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Casino Gambling Partners With Farmland Preservation

June 27th, 2016 No comments

Another faction of the Green Mafia

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“Vote YES In November For North Jersey Casino Expansion”

I know very little about the politics of the Farmland Preservation program – other than the greed and the attack on the Highlands and the lies of the Farm Bureau – or horse farms and horse racing, and even less about casino gambling.

But what I do know is that the former is associated with idyllic landscapes and enjoys a very favorable public image, while the latter is associated with the mob and various social pathologies and cultural taboos practiced in places like the streets of Atlantic City.

What two enterprises could be more different?

So I was shocked while riding my bike to see pro-casino gambling signs at the lovely Heritage Hill horse farm, just above Walnford Park in Allentown:

Heritage Hill Farm, spanning 500 acres in western Monmouth County, is one of the founding farms of the New Jersey Sire Stakes program. The Heritage Hill – HH – name was given to nearly 100 horses, including the world champion filly HH Shadow who was second in the 1986 Cane Pace and retired with 17 victories and nearly $280,000 in earnings.Heritage Hill stood 1972 Pacing Horse of the Year Isle of Wight, whose offspring dominated the New Jersey Sire Stakes in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The farm no longer stands any stallions – the last was Jaguar Spur — but the Deys breed and foal nearly 100 mares a year.

Thinking this group of signs – like the handful of Trump signs out there –  just a quirky family promotion at one horse farm, I ignored it.

But a week later I saw another group of exactly the same signs at another horse farm in Chesterfield and I knew this was no isolated event, but rather an organized political campaign.

A quick Google reveals that gambling, horse racing, and farmland preservation are linked in politics – see this recent Report by Governor Christie’s Advisory Commission on NJ Gaming, Sports, and Entertainment:

Malinowski and Avenatti predicted in 2009 that the Garden State could lose its premier agribusiness which generated $780 million of economic impact annually, 7,000 jobs, $110 million in federal, state and local taxes and 57,000 acres of working agricultural landscape and open space if racing-related training and breeding farms left New Jersey. Only eight percent of acreage in the Farmland Preservation Program was used for horse-related activities and eleven percent of preserved farms were actually in the horse business (Malinowski and Avenatti, 2009). Acreage supported by equine-related interests made up 25 percent of the total farmland in New Jersey (Gottlieb, et al., 2009). This fact reinforced the argument that the state stood to lose this farmland to development if racing was no longer viable. It was also suggested that racing was not the only equine discipline in jeopardy if New Jersey racing was not sustained. Sport competition and recreational horse users also stood to suffer, as would traditional agricultural interests such as grain, hay, and straw farmers who continue to remain in business and maintain agriculturally productive open space due to the fact that their major customers are horse owners.

Have these folks no knowledge of land use planning and regulation? They assume that all horse farms would be converted to development? That market forces alone determine land use?

This worldview of sleaze and greed really should have come as no surprise, given the self-interested inside money deals, upward redistribution of public funds to wealthy elites, and avoidance of advocacy of “coercive” government land use planning and regulation I’ve seen in the open space preservation program that I’ve called “The Green Mafia”.

So, enterprising investigative journalists out there, I smell a story – how much money is going from the casino industry to NJ horse farms to promote the ballot question? Who is paying who and how much?

I’ll be voting “NO” on the casino question – and find it reprehensible that preservation of the landscape and open space are being used as pawns and a pretext to support the casino industry.

casino2

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Highlands Documentary Exposes Folly Of Christie DEP Logging Scheme

June 26th, 2016 No comments

Current Rationale for Logging Contradicts Prior Basis For Forest Preservation

Source: scene from  "The Highlands Rediscovered" NJN TV documentary - at time 22:40

Fragmentation, tree cuts, and opening forest canopy brings in sunlight, which fuels explosive growth of invasive plants, which out compete native plants. Source: scene from “The Highlands Rediscovered” NJN TV documentary – at time 22:40

The more cuts that one gets, the more fragmentation in this forest mosaic, the more it gets degraded. ~~~ Eric Stiles, NJ Audubon “The Highlands Rediscovered” (NJN TV, 2004)

Sportscaster Warner Wolf was famous for his line “Let’s go to the video tape!” – so, let’s do just that for a moment to shed some light (pun intended) on the current debate about logging in Highlands forests.

