The Garden Club of LBI’s Environmental Chair, Mary Wilding, updates members each month on such important topics as seismic testing, fracking, plastic pollution, sea-level changes, and other threats to our environment.
Mary goes to great lengths to raise our awareness of threats to the environment, even becoming a “Bag Lady,” which means donning a suit of plastic bags–made from the exact number each of us discards every year. Mary also solicits volunteers for local clean-up projects that keep our island safe and beautiful.
A Plastic Ocean
The Garden Club of Long Beach Island has been excited to be able to provide the film A Plastic Ocean, an epic global adventure following a world record free diver and the film maker as they travel through our oceans over a period of four years. International scientists reveal the causes and consequences of plastic pollution and discuss solutions.
The free screening was initially shown after Long Beach Township, N.J. passed the first single-use plastic bag ban on Long Beach Island. The intent of the Environmental Committee of the Garden Club in showing the film was to provide graphic images of why the ban on bags is the right thing to do and raise awareness of the extent of plastic pollution. After supporting the Stafford screening in June, the film was shown over the summer of 2018 on Long Beach Island in Beach Haven, Harvey Cedars, Loveladies and Ship Bottom. After seeing the film, members of the audience from Tuckerton and Little Egg Harbor asked for the Garden Club’s assistance in showing the film in their area and it was shown August 30, 2018.
Mary Wilding and Kyle Gronostajski, Executive Director of the Alliance for a Living Ocean, as The Bag Monster
Environmental organizations – Alliance for a Living Ocean, Clean Ocean Action, ReClam the Bay, and Surfrider, provided information about their organizations’ efforts. Zach Karvelas of Clean Ocean Action moderated the Q&A sessions and contributed to the success of the screenings, along with the other organization representatives
Prior to the film, the audience is introduced to The Bag Monster who is a mass of approximately 375 single-use plastic bags – the conservative average number used by each of us each year. This number of bags equals 100 billion for the United States or one trillion worldwide. Of that total, it is estimated only five percent are recycled. Eliminating single-use plastic bags is one step in reducing plastic pollution, but the need to reduce all plastic, especially single-use plastic, is evident in the film. It is hoped members of the audience will support the ban on single-use bags, make the change to reusable cloth or non-woven polypropylene bags and also find other ways to reduce consumption of single-use plastic items.
On October 20, 2018 the fifth and last scheduled screening of “A Plastic Ocean” was shown at the Ship Bottom Fire Department. Although it was quieter on LBI and the film had already been shown four times over the summer, we were delighted that about 100 attended including 35 students and their teacher from Bayville. The interest and enthusiasm of the students about what they could do to address the problem of plastic pollution was heartening.
The film packs a punch showing the incredible beauty of the marine environment and the damage being done by plastic pollution. It also describes positive actions being taken to address the flood of plastic. After seeing this film, it is hard to understand how anyone would not only make a commitment to reduce their plastic consumption patterns, especially for single use plastics such as bags, straws, utensils, bottles etc., but also to reduce the amount of plastic finding its way into the environment. Plastic makes its way into our lands, waterways and eventually our oceans but through a wide variety of actions such as following recycling guidelines, taking rigid plastics such as large plastic toys, furniture etc. to their recycling centers instead of adding to landfills, by picking up plastic garbage wherever – on the street, walks on the beach or waterways, by asking restaurants to only give straws on request and then to use paper straws. There are so many possibilities for each one of us. Since 80 % of the plastic debris in the ocean comes from the land, there is something we each can do to reduce plastic pollution. What do we want to leave the next generation? The need to address plastic producers and major corporations to take action and to support those that have, is the next step. Right now we hope everyone will identify an action they can take to reduce the plastic pollution problem, and then another etc. Together we really can make a difference.
