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Jump directly to a topic...   Pipeline Proposals - Save Pinelands Forest  - Protect Highlands Forest

Highlands Regional Planning - Working to Protect the Palisades - Farmland Preservation


Land Preservation Funding


Open Space Funding Bill Overwhelmingly Passes NJ Legislature!


Thanks to the thousands of New Jersey residents who called, emailed and lobbied their legislators, the legislature and Governor Christie agreed on a compromise bill to fund open space and farmland preservation. The money, approved by voters in 2014, will finally be spent to create more parkland, preserved farmland and historic sites across the state. Please take a moment to thank your legislators by clicking HERE.


The dedicated preservation revenue has been accumulating in state coffers ever since 2014 but, incredibly, not a dollar has been spent as intended. That’s because Governor Christie twice vetoed the enabling legislation, effectively freezing the funds. The most recent action was a conditional veto in late May, in which the governor dramatically changed the legislation so that funding intended for preserving open space, parks, farmland and historic areas could be used for routine operations and maintenance of state lands.


The compromise bill, a tremendous victory for preservation, slightly modifies the bill initially passed by the legislature to include a specific allocation of 4% to protect flood prone properties through the Blue Acres program.


We thank the legislature for passing the implementation legislation and for ensuring that current and future generations will have preserved lands that safeguard drinking water, produce fresh local foods, protect our native plants and animals, provide place for families to play and honor our historic legacy.


Pipeline Proposals Flood New Jersey


PennEast pipeline threatens New Jersey land





An Open Letter to Residents of New Jersey:


Privately-owned PennEast – a consortium including PSEG, South Jersey Industries, New Jersey Resources and UGI - is planning to tear up 4,000 acres of central New Jersey’s preserved and historic lands and farmlands, private property, and some of the state’s cleanest, most ecologically significant waterways.


Every New Jersey town and county along PennEast's path has officially objected to the proposed pipeline. It would damage and scar our land, contaminate our air and water, and put communities at risk of a  potential explosion.


Pipelines like PennEast set us behind in our drive for a clean energy future. Let’s move towards an energy future that's clean, green and renewed by nature every day. Let's build a legacy to be proud of. Say "No" to PennEast!


Read Michele Byers' column about land condemnation and the flawed federal approval process >>



Pipelines: The new sprawl


NEW! Letter: NJ Natural Gas-SRL pipeline should be denied >>


The fracked gas rush west of New Jersey is creating a frenzy of utility companies proposing new lines – which would cut through the New Jersey Highlands, the Pine Barrens and the Delaware River watershed – and pose a serious threat to our state's natural heritage. We are contending with an unprecedented onslaught of energy infrastructure projects that fall outside of any overall plan or vision and have the full force of federal energy policy behind them. With the exponential increase in pipeline proposals, there is no predicting where the next project will be announced, putting every part of New Jersey at risk.


These linear developments fragment forests, segment preserved farms, and put waterways at risk, all while furthering our dependence on fossil fuels. New Jersey Conservation Foundation is working with partners at the local, state and federal level, advocating for a policy shift that will require a comprehensive approach to pipeline review that considers the cumulative environmental impacts, and whether the gas is really needed or better alternatives exist.


"10 Most Endangered" list includes historic properties threatened by pipelines >>


There is evidence to suggest that the gas these proposed pipelines would bring is not needed in New Jersey. A recent analysis conducted by Labyrinth Consulting found that the proposed PennEast pipeline alone would result in a 53 percent surplus beyond current demand in New Jersey and concluded that the gas is bound for other markets, including export overseas.


The current rush to build multiple new pipelines in New Jersey puts us on course for significant over-building, resulting in supply that far exceeds actual needs, and causing irreparable harm to our communities.  Ratepayers and communities would suffer the costs when pipelines become obsolete as renewable sources of energy become less costly and needed to meet carbon reduction goals to address climate change.


Natural gas pipelines are currently considered in isolation, with no single state or federal entity looking at the bigger picture to determine if all this gas is needed, and whether better alternatives exist. This is like letting corporations build toll roads wherever they want without a transportation plan. 


We are in a new era for energy in New Jersey and nationally. We are at a fork in the road and we need to decide if we are going to head on the more destructive and expensive path that relies on additional natural gas through a harmful and expanded network of pipelines or if we will become a leader in the transition to this new energy era by fully implementing renewables and efficiency.


Read NJ Conservation’s comments on the update of New Jersey’s Energy Master Plan >>



PennEast Pipeline: The PennEast pipeline, a completely new gas pipeline proposed to cross the Delaware River into Hunterdon and Mercer counties, would cut across preserved farms, forests and vital public drinking water supply streams, on its way to Trenton. 


