Politics puts Pinelands preservation panel in the spotlight

News that politicians are packing polluters on the Pinelands preservation panel sent shivered through the spines of New Jersey’s most ardent environmentalists and sparked ire among Murphy’s critics.

To understand the gravity of this development, here’s a description about the region, its history and the potential harm that might result from Murphy’s designation of polluter’s lobbyists to make decisions about the region.

The Pinelands covers all or part of 56 municipalities and seven counties: Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, and Ocean.

Governor Brendan T. Byrne declared a moratorium on development in the Pine Barrens, a relatively undeveloped, ecologically unique area in New Jersey, until the New Jersey legislature approved the Pinelands Protection Act in 1979.

That law ended the moratorium created the Pinelands Commission to regulate development in the Pine Barrens under a comprehensive management plan that set rules on how the land may be used.

A 1967 New Yorker story about the Pine Barrens by John McPhee described the region as the last vestige of wilderness in what could become an unbroken city from Boston to Richmond.

The Pinelands National Reserve created by the federal National Parks and Recreation Act is slightly larger than the area defined by the Pinelands Protection Act because it includes additional land east of the Garden State Parkway and to the south bordering Delaware Bay.

The unique ecology of the mostly rural and undisturbed Pine Barrens supports a diverse spectrum of plant life, including orchids and carnivorous plants.

Approximately 3,000 square miles of the Pine Barrens helps recharge the 17-trillion-gallon Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer, which contains some of the purest water in the United States.

The water supply formation took a few million years but since it is prone to erosion, pollution or development would probably result in its destruction in just a matter of years.

“Governor Phil Murphy has betrayed environmentalists who ardently supported his extremely close re-election effort by dumping a slate of eco-friendly nominees and replacing them with a pack of polluters to serve on the Pinelands Commission,” said Lisa McCormick, a progressive Democrat who has been a frequent critic of the Wall Street millionaire.

“Murphy’s plot to put polluters’ lobbyists on New Jersey Pinelands Commission shows exactly what I have known all along,” said McCormick. “This greedy politician bought a job he is clearly unprepared to do well.”

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