Thanks to all the Garden Club members who baked, were hostesses, who spread the word of the screenings, to Pat Morgan, who donated beautiful framed paintings to be raffled off at the screenings, and a special thanks to Christine Rooney of Lighthouse International Film Festival and to Mike Lipton, who stepped in to help with the audiovisual equipment. Hats off to Environmental Committee members Michele Farias, Kathy Gronostajski, Teresa Hagan, Barbara Reynolds, Gillian Rozicer and Brenda Swissman for all their work in making the film series a successful project. If you have missed seeing the screenings, please check on NetFlix.
Single-use plastic bag ban
On Monday, August 27, 2018, Governor Murphy rejected the bag fee. I want you to know that pressure from groups and from individuals like you, who called, signed petitions and urged that he not sign the bill as written payed off big time.
Now the effort will be directed to creating a bill that will be accepted and will have components to most effectively reduce plastic pollution.
Sen. Bob Smith of Middlesex County, Chair of the N.J.Senate Environmental Committee, introduced the strongest statewide ban on plastic products in our nation. The proposed ban would ban single use plastic bags, plastic straws and styrofoam food containers. The ban is pending.
October 20, 2018 Beach Sweeps
The October 20, 2018 Clean Ocean Action Beach Sweep was help under cloudy skies. Ginny Scarlatelli and Jeannette Michelson represented the Garden Club sweeping the dike beach at High Bar Harbor. In conjunction with the beach sweep, the final screening of “The Plastic Ocean” was held at the Ship Bottom firehouse .
Jeannette and Ginny found a variety of debris as they swept the beach….more than 90% of what they collected was plastic. The single largest category of plastic items was “plastic bottle caps.” which made up 34% of the total, followed by “plastic pieces” at 13% and “shotgun shells” at 9%. An interesting find was a duck caller which seems to relate to the shotgun shells. Thanks to Jeannette and Ginny for representing us. Hopefully next year our number of official beach sweepers will be much higher, but in the meantime unofficially, I know you are all picking up each time you walk on the beach or bay.
Southern Pine Beetle
On to the southern pine beetle that is leaving more and more pine trees as brown, lifeless forms on LBI. Angela Andersen advised on 9/8/17 “ The report from the forester was not specific to beetles but more of an overall management plan for plantings /trees in LBT for town properties – We are still looking to experts for guidance but think it seems pretty clear we need to revegetate as the trees die.”
In speaking to the Agricultural Agent at Rutgers, Richard Vanranken, he provided a website with the following information: The Southern pine beetle is one of the most destructive forest insects, is smaller than a grain or rice, feeds on living tissue under the tree’s bark and is a considerable threat to our state’s forest resource. It re-entered the state in 2001 and since then has been on the rise. In 2008, it crossed the Egg Harbor River, entered forests in Atlantic County and moved north and west…including LBI. The tree crown shows the first signs of infestation when it rapidly turns from healthy green to yellow, red and finally brown as the tree stops circulating water.
It also states you can reduce the risk of outbreaks. Trees under stress become susceptible to the beetle while healthy, strong trees resist attacks. Ben Wurst of Conserve Wildlife provided a website, https://njaes.rutgers.edu/pubs/plantandpestadvisory/2011/ln092211.pdf) and quoted the last paragraph,
“Since pine wilt disease is more prevalent in trees (especially older ones) suffering from abiotic stresses, the maintenance of plant vigor through proper pruning, irrigation, and fertility is of primary importance. Healthy trees are also less susceptible to invasion by beetles. Routine, prompt removal of dead and dying plant material will reduce populations of both the nematode and its beetle vector.” “Abiotic” which I had to look up, means non-living chemical and physical parts of the environment that affect living organisms such as drought and lack of nitrogen. So it sounds like fertilizing your healthy pines and caring for them would be helpful.
A workshop regarding pine wilt is being planned by Ben Wurst for the Spring at Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences. The workshop is tentatively planned for March 2019.
The Migratory Bird Treaty Act
The tricolored blackbird has declined by over 50% since 1970.