Holland, Alexandria, Kingwood, Delaware and West Amwell Townships in Hunterdon County would be directly impacted, as well as Hopewell Township in Mercer County.


The PennEast pipeline proposes to cross over 4,000 acres of preserved natural lands and farmlands that are legally protected in perpetuity from development.


It threatens other lands containing a multitude of environmentally sensitive attributes and features, including forests, surface and groundwater recharge watersheds, wetlands, the Delaware Wild and Scenic River, dozens of NJ Category One streams, habitat of rare, threatened and endangered species, steep slopes, and productive agricultural soils.


The project would also impact significant cultural, historic and archaeological resources, causing significant and irremediable damaging effects on valuable and irreplaceable resources.


The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection outlined a thorough process that PennEast must follow before submitting permit applications. Please thank NJ DEP Commissioner Martin and ask the Department to hold firm in not considering an incomplete application.


NJ Congressional Representatives Speak Out

Update on PennEast


PennEast formally filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on September 24, 2015.


Speak up and oppose the PennEast pipeline, which sets a terrible precedent for the next wave of pipeline applications.


Please contact U.S. Senators Cory Booker and Robert Menendez, and your congressman or congresswoman, and ask them to:


•  Stop the siting of pipelines on environmentally sensitive lands, including preserved farmland and open space.

•  Speak up and oppose the PennEast pipeline at FERC, and require a comprehensive analysis that includes non-pipeline alternatives.

•  Call for a halt on new pipelines until there is a comprehensive plan for new energy infrastructure.







Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (12th district) and Congressman Leonard Lance (7th district) have both called on FERC to consider a more careful, comprehensive approach to pipeline reviews, citing serious bipartisan concerns with the proposed PennEast pipeline.


Congressman Leonard Lance applauds NJDEP for stance on PennEast and asks FERC for more comprehensive review of pipeline proposals.


Read Congresswoman Watson Coleman's letter >>


NJ Legislators Announce Opposition


Members of the New Jersey Senate have announced their opposition to the PennEast proposal, and the 16th District legislators have written a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).


NJ Conservation Foundation Weighs In with FERC


PennEast’s Resource Reports, which form the foundation for the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) required by FERC, are riddled with inaccuracies, omissions and outdated information. NJ Conservation’s comments on several of those reports call for more rigorous data and analysis of the natural and cultural resources at stake:

Read July 15, 2015 letter >>

Read August 17, 2015 letter >>

Read August 31, 2015 letter >>


See updated route map for proposed PennEast pipeline >>


More news:



New Jersey Conservation Foundation also provided scoping comments for the EIS in late February and testified at the February project hearings. In addition, New Jersey Conservation's Board of Trustees passed a resolution opposing the PennEast pipeline.


South Jersey Gas


In December 2015​ the state Board of Public Utilities (BPU) approved the 22-mile natural gas line proposed by South Jersey Gas through the New Jersey Pinelands, stating that the pipeline adheres to the updated New Jersey Energy Master Plan's goal to expand distribution infrastructure — with more gas pipelines.


If built, the pipeline would traverse the Pinelands Forest Management Area – an area where this kind of infrastructure is forbidden unless it primarily serves people living inside the Pinelands.


In 2014, the Pinelands ​Commissioners voted to deny permission for the pipeline, but in May 2015, South Jersey Gas submitted an amended application, arguing that the project would mostly serve the needs of residents within the Pinelands.


In August 2015, Pinelands Commission Executive Director Nancy Wittenberg issued a certificate of filing, asserting not only that the project meets the provisions of the Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP), but that the staff determination did not require review or approval by a vote of the Pinelands Commissioners.


The pipeline’s route and stated purposes have not changed since 2014, so the claim by South Jersey Gas and the concurrence of the Commission staff that the proposal complied with the provisions of the CMP is not credible. Instead, South Jersey Gas simply reframed its argument for exactly the same development plan – a plan that violates the Forest Area protections and threatens the integrity of the CMP, and the Pinelands Commission staff conveniently discovered a procedure to avoid a vote by the commissioners.


See South Jersey Gas map >>


New Jersey Natural Gas


NEW! Letter: NJ Natural Gas-SRL pipeline should be denied >>


NJNG has proposed the Southern Reliability Link, a 28-mile, 30-inch diameter pipeline that would travel from Chesterfield in Burlington County to Manchester Township in Ocean County. The proposed route passes through the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, a U.S. military facility in the Preservation Area of the Pinelands - the heart of the Pine Barrens ecosystem and home to many threatened and endangered species.

