Home > Uncategorized > Pinelands Commission Moves To Restore Credibility – Signals Intent To Regulate Motorized Vehicle Destruction

Pinelands Commission Moves To Restore Credibility – Signals Intent To Regulate Motorized Vehicle Destruction

Commissioners Not Allowed To Attend DEP’s Private “Stakeholder Meeting”

“Jeep Jamboree” Slated To Destroy Pinelands This Week

Standing room only - 3/11/15

Standing room only – 3/11/16

[Update below]

Just days after being savagely criticized in a must read Philadelphia Inquirer editorial for being “spineless”, “looking the other way” as their Executive Director defied their decision not to approve the South Jersey Gas pipeline and usurped their power, and “abdicating” their responsibility to protect the Pinelands, on Friday, what appears to be a majority faction on the Commission made moves to restore the Commission’s credibility.

First, the Commission finalized long delayed reforms to the “Memorandum of Agreement” (MOA) policy that led to the South Jersey Gas pipeline debacle, an implicit rebuke to Executive Director Wittenberg and Legal Counsel Roth, who orchestrated the MOA.

While I argue that the new MOA policy is toothless because it does not provide standards for an equivalent level of protection and was not adopted via regulation as an amendment to the CMP – particularly the new substantive requirement for an escrow account to pay for Commission staff review time – the more symbolic  point is that it shifts the policy role back to the Commission and away from ED Wittenberg.

Second, and more importantly, the move to restore the integrity and independent policy control of the Commission was led by deposed former Chairman Lohbauer, along with support from Commissioners Ashum, Lloyd, Prickett and Rohan Green (Courier Post)

Commissioner Mark Lohbauer said it is now up to the commission to create the map tool for DEP to use for enforcement. “The problem (destruction) goes beyond Wharton, but we’ve got to start somewhere,” he said.

The commissioners informally agreed they have the legal right and responsibility to close areas or roads to protect the Pinelands and can develop a Wharton map designating open and closed areas that DEP can use for enforcement. The commission has no enforcement power.

This group seems likely to garner a majority on the Commission and obviously is a threat to the leadership of Gov. Christie’s installed Chairman Earlen and his puppet, Executive Director Wittenberg. Earlen will have the support of Commissioner Avery, who is serving as the Administration’s hit man. But I can’t see the federal government’s representative and many other Commissioners defending the indefensible, particularly in light of the withering criticism laid out in the Inquirer’s editorial.

However, I was very disturbed by the comments of the newest Commissioner, Mr. Chila, who urged the Commission not to “jump in” to the DEP’s failed process. Chila obviously does not understand the Commission’s responsibility and authority under the CMP. This photo is revealing – as Lohbauer leads, Chila frets:


But, as became obvious during Friday’s meeting, they will be resisted at every step of the way by Executive Director Wittenberg, who is working closely with the Christie DEP and throwing up roadblocks (pun intended!).

A remarkable example of that was when Commissioners expressed interest in attending DEP’s March 22 “Stakeholder” meeting on enforcement of motorized vehicle access. Wittenberg told them that she was invited by DEP and would represent the Commission. When Commissioners still expressed an interest in attending the DEP meeting, Wittenberg told them that they could not attend because the DEP meeting was “by invitation only”.

How is it possible for the DEP to block Pinelands Commissioners from a key meeting regarding the Pinelands?  How can Wittenberg, who reports to and serves at the pleasure of the Commission, defend DEP’s restriction and tell Commissioner that they could not attend?

I had previously warned the Commission about the DEP’s “by invitation only” abuse and testified again on Friday to call that “radical” and unacceptable.

The Courier Post story picked up on this controversy, but got it wrong – “the Commission” has NOT been invited. Only Executive Director Wittenberg was invited. She is NOT the Commission, as is now obvious. The CP story only focused on the exclusion of the media, and not Commissionrs who wanted to attend:

Meanwhile, the DEP has scheduled a private meeting March 22 with Pinelands municipalities in the Wharton tract and various environmental and outdoor groups to update them on law enforcement efforts to prevent further damage to the forest’s habitat, roads and trails. The commission also has been invited. A DEP spokesman told the Courier-Post that media are barred from the invitation-only meeting but would be informed of law enforcement and other developments at a later time.

Motorized Access debate continues

Source: Leep Jamboree - 2013, YouTube screen shot - see link below to watch full video - viewer warning: obscene destruction

Source: Jeep Jamboree – 2013, YouTube screen shot – see link below to watch full video – viewer warning: obscene destruction

Friday’s Pinelands Commission meeting was packed for another debate on how to start to limit the massive destruction of irreplaceable natural resources by motorized vehicles (for a discussion and photos, see my prior post Anarchy in the Pines).