Photo: Alan Schmierer
The Migratory Bird Treaty Act is intended to protect over 1,000 species from removal or extermination. “The act was passed after the massive decline of many birds in the late 19th and early 20th century; the act curbed overhunting and the unregulated commercial trade in bird feathers. The challenges birds face have changed over the years, but the act, which turns 100 years old this year, has a long history of protecting species from avoidable harm.
The U.S. has an incredible variety of birds, ranging from tiny hummingbirds to the giant California condor. Worldwide there are eleven thousand different species of birds, and, excluding Hawaii and Alaska, the U.S. hosts 951 species – eleven of which are found nowhere else in the world! Unfortunately, on the 100 year anniversary of The Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the safeguards are at risk. this comes at a time when At least 40 percent of bird species worldwide (3,967 species) have declining populations. Since the year 1500, at least 161 species have gone extinct in the wild, while an additional 22 species are categorized as Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct).”
The National Wildlife Federation asks that we call on our members of Congress to keep protections strong under the Act. To read more about this act, you can click on http://blog.nwf.org/2018/07/100-years-strong-protecting-the-future-of-the-migratory-bird-treaty-act/?s_email_id=20180714_MEM_ENG_WLO_Edition|MTMemAct or go directly to the following website which provides a summary and opportunity to take action go to https://online.nwf.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=2525&_ga=2.257740235.1304037620.1531946550-1894315755.1529284800. Please take a minute to make your voice heard regarding this long-standing protection.
The Endangered Species Act
The Sierra Club has asked us to contact Secretary Ryan Zinke asking the Endangered Species Act (ESA) remain in tact. “It is one of the most effective environmental policies in American history with 99 percent of species listed recovering in their designated timeline.”
The proposed rule changes would “weaken protections for vulnerable “threatened” species, remove opportunities for public input and make it harder to hold wildlife agencies accountable for their actions. These changes are clearly designed to make it easier for pipelines, roads, and even drilling and fracking projects to gain speedy approvals.” You can add your name to Sierra Club’s request not to destroy the ESA by going to https://act.sierraclub.org/actions/National?actionId=AR0119564&id=7010Z000002B1ANQA0&data=ce8ea67170db396344d2de2322b1521cc9132dc6a4a23395b11c488c1e419a7aff8e347b1259c2d8ddafa895f257de84&utm_medium=email&utm_source=sierraclub&utm_campaign=ourwildamerica. Please take just a minute to do so.
Oceana is also asking for support for the Endangered Species Act, stating.”It has prevented 99% of the species under its care from going extinct such as the Southern Sea Otter. You can tell our members of Congress to protect ocean life and opposelegislation that would weaken the Endangered Species Act.” You can do so by going to: https://act.oceana.org/page/8224/action/1?ea.tracking.id=email&utm_medium=email&utm_source=en&utm_campaign=102018enews&utm_content=October+2018+eNews+//+US&ea.url.id=1565836&forwarded=truevee we
An Additional Bill That Requires Attention
One of the most important public parks programs — the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is moving closer to its expiration date. Join in a nationwide campaign to ask members of congress to permanently reauthorize the LWCF to reauthorize the program and provide full and dedicated funding. LWCF has protected spaces in New Jersey like the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, the Pinelands National Reserve, and local parks and playgrounds in our towns and cities. You can protect our parks by speaking out and going to: https://ourlandsourvoice.lcv.org/nj-lcv?sc=njlcv
Last year, Congress invested in a new on-the-ground conservation effort, the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program. The program helps to protect the basin’s 400 miles of designated National Wild and Scenic River, extensive forest, and 700,000 acres of wetland habitat. You can tell our members of Congress to preserve this critical area for future generations by going to: https://act.audubon.org/onlineactions/gEXfgWOQ3kO1_asVKAakNw2?ms=policy-adv-email-ea-x-20180813_nas_debasin_alert&utm_source=ea&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20180813_nas_debasin_alert&emci=6dbda33d-bdb6-e811-bce7-000d3a12b7e6&emdi=5088f83a-78b7-e811-bce7-000d3a12b7e6&ceid=754592&smartlinkdata=JmZuPU1hcnkmbG49V2lsZGluZyZlbT1tY3dpbGRpbmclNDBnbWFpbC5jb20mYWRkMT03K0dsb3VjZXN0ZXIrQXZlKyZjaT1IYXJ2ZXkrQ2VkYXJzJnN0PU5KJnBjP
The New Jersey Pinelands
The Pine Barrens is a vast forested area extending across South Jersey’s coastal plain. This important region protects the world’s largest example of pitch pine barrens on Earth and the globally rare pygmy pine forests. One of the largest fresh water aquifers, the Kirkwood-Cohansey, lies underneath its forests and wetlands. The Pine Barrens is home to many rare species, some of which can now only be found here having been extirpated elsewhere.