I’ve written thousands of words and posted numerous photos about that – particularly on how the current rationale for logging Highlands forests contradicts the science relied upon to preserve the Highlands. I’ve even used the published work of NJ Audubon CEO Eric Stiles to make the point:

Forest wildlife diversity depends on large contiguous forest patches, connections to other habitats, structurally complex vegetation, intact seasonal wetlands, and the presence of native vegetation. Disruption of any of these components can dramatically reduce wildlife diversity. ~~~ Eric Stiles, NJ Audubon (“State of the Forest” Symposium (2002)

But NJN’s documentary video does that far better, and brings in other expert voices to confirm my point (including Mr. Stiles himself!).

The 2004 NJN TV documentary “The Highlands Rediscovered” – funded by the Dodge Foundation – provides spectacular visual imagery supported by science to make a powerful argument for preserving the Highlands region, particularly the remaining forests.

Let’s go to the video tape to make our point – watch starting at time 22:00 minutes, where the impacts of development and fragmentation of forests are discussed. Pay special attention to the effects of disturbance of the forest (transcript below, emphases mine):

Richard Lathrop, PhD (Rutgers) – We are at a critical juncture, in that the Highlands still are predominantly forested. But, we are starting to see the balance shift towards greater development and less forest cover.

Narrator – a forest’s only defense is its magnitude. Even modest cuts – known as forest fragmentation – threaten its future. 

Lathrop – Forest fragmentation has a whole cascading series of impacts. So, ecologists and land use planners have really started to appreciate the importance of conserving the integrity of large unbroken tracts of forest.

As we begin to open up the forest, as we put in roads, we change the microclimate.

Ted Stiles (PhD) (Rutgers) – Plant species that normally can’t live under shade in the forest are able to to be successful, so that you have different species of plants that penetrate the forest, which changes the habitat. (In Memoriam)

Lathrop  Some of those species can get in, take over, and out-compete the native species, and that’s what we’re seeing all across our forests. …

Heather Gracie – Consulting forester – We’re breaking down the infrastructure of the forest. We’re segmenting things off to a point where it lessens the value that these forest lands provide.

Eric Stiles, NJ AudubonThe more cuts that one gets, the more fragmentation in this forest mosaic, the more it gets degraded. If one is looking at a fragmented portion of the Highlands, you would see a simplified or dumbed down forest. You don’t have the rich structural stratification in the forest. You will see light gaps in the canopy that are not being replaced. There is no duff, there is no leaf litter. Just bare dirt.

Yes Mr. Stiles – One destroys the forest with those cuts

Kind of like one sees here, after NJ Audubon cuts at Sparta Mountain:

Sparta Mountain WMA

Sparta Mountain WMA

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Hey You!

June 25th, 2016 No comments

Box turtle

Saw two box turtles on our walk this morning!

Hey you don’t help them to bury the light
Don’t give in without a fight. ~~~ Pink Floyd (listen)

Now that I’ve got your attention, consider this argument:

Anderson complains that scientists self-censor because they cannot fund bad news and don’t want to be its messenger. But it seems to me that he is guilty of the same fault when he offers hopeful answers that affect our lives little.

Only someone who knows the danger and cares about the future of humankind could make the last ditch effort to try and keep global average temperature rise to 2°C. For that effort cannot be made without total upheaval in how we live. We are not going to do this with a simple painless adjustment of the knob. We cannot use hydrocarbon fuels for energy, period.

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We Call on NJ Audubon To Repudiate Trump Money and Sever Partnership

June 24th, 2016 No comments
Donald J. Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee for president, arriving at his Trump Turnberry resort in Scotland on Friday. Credit Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Donald J. Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee for president, arriving at his Trump Turnberry resort in Scotland on Friday. Credit Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

The above photo may come to be known as part of a 21st Century Arch Duke Ferdinand like moment. 