NJNG has provided various rationales for this new pipeline, including obtaining access to a second supplier for its network, reaching new customers in Ocean County and providing a redundant source of gas to the Joint Base, but it appears that the project is really aimed at using the Base to reach the developed areas of Ocean County.

All but two of the impacted municipalities have objected to the proposal and received participant status in the petition. NJNG has admitted the project has environmental constraints, and the survey reports for threatened and endangered species have not yet been submitted. This project is progressing more slowly than the South Jersey Gas proposal, and is currently undergoing BPU review of municipal concerns through the end of this year. Once this review is finalized, the BPU will consider the application, which is not yet complete.


See New Jersey Natural Gas map >>


Pilgrim Oil Pipeline


Pilgrim Pipeline Holdings has proposed building two parallel pipelines connecting oil terminals in Albany, New York to a refinery in Linden, New Jersey. 


The pipeline would cut through the New Jersey Highlands and the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge and would be able to transport 400,000 barrels of Bakken crude oil and refined products per day - Bakken shale oil would be sent south while refined products (including kerosene) would be sent north.


Citing safety and environmental concerns, the Morris County Freeholders unanimously approved a resolution opposing the proposed Pilgrim Pipeline in late March. The resolution calls for a “full environmental impact” to be conducted, and called into question the reliability of the company proposing the project.


State Senators Richard Codey and Thomas Kean Jr. are also opposed to the Pilgrim Oil proposal.


Pilgrim’s proposal cuts across 3 major drinking water rivers and two EPA designated sole source aquifers, the Ramapo Aquifer and the Buried Valley Aquifer. The Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, also in the pipeline's path, was established more than 50 years ago by the United States Department of Interior and offers protection to the headwater of the Passaic River.


A major pipeline spill could contaminate the drinking water for the several million people and dozens of municipalities who rely on these irreplaceable water sources. 


More Pilgrim Oil Pipeline information >>


Learn more


Hopewell Township Citizens Against the PennEast Pipeline


Concerned Citizens Against the Pipeline


Pipeline Safety Coalition


Stop the PennEast Pipeline Facebook page


Contact your district's state legislators




Protect Pine Barrens Forest


NJDEP struggles to address off-road vehicle


damage to Wharton State Forest


At 125,000 acres, Wharton State Forest in the Pine Barrens is by far the largest state-owned forest in New Jersey. This remarkably diverse forest is home to many rare plants, threatened and endangered species and historic sites, including some 300 bird species, nearly 60 reptile and amphibian species, and more than 90 fish species. Forty-three of these animals are listed by the state as threatened or endangered, including bobcats, timber rattlesnakes and red-headed woodpeckers.


Wharton also has some 850 plant species, including wild orchids, sedges, grasses and insect-eating plants. Rarest among them include bog asphodels, curly-grass ferns and Pine-Barrens gentians.

Since Wharton was purchased in the mid-1950s, motorized vehicles have been allowed to travel its network of sandy roads to tour the quiet of the forest’s interior, visit historic ghost towns and put in a canoe.


In recent years the damage to habitats and roads within the state forest has greatly accelerated as people in 4x4 vehicles have deliberately torn up fragile wetlands creating deep and dangerous puddles, destroying habitats, and making access for other users almost impossible.


The damage at Wharton State Forest has also hindered fire suppression efforts and search and rescue due to impassable roadways. Enforcement of illegal off-road activities has been extremely difficult without a map clearly designating roads where motorized vehicle use is permitted and delineating those areas that are strictly prohibited.


In August 2015, the state released a plan to protect the forest by placing some roads off-limits to motorized vehicles, while leaving 225 miles open for vehicle access. However, due to vocal opposition from some motorized recreationists, the plan has been suspended indefinitely and the State is now seeking additional public input for its revision.


While public input is always beneficial when it comes to the management of our public resources, the State has not acknowledged that it is bound by its own regulations, including the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan, mandating that motorized access is subordinate to protecting natural and cultural resources. This means that the use of the forest to test drivers' skills of fording streams, climbing sandy hills and reducing pristine wetlands to barren mud pits is not permissible under any management scenario.


Read more about this issue in a "State We're In" column by Michele S. Byers, Executive Director >>




Help Protect the Highlands


Action Alert - Protect the Highlands Forest!


For decades, the citizens of New Jersey have funded the preservation of our Highlands forests. These forests were preserved for a wide range of conservation values, including the precious water and wildlife that define this magnificent region of New Jersey.


New Jersey Conservation Foundation believes that these forest habitats should be protected for a broad diversity of animals and plants. That is why we object to a forest stewardship plan proposed by the New Jersey State Division of Fish and Wildlife for the Sparta Mountain Wildlife Management Area, located in Sussex and Morris Counties.


