The best hope for controlling access to the Pinelands now lays with the Pinelands Commission http://www.state.nj.us/pinelands/index.shtml . They have the authority to designate areas of closure for many reasons, one of them is motor vehicle abuse. They need to come up with a plan, map, blueprint – call it what you will – to delineate where motor vehicle use is permitted and, more importantly, where is not. The wildlife management areas which fall under the jurisdiction of the Div. of Fish and Game have announced that they will no longer permit off-road vehicles events on their lands. The best way to begin curtailing the culture issue is to STOP issuing permits for off-roading events in the Pine Barrens, period. These events cost the public millions in the long run with no monetary return what-so-ever. More importantly, not one of these events has any ecological benefit for the Pinelands. Off-roading events do in fact scare off the general public because the roads in the Pine Barrens have become unusable, denying many many people access. It is intimidating to have to give way to dirt bikes, Jeeps and ATV s who are speeding and/or creating lots of dust, noise. It is unfair that one user group commands such control over the most wonderful environmental asset we have in this state. What about the wildlife, I am sure they aren’t real happy to have their home invaded by these land destruction machines.

As a parting thought – We have all seen beautiful photographs and paintings, read poems and heard songs about our Pinelands but never have I seen or heard any that include a muddy Jeep, ATV or dirt bike in artful depictions of the Pine Barrens!

Help for Wharton????

A Short Update

The waning months of 2015 and the beginning of 2016 been very trying times for Wharton State Forest, New Jersey’s largest State Forest.  In the summer of 2015 the DEP gave the “all ahead full” to a unique plan to manage Wharton’s resources, resources that were being depleted rapidly by excessive off-road vehicle use. As the M.A.P. (Motorized Access Plan) got underway the very people who use the forest as their Motorsports Park became alarmed that they would be losing the testing ground for their very expensive off-road vehicles, Jeeps, dirt bikes, and ATVs (ATVs are illegal on all public lands in NJ) that challenge the land. I might add that this culturally embedded idea that the Pine Barrens is a motor sports arena has been fostered by many decades of the DEP and The Pinelands Commission issuing permits for off-road vehicle events for both 4 x 4s and dirt-bike enduros. (There are perhaps 20 such events every year in the Pine Barrens. The irony of this is these events are not permitted in Northern New Jersey parks like Round Valley Reservoir, Stokes State Forest, Spruce Run Reservoir,or any of the other Northern parks. These events are only held in the Pine Barrens). Off-road vehicles events are not staged in any adjoining state’s

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

parks (this has also created a lot of traffic from out-of-state sources). So, several Facebook groups were started to oppose the closure of any of the roads/trails in Wharton SF. The off-road groups found a helpful and well-financed partner in a hunting and fishing lobby (some of their ranks are off-roaders), neither group wanted to lose their supposed open access to Wharton SF, or any of the many Pinelands areas they use to challenge their vehicles or hunt and fish. With a prominent lobbying group already in place the hunting and fishing lobby, with their new allies, gained access to the Governor’s office by claiming tens of thousands of voters (one can assume almost all the hunters and fisherman in NJ more than likely don’t appreciate the noise and chaos that off-road vehicles cause in their natural world. You can also image they may have been hijacked into thinking all of the State Forest are going to be closed!would not stand for any closures in Wharton SF. So the environment be damned! selfish suppossed voters win, the DEP caved and rescinded the very management program they already backed 100%, one that took years to develop. The DEP hop scotched around by holding a series of meetings, stakeholder meetings as they referred to them, and without hesitation (oh, perhaps a little pressure from the Governor’s Office) they officially rescinded the M.A.P.

We skip now to what is going on in today’s world.

Mutual Cooperation

At a Stake Holders meeting in March the DEP agreed with all concerned that the major issue creating the destruction of Wharton was the total lack of enforcement by the NJ Park Police. So, they announced the assignment of seven officers to the Wharton office in Batsto. They are assigned to just patrol Wharton, 24/7, unless something that needs more attention in another area required their participation. Also, the DEP had new signage made to post environmentally sensitive areas, eleven or twelve specific spots, IMG_0133and they were waiting for large metal signs to be placed at about 50 entrances to Wharton. _L0A0981The metal signs are to warn that there are restrictions to motor vehicle usage in the park and it cited all the codes that could be enforced. Once the new signs arrived they requested volunteers to install them. There are claims to many violations being charged against errant off-road vehicle users since the addition of officers and the installation of new signage, but it seems no one wants to give up the information. Attempts to obtain the violation information, which would help determine how successful the new enforcement program is working, have apparently met with a lot of resistance because groups have tried to OPRA the

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

information but so far no success. In April the DEP received the metal signs and over a two morning period volunteers from various groups collaborated to install them. A job well done. At this point most of the paper Environmentally Sensitive Area signs have been largely ignored, some ripped off the trees and some even burned. To the best of my knowledge the metal signs have held up and only a scrapthemap3small amount of graffiti collected on them.

