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The Batona Trail cuts through the pines of Wharton State Forest.

I don’t consider myself an environmentalist.  I’ve always viewed people, who label themselves as such, to be the radicals of the conservation movement, and I’m no radical.  And before you go getting your shorts in a twist, let me say that I am not suggesting that radicalism is necessarily a bad thing.

Many years ago, my mother said something to me that I’ll never forget.  I don’t recall what we were discussing, but I had made a derisive comment about some radicals somewhere, doing something.  She said to me, “We need the radicals, too.”

I don’t remember exactly what she said next, but she basically said that it is usually the radicals that get things done and bring about change.  She is absolutely correct.  Most of us aren’t activists.  We’re not going to organize a march or chain ourselves to a tree or lay down in the middle of the street to stop traffic or generally make a big fuss.

Most of us wouldn’t know where to begin, or we just don’t want to be the center of attention.  Maybe we’re more comfortable working in the background.

I’m more of the background type.  Also, I don’t believe in the my-way-or-the-highway approach for most things.  That’s why I love the Nature Conservancy.  They try to work with all parties that will be affected by their work.  That, in my mind, is usually the best course.

Why am I boring you with all of this?

Well, every once in a while you have to put your foot down and say, “No!  This cannot happen.”

South Jersey Gas’ proposed natural gas pipeline through a portion of the Pinelands Forest Management Area is one of those times.   I’m not going to pretend that I’m an expert on the subject, but I don’t feel that I have to be.  All I need to know is this, from the Pinelands Preservation Alliance website:  “The proposed route through the Pinelands Forest Management Area violates the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP). The CMP permits such public service infrastructure in the Forest Management Area only when it is ‘intended to primarily serve the needs of the Pinelands.’ N.J.A.C. 7:50-5.23. There is no exception for pipes that run along or under roads.”

Follow the link and read it for yourself.  It’s pretty clear.

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Franklin Parker Preserve

I’m not a big fan of “studies”, as there are very few studies that are truly independent.   However, it doesn’t take a study or a genius to figure out that digging a huge trench, even if it’s along an existing highway, is going to have negative environmental impacts.

A new gas pipeline was just put through my neighborhood in 2013.  It, also, traverses one of my favorite playgrounds–High Point State Park.  I didn’t have too much of a problem with it, because it follows the path of an already existing pipeline.  That said, there is no doubt that there was environmental upheaval along its path.  All you had to do was look at it to know that.

The Pinelands Commission was set up specifically to protect the valuable resources of the Pinelands.  Their stated purpose is this:

The New Jersey Pinelands Commission is an independent state agency whose mission is to “preserve, protect, and enhance the natural and cultural resources of the Pinelands National Reserve, and to encourage compatible economic and other human activities consistent with that purpose.”

Rules have been set forth in their management plan to accomplish this, as stated and linked to above.  A prominent state Republican has argued that the pipeline should be allowed, because it runs along existing highways.  Although, I read that part of it will cut through forested areas.

I tend to lean towards the right on many things, and I believe that laws are laws and rules are rules.  If you think that the rules can be changed on a whim for this, than why can the rules not be changed on a whim for other things, like…………………oh, I don’t know…………………immigration?

Setting such a precedent could be disastrous for the future of the pines.  Personally, I think New Jersey has sacrificed enough for big business interests.  Click HERE for a list of our superfund sites.  There are other routes the gas company could take.  I don’t really care if it will be more expensive for them.  That’s THEIR problem.

I could go on, but I’m tired of talking.  I would rather just meld back into the background and leave you to look at the photographs I’ve taken in the Pinelands over the past couple of years, so you can decide for yourself whether or not they are worth protecting.  You may decide they are not, and that would be sad.

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Sunset over Atsion Lake in Shamong

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Pitch pines along the banks of Atsion Lake in Shamong

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Scorching from a forest fire is still evident on the trunks of these trees in Wharton State Forest

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A tree takes root in an old stump in the Batsto River near Batsto Village

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Old cranberry bogs in Franklin Parker Preserve near Chatsworth

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The view of New Jersey’s Pinelands from the fire tower at Apple Pie Hill

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The Batona Trail cuts through Wharton State Forest near Tabernacle