Emile DeVito, PhD, NJCF urges the Commission to act

Emile DeVito, PhD, NJCF urges the Commission to act

Emile DeVito, PhD of NJ Conservation Foundation began the debate by reiterating his field study that showed over 30% of wetlands meadows are destroyed and about the same amount already were negatively impacted.

But you don’t have to believe Emile or my photos, just take a look at the promotional YouTube of the 2013 “Jeep Jamboree”. (viewer warning: obscene destruction)

I don’t know what kinds of DEP permits and Pinelands Commission approvals were issued to this “Jeep Jamboree”, but it is obvious that the Jeeps are destroying federally protected wetlands and “waters of the US”, as well as blatantly violating federal and State “Surface water quality standards” adopted under the federal Clean Water Act.

I would assume that EPA, USFWS,  and/or National Parks Service/DoI all would have strong objections to that destruction and fragrant violations of the federal Clean Water Act and/or Pinelands National Reserve law.

Or perhaps a Court could issue an injunction to block this Jamboree?

[Technical End Note: Just so Commissioner Chila, ED Witenberg and the public can understand the Commission’s powers and the criteria for designated roads and areas that are inappropriate for motorized vehicles, here are the rules under the CMP @ NJAC 7:50-6.143(a)2-3.:

2. No motor vehicle other than fire, police or emergency vehicles or those vehicles used for the administration or maintenance of any public land shall be operated upon publicly owned land within the Pinelands. Other motor vehicles may operate on public lands for recreational purposes on public highways and areas on land designated prior to August 8, 1980 for such use by state and local governmental entities until designated as inappropriate for such use under (a)3 below.

3. The Commission shall from time to time designate areas which are inappropriate for use of motor vehicles. Such designation shall be based upon the following considerations and upon consultation with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and other interested persons:

i. A need to protect a scientific study area;

ii. A need to protect the location of threatened or endangered plant or animal species;

iii. A need to provide a wilderness recreational area;

iv. A need to prevent conflicts with adjoining intensively used recreational areas;

v. A need to protect historic or archaeological sites;

vi. A need to protect critical wildlife habitats;

vii. A need to address a situation of public health and safety;

viii. A need to protect extensively disturbed areas from further impact; and

ix. The extent to which such road closure would substantially impair recreation access to and uses of surrounding resources.

* obviously, regulated features like wetlands and streams (“waters of the state”) are included in these criteria.

and access restrictions an gates DO WORK:

Colliers Mills Wildlife Management Area - located in Pinelands, managed by NJ DP, DFW

Colliers Mills Wildlife Management Area – located in Pinelands, managed by NJ DP, DFW

[Update – I just came across this and had to share it as perhaps one of the most cynical pieces of shit I’ve ever read – does anyone really think that the Jeep “Jamboree” participants are there to observe rare, threatened and endangered species?

They are BRAGGING about what they are destroying:


Situated in the southern central part of New Jersey’s Burlington County, Wharton State Forest is in the heart of New Jersey’s Pine Barrens. Home to many rare and endangered species of plants and animals, the State Forest is open to the general public for recreation all year long. Miles of sand roads cross pine forests, cedar swamps and fresh water streams. The water flows from the Kirkwood-Cohansey Aquifer. The aquifer, one of the largest on the continent, holds an estimated 17 trillion gallons of water. Cranberry bogs, leased by private parties, abound throughout the park.

Wharton State Forest trails are some of the most picturesque in the state. Trail conditions vary greatly within the park, but expect water everywhere. A variety of trails will be available during the Pine Barrens Jeep Jamboree. Trails wind through low-lying forest and swamps, which consist of predominately sandy soil. Some of these trails are old non-maintained local roads and some are fire roads. The fire roads access Wharton State Forest in the event of a forest fire.

Keep your eyes open for the wide variety of birds native to this forest such as bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, pine warblers (yellow and green) and the barred owl. The barred owl is active during the day (unlike other species) and has a call that sounds like “WHO COOKS FOR YOU”.

The timber rattlesnake (the only poisonous snake in the forest) and the pine snake (black and white) also call the Wharton State Forest home.
Cranberries are cultivated in sand-covered bogs that can be flooded or drained at will. Flooding protects the vines from frosts and freezing weather and destroys insect pests. We will pass cranberry bogs along the trail.


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