The Pinelands Commission

In the midst of all of this The Pinelands Commission started looking into what was going on the Pinelands, specifically Wharton State Forest. I understand that a couple of the commissioners have visited various destruction sites and, of course, where not pleased by what they observed. Who would be! They , the Commission, announced they where going to look into the problem. Public testimony was no different from normal, the group opposed to motor vehicle travel restriction in Wharton suggested that the DEP has it all under control and there was no need for them to upset the proverbial apple cart and the group insisting the damage stop before the whole of Wharton is destroyed begging the commission to get involved. Recently, several Commission members have voiced their concern about the issue, one commissioner located over 170 wetlands areas that have Wetlands intrusionbeen effected by off-road vehicle abuse and another has suggested perhaps there should be a law that an impounded vehicle that was caught abusing the Pinelands not be given back once a fine is paid but sold to recoup cost to repair the damages done. The Commissions staff is looking into validating the various destruction sites. So it appears the Commission is moving forward to deal with the problem.

Some Solid Results

This past weekend, Sunday June 5th, the major surviving Facebook group opposing the restrictions on travel by motor vehicle (no area was to be restricted to hiking, biking or horseback riding only motor vehicle traffic) in Wharton, Open Trails New Jersey (OTNJ), installed three

The first gate installl

The first gate install

gates they manufactured at their cost to completely

block off the Jemima Mount Area (see accompany map) (my major fear is that the users of Jemima Mt. will now travel to Colliers Mill WMA area in Jackson where the destruction of a beautiful rolling hill forest is being carried out at a very fast pace)

These gates could be opened temporarily for seasonal events like hunting.  Prior to this installation OTNJ was vehemently opposed to closing any trails/roads/paths that had previously been used by motor vehicles, regardless of whether it was even a legitimate road or just a push line created by the Fire Service to stop wild-fire. It took some time but OTNJ seems to have come to the understanding that you cannot protect Wharton, or any other Pinelands public lands, unless restrictions are put in place. Restricting vehicle access is very common practice in every state, it is even done in many of the Northern New Jersey Public lands.

Area surrounding Jemima Mt. no longer accessible by motor vehicle.

Area surrounding Jemima Mt. not accessible by motor vehicle.

In the recent past one of the founding members of OTNJ has asked me to work in conjunction with them, to paraphase…. “since we all have a common interest in the forest” on some project to help Wharton. I could not help with the gate installation because my strength is still limited from my surgery but I did photograph the event for DEP usage.  As you can see from the images here

OTNJ gates at Jemima

OTNJ gates at Jemima

the gates are super and OTNJ did a wonderful job with their manufacture and installation.

I would like to suggest there is another project we can work in tandem on that will not cost money or volunteer time in the field. It is common knowledge that the culture of viewing our Pinelands as a motor sports arena is a result of the decades of the DEP and The Pinelands Commission issuing permits for off-road vehicle events in the Pine Barrens. Let’s face it, there is no motor sports event that includes off-road style vehicles that can do anything healthy for the Pine Barrens.  It is common sense, it just can’t be beneifical. Also, there is no financial reward to the Pine Barrens, for the repair of damages that these events cause, and the minor fees that are collected to issue these permits is purely chicken feed to the States coffers or any of its commission.  Folks in other states that forbid this type of public land use also own off-road vehicles and they find appropriate areas to use them without burdening their State Forest. There is no good reason, financially or environmentally, to stage such events in the Pine Barrens. So here could be our mutually cooperative goal:

Press the DEP and the Pinelands Commission to cease issuing off-road vehicle event permits in our Pinelands.

Jeep Jamboree 2016 – WOW! IT IS FINALLY COMING!!!!!

Whoopee its coming again!!! I know everyone has been waiting with bated breath.

