Here is the article in question. Click Here.
Trenton, NJ -(AmmoLand.com)- We at the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance (NJOA) would like to address errors and omissions in the recent NJ Spotlight article “Conservationists Fear Off- Roaders Will Damage N.J. Pinelands,” by John Hurdle.
Firstly, Mr. Hurdle wrote that no one from the NJOA respond to a request for comment. The fact is that no one contacted NJOA for comment. But, we welcome to opportunity to respond.
Some background is in order. In the fall of 2015 the NJOA received calls from stakeholder groups that roads in Wharton State Forest were being marked with “Closed” signs. At this point in time, very few users of Wharton State Forest, or the municipalities that surrounded the forest, were even aware of a Motorized Access Plan (M.A.P.). In response, NJOA requested a meeting with the Division of Parks and Forestry to better understand the process of road closures. Contrary to statements in article, no lobbyist was hired by NJOA; we do not employ a lobbyist. NJOA representatives attended all meetings.
During the meeting we were informed that a MAP had not yet been implemented and that no roads had been closed. We later found out that this was not true, and that several Non-Government Organizations had helped formulate the initial plan and had started closing roads before the M.A.P. was unveiled.
We requested a tour of Wharton State Park on behalf of conservation stakeholders in order to review the trails and roads that were marked for closure under M.A.P. At this time there were conflicting reports about the condition of important trails and roads. During this review NJOA requested a list of criteria being used to determine road closures. We were not given a list nor provided concise answers. We did witness that some trails and roads should be closed, and also that some should have never even been created. Additionally, some were made by illegal vehicle use and by using old fire cuts. Importantly, we did discover from our meeting and tour that the M.A.P. was not implemented with full public disclosure, which was of concern to many conservationists and stakeholder groups since M.A.P. was negatively impacting public access.
In response, NJOA requested the D.E.P. to provide public meetings so that the M.A.P. could be detailed for all user groups and allow for public commentary. This is a fundamental requirement of good government and management of public resources. In fact, public meetings and commentary is perfunctory in most cases.
Contrary to Mr. Hurdle’s article, NJOA never contacted the Governor’s office. As a result of public meetings and public commentary a comprehensive list of procedures and criteria were integrated into the M.A.P. and provided to the public. Signs were posted that explained the current regulations to users entering the forest and a comprehensive plan provided for the entire forest road system. Included in this plan was repair and maintenance of the roads; something that has not been addressed in more than 25 years. Also, NJOA requested an increased law enforcement presence to apprehend and prosecute violators of the current laws and statutes. This was also included in the revised M.A.P. NJOA firmly believes that public input allowed the D.E.P. to better fulfill its obligation to both the public and natural resource management. In fact, NJOA was founded on the principle of conservation and natural resource stewardship.
We are proud of the efforts of D.E.P. and the end result of the M.A.P. We believe this was properly corrected by D.E.P. and is a testimony to its dedication and commitment to both the environment and the public who relies on it.
We are also pleased that NJOA may have played a role in an improved M.A.P.
NJOA – The mission of New Jersey Outdoor Alliance is to serve as a grassroots coalition of outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen dedicated to environmental stewardship. We will champion the intrinsic value of natural resource conservation – including fishing, hunting and trapping, among opinion leaders and policy makers. We will support legislation, and those sponsoring legislation, that provides lasting ecological and social enrichment through sustainable use of the earth’s resources.
For more information, visit: www.njoutdooralliance.org.