(I used that metaphor in a limited sense as an event that catalyzes chaos, but a Weimar moment is the far more apt analogy to describe the descent into barbarism and climate collapse we seemed locked into.)

Given Trump’s incredibly opportunistic self promotion of the disastrous right wing driven exit from the European Union from his golf course in Scotland – and the dangerous reactionary and fascist politics that is feeding in the US – we renew our call for NJ Audubon to repudiate Trump money and (very publicly) sever their partnership with Trump at his Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, NJ.

For those who find it hard to believe that a group like NJ Audubon would partner with the likes of Mr. Trump – at an environmentally destructive golf course no less –  please see the facts here:

In a nutshell, NJA partners with and is funded by Trump.

On top of all that, Trump already is building as wall – at his Irish golf course to adapt to climate change driven sea level rise, see:

Memo to Eric Stiles, CEO of NJ Audubon – have you no shame?

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Is Senate President Sweeney Playing Politics With Clean Water?

June 24th, 2016 No comments

Sweeney Yet to Post Veto of Christie DEP Flood Rules for Senate Vote

Is Sweeney carrying the Builders’ water or saving the best for last?

“We as a legislature have consistently supported the sanctity of buffers for our C1 streams. These are the purest waters we have in the State of NJ.” ~~~ Senate Environment Committee Chairman Bob Smith (June 16, 2016)

Senate President Sweeney has yet to post SCR 66, the veto of Governor Christie’s DEP flood hazard, stormwater management, and coastal rules.

The Assembly passed the Assembly version (ACR 160) and the Senate Environment Committee approved SCR66 and released it to the full Senate on June 16.

The case for a veto is strong.

At a State House rally later that day, Senator Lesniak (co-sponsor) promised that the Resolution would be passed during the Senate’s June 23 session. That did not happen. I really hope he was not just blowing the same smoke he did on Exxon NRD.

And I really hope Sweeney has changed his mind now that he is Senate President – and running for Governor – and is not attacking clean water and promoting inappropriate development again, like he did back in 2007 when the Category One waters buffers were incorporated in the stream encroachment permit program. Back in 2007, then Senator Sweeney joined then Republican Senate President Bob Littell in attacking the C1 program:

404. COMMENT: The proposed Category One designations would appear to be more about curbing development than enhancing water quality standards. Unfortunately, this new regulatory proposal tips the balance even more against the economic prosperity of the areas, district 24 and 3. (127, 221)  (source: DEP regulatory document)

Both houses previously passed the Resolution, but the Constitution requires that DEP be provided a chance to respond and that the Resolution be passed by both houses twice to finally veto the rule.

There are just two sessions left before the Legislature adjourns for summer recess – June 27 and June 30 – the Board list for June 27 has been posted and the Resolution is not on it.

We urge readers to call Senate President Sweeney at (856) 251-9801 and urge him to post SCR 66 to protect clean water and not make flooding worse.

Here is my letter to key Senators urging that they do the same:

Dear Chairman Smith and members of the Environment Committee:

I am writing to urge you to contact Senate President Sweeney and ask him to post SCR 66, the legislative veto of DEP flood hazard, storm water management, and coastal rules DEP recently adopted, despite prior passage of the Resolution by both Houses and legislative requests urging DEP not to do so.

As members of the Environment Committee, you heard the testimony and fully understand the implications of allowing the DEP regulations to stand:, i.e. there will be increased flood risks and further degradation of water quality in NJ’s “exceptional value” Category One waters due to allowance of additional destruction of stream buffers and more development closer to the water.

You have a serious responsibility to convey these implications to Senate President Sweeney and convince him to post SCR 66 for Senate vote, particularly given the Senate’s prior passage of the Resolution.

The DEP rules roll back water quality protections long supported by the Legislature and violate legislative intent and the regulatory policy in NJ’s Surface Water Quality Standards (NJAC 7:9B-1 et seq.).

As Chairman Smith noted on June 16 when the Resolution was released from the Environment Committee:

“We as a legislature have consistently supported the sanctity of buffers for our C1 streams. These are the purest waters we have in the State of NJ.”

It is time to affirm that support.

Respectfully,

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