Jeep Jamboree 2016 – March 17 – 19, 2016  New Jersey Pine Barrens

Jeep Jamboree 2016 advertisement

Jeep Jamboree 2016 advertisement

One of the synonyms for Jamboree is bash.  The only bash going on here is the Pine Barrens getting bashed. The above image that Jeep Jamboree used for its ad is from an area that has been off limits to motor vehicles for years, 1/4 Mile Bogs. 1/4 Mile is a highly sensative ecological area that was destroyed via off-road vehicle abuse, obviously some of it by Jeep Jamboree. The 2015 Jamboree was not staged, supposedly, because video taken during their 2014 event was not representative of where they were permitted to travel. This event will be their 22nd year of tearing up our Pinelands. Think about it, a company from California comes all the way to NJ to stage an event for 50 to 70 Jeeps to ride around our forest and wetlands on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday in March, the wettest period in the Pine Barrens, and then returns to California on Monday with a pile of cash.  They “ain’t” doing this for free, especially since they are charging nearly $500 per vehicle to ride around our State Forest.  They have nomial permit fees and no bond to post for damage that may be done during their event. Seems like a pretty good profit margin to me.

On two recent occasions I had the privilege of being present when Jeep Jamboree’s local representative, Jim Justice, spoke at the Hammonton stateholders meeting in November 2015 concerning the Wharton M.A.P. proposal, conducted by the DEP, and a recent Pinelands Commission meeting were he spoke of the virtues of the Jeep Jamboree. Here is some of what he said, most of this is paraphrased but you’ll get the picture when you watch the videos below.

…..We look for areas of historic significance.  …..guides point out the history of places like Hampton Furnace, the cranberry bogs and the railroad tracks ( I have never seen any of that on any of the many videos posted on YouTube by many  Jeep Jamboree participants).  …..We educate with a 101 offroading course for safe and responsible offroading (safe may be true but responsible to the environment it is not)  …..Our intent is not to damage the forest and to keep it open to everyone (well, the roads, part of the forest, depicted in these videos are not now open to anyone but those who have a Jeep)  …..teach sane responsible offroading  – don’t speed though the mudholes so you don’t get stuck, go through them slowly (the videos don’t bare that out because there many people towing each other out of the deep waterholes (wetlands).  …..We get permits from the Pinelands Commission and we do everything in our power to stay within the permitted route (what would stop them from staying on a permitted route. Many scenes in the videos are from 1/4 MIle Bogs which is posted and I am sure was not part of the permited route).  …..some past videos were proven to not be our people (the videos below clearly show their Trail Guides in the video)  ….. we stay on the route and don’t use go-arounds and we have prosecuted people for going in the meadows (what about the go-arounds used in the videos and who is it they have prosecuted?)

The videos below represent three conscutive years of Jeep Jamboree 2012, 2013, 2014 and a video that shows what happens after an event and people return to ride again and again without a permit and, of course, with their friends.  All videos were taken by participates in the various Jeep Jamborees.  All are edited to take out the boring parts and the loud music that the videographers seem to like, it could damage your ears.

2012 Jeep Jamboree – Lined up to go through a vernal pool and using the mud wallow on a Right of Way instead of using the road right next too it.

2013 Jeep Jamboree – Clearly taken at 1/4 Mile Bogs, which has been off limits for several years.  Note that the first vehicle is registered in Virginia.  Many of the vehicles that participate in this, and many unpermitted events, are from out of state because they can do here what they can’t do in their home states.

2014 Jeep Jamboree – Many wetland intrusions and the last section of the video shows a road that would take 100’s of thousands of dollars to repair.

This last video is a great example of what happens after an event.  People return, without permits, with their friends and make the “run” again for weeks, months and years to come and it causes even more damage to our delicate sand road infrastructure.

The mystery here is why the agencies in charge of our public lands, especially our Pinelands, the DEP and the Pinelands Commission, continue to issue permits for these events. There is certainly no ecological or financial advantage.  If they are trying please a user group what about the other user groups that enjoy our public lands for quiet recreation. If you are on a road that Jeep Jamboree is using you will either have to challenge 20 or 30 vehicles (they split up into two groups so you could encounter this twice in one day as I have) or move over and let them through.  If you have been in the area of a dirt bike enduro then you know you have to get out of the way, put up with the noise, speeds over the posted limit, and hide from the dust.

Decades and decades of issuing permits for motorsports as given the impression, locally and to all the off-road enthusiast in the Delaware Valley, that our public lands are open as a motorsports arena, 24 hours a day, permit or no. If there are going to be permits issued these motorsports events they should be chaperoned by Park Police so the event does not harm the environment or distrub those that want quiet enjoyment of our public lands.

The Pinelands was preserved by forward thinking governors of the 70 and 80’s and I don’t think they envisioned a motorsports park when they decide this area was worth preserving. Even with todays budget restrictions there seems very little reason not to keep our public lands just as we found them.

Here are some photographs taken right from the Jeep Jamboree website.  It is a clear indication that their concern is not for our environment but for their bottom line.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.