This 3,400 acre site lies in the heart of the Highlands' most mature and unfragmented forests. The proposed plan would harvest or log up to 715 acres, or one-fifth of the Wildlife Management Area, within the next ten years.


The proposed Sparta Mountain plan would not protect older interior sections of forest that are critically important to certain species already lacking sufficient habitat. For example, the threatened Barred Owl and endangered Red-shouldered Hawk need interior forests and would be impaired by the logging at Sparta Mountain.


Over the last 25 years, New Jersey citizens like you fought to keep Northern New Jersey's forests preserved and unfragmented for their public recreational benefits, wildlife habitat and drinking water for over two-thirds of the state's residents. Because of your passionate advocacy, many important forestlands have been purchased with public and private funding.


Now, native plants and animals; water; and historic, scenic and recreational resources for public use and enjoyment are at risk.


What is the solution?


Our Highlands forests need management plans based on sound ecological science and robust public involvement. Although forestry activities if done carefully and strategically can be beneficial, they should not be primary drivers. Our public forests need comprehensive plans based upon sound science and publicly-supported conservation goals.


The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection should undertake a comprehensive planning process for all preserved public forestlands, starting with the Highlands region, including lands managed by both the Divisions of Fish and Wildlife, and Parks and Forestry.




1. Email the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and urge them to conduct comprehensive natural resource planning with broad public input, including all preserved public lands in the Highlands Region managed by the Divisions of Fish and Wildlife and Parks and Forestry. Ask the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife to suspend the proposed 10-year Forest Stewardship Plan for the Sparta Mountain Wildlife Management Area until comprehensive natural resource planning is complete. Send your comments by March 31, 2016 to:

David M. Golden

Chief, Bureau of Land Management

Division of Fish and Wildlife

NJ Department of Environmental Protection

P.O. Box 420

Trenton, NJ 08625-0420

 (609) 358-2072 


More information

1. Talking points for communications with DEP administrators or legislators.


2. New Jersey Highlands Coalition's final comments on the Sparta Mountain Wildlife Management Area Forest Stewardship Plan. New Jersey Conservation Foundation made substantial contributions to this document.


3. NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife's Sparta Mountain Wildlife Management Area Forest Stewardship Plan.


4. Op-ed on Sparta Mountain plan by ecologists Sara Webb and Sharon Wander.




Land Preservation Funding


Federal Land & Water Conservation Fund


A Significant Victory


At year’s end, Congress temporarily reauthorized the expired 50-year old Land and Water Conservation Fund, the nation’s federal funding source for parks and open space preservation, including it in the 2016 Omnibus Appropriations bill.


The action reauthorizes the program for three years, through September 2018, allowing time to rally support for permanent renewal. The measure also authorizes the Fish and Wildlife Service to spend up to $10 million on the Highlands Conservation Act Program, which benefits New Jersey Highlands protection – the first fiscal year of full funding for this program! The total LWCF appropriation for FY 2016 is $450 million, a significant increase over the approximately $300 million enacted in FY 2015, but still only half of the program’s full funding level of $900 million.



Working to Protect the Palisades


Conservation groups, LG reach settlement




Following 11 months of constructive discussions, LG Electronics USA, New Jersey Conservation Foundation and a number of parties interested in LG’s new North American headquarters in New Jersey, have reached agreement on a new design, which all parties are celebrating as a “win-win” solution.


After exploring a range of options during the discussions, consensus has been reached on a new design that will create a world-class, sustainably designed building to the benefit of LG, the town of Englewood Cliffs and the state of New Jersey, while protecting the iconic vistas and integrity of the Palisades Park, a National Natural and Historic Landmark.


LG reached the mutually beneficial settlement with Scenic Hudson, the New Jersey State Federation of Women’s Clubs, the Natural Resources Defense Council, New Jersey Conservation Foundation and New York-New Jersey Trail Conference.


As part of the settlement, the conservation groups agreed not to pursue their legal appeal regarding zoning approvals in Englewood Cliffs and pledged to work with LG to secure necessary municipal approvals so the project can move forward as expeditiously as possible.


The new building design, reflecting compromises by all the parties, calls for a five-story north wing just shy of 70 feet in height and a three-story south wing, protecting the scenic views of the Palisades. LG will implement landscape, lighting and other design features to further reduce visual impacts, while retaining the scale of the complex as home for LG’s growing U.S. business.


See press release announcing settlement >>

See New Jersey Conservation Foundation statement >>

See former New Jersey governors' letter to LG >>



Protecting the Land that Grows Our Food

NJ Conservation's farmland preservation works!