During the 1960’s construction of the world’s largest supersonic jetport and an accompanying city of 250,000 people was proposed for the Pine Barrens. This proposal galvanized citizens, scientists and activists to find a way to permanently protect the Pinelands. In 1978 Congress passed the National Parks and Recreation Act which established the Pinelands National Reserve, our country’s first. In 1979 New Jersey adopted the Pinelands Protection Act. This Act implemented the federal statute, created the Pinelands Commission, and directed the Commission to adopt a Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP) to manage development throughout the region.
Many residents do not know that all new development is controlled by the nation’s most innovative regional land use plan. The CMP is designed to preserve the pristine conditions found within the core of the Pinelands while accommodating human use and some growth around the periphery. The Pinelands Commission’s staff of approximately 40 professionals is directed by 15 Commissioners who serve voluntarily. Seven Commissioners are appointed by the Governor with approval of the state Senate, seven by the counties in the Pinelands, and one by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) also plays a key role in protecting the Pinelands. In addition to its job of implementing the CMP in the coastal zone, the DEP regulates the distribution of fresh water from the aquifers that lie beneath the Pinelands.
The Pineland Commission and DEP’s accomplishments in the Pinelands are remarkable. But this region faces an onslaught of threats in the form of unnecessary pipelines, political interference to benefit development projects, and the failure of state agencies to enforce Pinelands rules on a consistent basis. Through public education and advocacy the Pinelands Preservation Alliance works to protect this great wilderness and give the public a voice in its preservation.
The Pinelands Commission By statute, the Pinelands Commission has fifteen commissioners who make up the governing body of the agency: seven appointed by the Governor; one appointed by each of the seven Pinelands counties; and one person appointed by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior. The gubernatorial appointees are subject to the review and consent of the New Jersey Senate. Members of the Commission serve staggered three-year terms. The commissioners have final say with regards to all activities regulated by the CMP and, through the Executive Director, guide a staff of approximately 40 people.
Our Expectations: A Commission whose members, although of diverse viewpoints, have a shared commitment to the purposes of the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP), the courage to debate tough issues at meetings, and a respect for public process. This means being prepared to engage in discussion on agenda items, asking pointed and relevant questions of Commission staff, and always voting to protect the Pinelands’ unique natural resources.
The public depends on the Pinelands Commission to fulfill its primary mission of protecting the natural and cultural resources of the Pinelands and to ensure that development is only permitted if consistent with that purpose. The Commission has strayed from these ideals and it is time to get back on track.
Pinelands Commission – Reform is needed
- South Jersey Gas Pipeline (SJGP) and New Jersey Natural Gas Pipeline Approvals (NJNG): The Pinelands Commission approved the SJGP in February 2017 and the New Jersey Natural Gas Pipeline in September 2017 in the face of CMP rules that are clearly intended to prevent that kind of infrastructure through Pinelands Conservation zones. In the gas pipeline cases, we have seen the Commission twist rules in knots to approve projects that clearly violate the terms and the purposes of the CMP through procedures the Commission simply made up for this purpose.
