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Murphy DEP To Delist Bald Eagle

Loss Of Habitat To Development Remains A Major Threat

Loss Of DEP Regulatory Protections Will Be Applauded By Builders 

I strongly urge readers to get the word out on this proposal and nip this in the bud before it becomes a rule proposal, at which point it will be too late for DEP to back off.

The Murphy DEP will soon propose rules to delist the Bald Eagle from the State’s Threatened and Endangered species program and thereby remove regulatory protections for the bird’s habitat.

Buried in an otherwise standard puff piece on bald eagle recovery, in the 10th paragraph we learn: (NJ Spotlight)

“The Department [of Environmental Protection] is considering delisting bald eagles,” Clark said. “There’s going to be a rule proposal — we don’t have a date on it yet, but it’ll be this calendar year.” 

Surely, NJ Spotlight editors know that developers have long sought to remove land use regulatory protections of habitat, which can serve as a constraint on development.

But instead of raising alarm bells, the NJ Spotlight story reads like a brief from the NJ Builders Association to justify such a delisting.

DEP is obviously engaged in news management and is spinning this story to get out in front and frame what they know will be a hugely unpopular and controversial proposal.

Remarkably, here’s what the NJ Spotlight story failed to even mention – i.e. development threats, habitat loss, and DEP regulatory protections.

So let me share some of DEP’s own assessments on those issues.

According to DEP (emphasis mine):

ENSP biologists continually work to manage and reduce disturbance in eagle habitats, especially around nest sites. Eagles are sensitive to human disturbance and will abandon their nest sites if people encroach on the area during the nesting season. Education and established viewing areas are important in minimizing disturbance, as are the efforts of eagle project volunteers. Biologists also work to protect habitat in a variety of ways, including working with landowners, land acquisition experts, and through the state’s land use regulations.

DEP used to highlight the threats of land development and habitat loss and rely on strict land use regulations to reduce habitat loss, but stuff like the following warning has gone down Orwell’s memory hole. The current DEP dismisses the land use threats as “out of date” (See: New Jersey’s Landscape Project For the Protection of Rare Species

Despite New Jersey’s protection efforts, which include strict land use regulations and an aggressive open space acquisition program (GreenAcres), we continue to lose critical wildlife habitat at an alarming rate. In just the last three decades we have lost 40 percent of the remaining critical migratory bird stopover habitat on the lower third of the Cape May Peninsula (Illustration 5). During the same period, approximately 50 percent of the state’s bog turtle habitat has disappeared. The Landscape Project serves as a tool to help reverse this trend.

DEP touted stricter State regulations, despite rollbacks at the federal level (DEP, 2002):

The population of wintering bald eagles has grown along with the nesting population, especially in the last ten years. This growth reflects increasing nesting populations in NJ and the northeast, as each state’s recovery effort pays off. In recognition of this success, the federal government upgraded the status of the bald eagle from endangered to threatened in July of 1995, and in 2000 proposed federal de-listing of the species. The federal status remains threatened; however, the eagle remains endangered in New Jersey, and regulatory protection remains the same.

I strongly urge readers to get the word out on this proposal and nip this in the bud before it becomes a rule proposal, at which point it will be too late for DEP to back off.

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