Through our farmland preservation work, New Jersey Conservation Foundation is working toward a day when an abundance of locally grown New Jersey food, produced in a healthy, environmentally sustainable manner, will be available to feed the region.

As part of that vision, large concentrations of preserved farmland will not only support the local food system, but will also protect the state’s water supply and wildlife habitat, combat global warming by sequestering carbon, and connect with other preserved lands – parks, trails, and natural areas – as part of an interconnected system of public and private open space, with all of the benefits associated with preserved, open land.

To fulfill this vision, we lobby Congress for New Jersey's fair share of federal farmland conservation funding. NJ Conservation Foundation is New Jersey's leading non-profit recipient of USDA Farm and Ranchland Protection Program funds. We have been recognized by the State Agriculture Development Committee as New Jersey's leading non-profit organization for both acres of farmland and total farms preserved.

We promote natural resource protections – especially soil protections - for farmland preserved with public money, so that the agricultural soils of today will be available to grow food tomorrow. And while we support clean renewable energy sources, we are working to ensure that these sources don't come at the cost of our most productive farmland.

We are working to strengthen farmland preservation and agricultural viability in our Delaware Bay Watershed project area. This region is rich in natural resources, and is truly the bread basket of New Jersey agriculture.

Agriculture comprises one of the most important sectors of New Jersey's economy, while also providing a host of public and community benefits that cannot be fully measured. NJCF is committed to keeping the garden in "The Garden State."


Read more about soil protection efforts in Michele Byers' column, "The State We're In" >>



Advancing and Defending Environmentally Sound Regional Plans

Pyramid Mountain, Morris CountyNew Jersey has a strong history of adopting comprehensive regional plans. Regional planning that incorporates environmental protection is critical to protecting the land and water supplies on which we depend. Other important benefits include stabilizing local property taxes, retaining the character of rural areas and established communities, and generally promoting growth in places where it is less environmentally damaging and more cost-effective to build, because of the presence of existing infrastructure like roads, sewers and public water systems.

New Jersey Conservation Foundation has been integrally involved in the passage of many landmark New Jersey regional planning laws, including the Pinelands Protection Act, the Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act, the Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park law, and the State Planning Act. Constant vigilance is required to ensure these laws and their regional plans remain strong over time.


The Highlands are part of the great sweep of the Appalachian Mountains that shadows the East Coast from Maine to Georgia. The Highlands Region extends from southeastern Pennsylvania through northwest New Jersey into New York and Connecticut. With forested ridges, pastoral farmland, and pure streams, lakes and reservoirs, the Highlands form a greenbelt surrounding the most populous metropolitan area in the US. The Highlands provide an essential source of drinking water, clean air, critical wildlife habitat, historic resources, recreational opportunities and scenic beauty for both its residents and the millions of people who live within an hour’s travel.


About the New Jersey Highlands Act


New Jersey’s 2004 Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act passed by overwhelming majorities in the State legislature after two decades of focused citizen and governmental efforts to protect the New Jersey Highlands Region. The 860,000 acre Highlands, with only 17 percent of the land in the State, provides drinking water to 5.4 million – nearly two-thirds – of the State’s residents, who live in fifteen counties in northern central and southern New Jersey.


If you are either a Highlands water-drinker or a Highlands resident, there is good reason for you to become involved in the region’s protection. The New Jersey Highlands Coalition has an outreach program directed to Highlands water-receiving areas outside the region. To find out more visit the Highlands Coalition website.


The Highlands Act affects 88 municipalities in parts of seven counties:  Bergen, Passaic, Morris, Somerset, Hunterdon, Sussex and Warren. The Highlands Water Protection and Planning Council (Highlands Council) and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) are both charged with implementing the Act. The DEP has rule-making authority over the Preservation Area, about half the region, much of which is preserved state and county lands. The Highlands Council completed the required Regional Master Plan (RMP) for the 88 municipalities in 2008. 


Highlands Plan Conformance


Conformance with the Plan is mandatory for the Preservation Area, but voluntary for the Planning Area.  Since the Plan is based on scientific assessments of available water supply and septic capability in each watershed, its build out scenario, along with required environmental ordinances, offers a blueprint for sustainable, capacity-based development for all Highlands municipalities in both the Preservation and Planning Areas. Implementation is achieved through municipal conformance with the Plan, which benefits substantially from the involvement and support of local residents. 


We periodically post action alerts on Highlands issues, so please sign up for our email alerts and stay tuned!

Read statement by former Governors about the importance of protecting Highlands, Pinelands >>




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