- Trying to approve major developments without a Pinelands Commission vote (reversed by the appeals court for the pipeline cases, but they keep doing it for others). The Commission’s Executive Director has taken it on herself in several important cases to simply give approvals without the Commissioners having any role. In November 2016 the Appellate Division of New Jersey Superior Court ruled that the full Pinelands Commission must vote on the South Jersey Gas pipeline, a precedent that should apply to all significant developments. The Pinelands Preservation Alliance filed this appeal, joined by Sierra Club and Environmental New Jersey. Unfortunately the staff seems to think the decision applied only to pipelines, so this is a continuing problem.
- Deciding that the appeal rights of the public embedded in every part of the CMP are unlawful and can just be ignored. The Commission Executive Director tried to get the Commission to formally negate all these provisions during their December 2017 meeting but lost on that vote and then at their June 2018 meeting had a similar rule change on their agenda. The rule the staff was asking the Commission to vote on in June 2018 would eliminate the public’s right to an evidentiary hearing on permits that impact them personally. This is a right that has been recognized in the Pineland regulations since their inception in 1980 when the CMP was adopted. Several individuals and groups have invoked this right in challenging the gas pipeline projects and other projects. Public protest ultimately pushed the Commission to remove this item from the agenda in June.
- Restricting public access and comment in various ways and on numerous occasions. Examples include eliminating print notifications of development applications (assuming all member of the public go to the Commission’s web site and know how to find the information there), cutting off public review and comment of applications before applicants filed new information and arguments in favor of their applications (this happened in NJNG and the Bass River Fire Tower, at least), and placing an arbitrary 3-minute limit on public comments for the first time in the Commission’s history.
- Ignoring conservation deed restrictions when approving development applications with powerful backers.The Commission staff did this in approving massive soccer tournaments on preserved farmland in Hammonton.
- Individual Commissioners voted on matters where they had clear conflicts of interest, but their votes were needed to get approval – most prominently in the two pipeline cases. We detailed these conflicts in our submissions to the Commission in the two pipeline cases and can provide those details if you want.
- Failing to act on vast off-road vehicle (ORV) damage despite express requirements in the CMP that motorized recreation on state land is forbidden in the Pinelands except driving on designated public roads. Then, when they finally did something, they only designated roads in Wharton State Forest and completely left out enduros.
- Enduros require permits but even with these permits there is illegal trail creation, damage to natural resources and repeated riding after permitted events are finished on hundreds of miles of new trails every year.
- Section 7:50-6.143 of the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan states the following:
- No motor vehicle other than fire, police or emergency vehicles or those vehicles used for the administration or maintenance of any public land shall be operated upon publicly owned land within the Pinelands. Other motor vehicles may operate on public lands for recreational purposes on public highways and areas on land designated prior to August 8, 1980 for such use by state and local governmental entities until designated as inappropriate for such use under (a) 3 below.
- The Commission shall from time to time designate areas which are inappropriate for use of motor vehicles. Such designation shall be based upon the following considerations and upon consultation with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and other interested persons:
- A need to protect a scientific study area;
ii. A need to protect the location of threatened or endangered plant or animal species;
iii. A need to provide a wilderness recreational area;
iv. A need to prevent conflicts with adjoining intensively used recreational areas;
v. A need to protect historic or archaeological sites;
vi. A need to protect critical wildlife habitats;
vii. A need to address a situation of public health and safety;
viii. A need to protect extensively disturbed areas from further impact; and
ix. The extent to which such road closure would substantially impair recreation access to and uses of surrounding resources.
ORV damage has impacted thousands of acres of state park, forest and wilderness areas. The damage done by ORVs critically impacts water quality, wildlife and plant populations. The Pinelands are particularly vulnerable because of the its size and the vast network of sand roads allowing ATVs, dirt bikes and jeeps almost unfettered access to remote areas without having to travel on paved roads to get there. The relatively wild areas of the Pinelands are difficult for law enforcement to patrol and the penalties are not high enough to discourage the behavior. Wetlands in the Pinelands are particularly vulnerable as these seem to be the areas that ORV drivers want to experience.
Mary Wilding, Environmental Committee Chair