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State Pinelands Commission Criticized in Annual Report

Oswego Lake by Bob Birdsall Pinelands Preservation Alliance

The State Pinelands Commission gets a dismal review in the newly released 2012 State of the Pinelands Report released by the Pinelands Preservation Alliance.

The Commisson’s recent approval of the Crosswinds Runway and other projects at the Robert J. Miller Airpark in Berkeley Township tops the Preservation Alliance’s list of concerns. Water Programs Director Rich Bizub says “the Commission admittedly waved its standards for threatened and endangered species, wetlands buffers and storm water .. and this in the preservation area, the most pristine part of the Pinelands.”

Bizub says their report shows that State Pinelands Commissioners are being overly accommodating to Government interest (particularly County Government) at waving some of the fundamental standards or requirements of the Pinelands comprehensive management plan at the peril of the Pinelands. Of particular note is the Commissions use of Memorandum of Agreements. Bizub says “they have been using the MOA process to wave environmental standards on a case by case basis for projects that are really looking for exemptions from these requirements.”

However, he says despite the challenges, the Pinelands forest, streams and wetlands are surviving the pressures of sprawl.

Bizub also credits the County, DEP and Land Trust .. such as the NJ Conservation Foundation with doing a tremendous job purchasing properties and deed restrictions through out the area of the Pinelands for Open Space preservation. He says through the Pinelands Preservation Fund, the Pinelands Commission has also been able to fund some of these large acquisitions so from that position they’re doing very well.

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