Update on Pinelands Commission Meeting

The meeting went extremely well. Thanks to all who came out to support and especially those who spoke. Everyone made thoughtful, intelligent, and reasonable comments and it was clear the Commission was listening to us. The MAP opposition significantly, and visibly, outnumbered the MAP supporters. There was no action taken today and the Commission committed to reviewing the comments from today as well all the feedback that came in leading up to the meeting and decide what, if anything, they may recommend. OTNJ will continue to monitor this situation and alert you if any action is required.

Pinelands Commission CMP Policy and Implementation Committee Meeting

Your help is needed! There will be a meeting of the Policy and Implementation Committee of the Pinelands Commission on Friday, 1/29/16 at 9:30 AM. On the agenda is a “Discussion of DEP’s Motorized Access Plan for Wharton State Forest.” That discussion takes place right before Public Comment. This meeting is open to the public. It is important that the Pinelands Commission hear from the members of OTNJ. If you are able, please plan to attend this meeting.

When: Friday, January 29th 9:30 AM

Where:
Richard J. Sullivan Center
Terrence D. Moore Room
15 C Springfield Road
Pemberton, NJ 08064

Meetings:
http://www.nj.gov/pinelands/home/meetings/index.shtml

Agenda
http://www.nj.gov/…/home/mee…/documents/012916p&i_agenda.pdf

Article on Wharton State Forest

This article should serve as a reminder that continued vigilance is needed on this matter.  The state has continued to confirm that there is no timeline for a new plan.  They also mention enforcement and technology as part of the solution (which is also OTNJ’s position) and don’t mention mass closures.  However, the fact of the matter is, there will be a new plan at some point.  OTNJ will continue to represent the rights of responsible users of the forest and help make sure the new plan is fair and will actually solve the issues in the forest.

Courier Post Article

Volunteer Activity at Double Trouble State Park

Date: January 23, 2016

Time: Tentatively 9:00 AM, temperature permitting.

Location: Double Trouble State Forest

The State Park Service asked OTNJ to pass along this important volunteer opportunity. Note: this is not the OTNJ activity we mentioned in an earlier post, more to follow on that as soon as it is approved.

There is a project in Double Trouble State Park to thin about 10 acres of forest. The purpose is to remove stunted Dog Hair Pine trees, which will allow the larger trees to flourish and to prevent the invasion of the Southern Pine Beetle in that area. About 100 volunteers are needed to cut down the small, pre identified, Dog Hair Pine trees with bow saws. What is cut down will be left in place and will be eventually burned in a prescribed fire rotation. With a 100 volunteers, at about 10 volunteers per acre, quick work could be made of this important project!

This is a great opportunity to show that this community wants to make a difference in helping our state forests!

We will post more specifics in this event as the date approaches. Feel free to share!

Note: exact time is TBD, 10:00 AM is an aproximation.

News Before the Holidays

We just wanted to check in and give you all an update before we get into the holiday hustle and bustle. We have a few exciting things going on. First, we have been incorporated! That is getting us one step closer to being able to offer OTNJ memberships and starting to plan other activities. We have finalized our committee structure and will shortly be asking for volunteers interested in helping us out. Also, we have an upcoming meeting with the DEP next week to talk about how OTNJ can help in Wharton State Forest. Finally, on a lighter note, we spotted this supporter out “in the wild” today and it brought a smile to our faces. Thank you anonymous supporter! More to come, stay tuned!IMG_1765

Open Trails Update

Hello all! We hope you are enjoying this beginning of the Thanksgiving week.  We wanted to give you an update of what we have been up to and what is coming next.  While the DEP has been digesting all the input from the stakeholder and public forums, we have started to plan for our future.  We are developing a series of committees to promote and maintain responsible use of Wharton State Forest.  These committees will focus on the following areas:

  • Conservation and Responsible Use– Work with the DEP to maintain responsible use of the forest, while conserving its resources
  • Outreach/Education- Educating users on the importance of protecting our resources, increase awareness of the unique fauna, flora and history of the Pines
  • Volunteer Activities– arranging clean ups, build/maintain barriers to protect sensitive sites, maintain signage, reporting issues (fallen trees, party hot spots, etc.)

To raise funds to support the above, we will be soon launching Open Trails NJ membership.  These funds will go towards helping to preserve your responsible access to the forest and will include exclusive benefits.  Stay tuned for upcoming information on how you can become an official Open Trails NJ member or support our committees!

As far as next steps regarding the replacement of the Motorized Access Plan (M.A.P.), we are maintaining contact with the DEP as they develop their new plans.  As we have done to date, we will help assure that any new plans are fair and do not impinge on your responsible use of Wharton State Forest.  We will continue to post updates as they develop, and let you know how you can help.

Reminder of the November 5th Public Meeting on the MAP program

Just a reminder of the November 5th public meeting on the MAP program. The meeting will be held on 11/5 at 6:30 PM at Hammonton High School. We are told you are still able to register by calling 609-704-1964 or by emailing whartonmapcomments@dep.nj.gov.

Tell the DEP that you support their new commitment to engaging the public in their decision making around access to the forest. We are told each speaker will be limited to 3 mins. If you are coming in a group, please coordinate who will say what to maximize your speaking time.

Please emphasize the following points:

  • The public trust has been damaged and stakeholders must be engaged going forward
  • All USGS defined roads should remain open unless they meet objective, agreed upon, criteria to be closed
  • Enforcement of existing laws is paramount to solving problems in the forest
  • There is a need for community engagement- education, transparency, clean up, volunteer labor/material

Open Trails Ideas for Wharton State Forest

As posted about recently, Open Trails participated in the Stakeholder forums for the redevelopment of the M.A.P. plan.  Leading up to this forum, we consulted with members of many different groups and developed an approach that we think all users of the forest can support, which does not involve mass closures. You can review the ideas we developed and submitted to the DEP below.

Path Forward – Stakeholder Meetings

Solving the Problems Facing our Forests while Maintaining Access for Responsible Recreation