Our Public Lands are Being Devastated
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.
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.
Below is what we have found while conducting our surveys:
- Hundreds (this could be more like thousands of acres once we calculate the size
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
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-
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
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 ofparticipants. 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.
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.