The first Pinelands “I Don’t Want Coal” cleanup at Brendan T. Byrne State Forest took place on Dec. 17 to address the area’s harmful substances and nonrenewable energy resources – coal among them – and its overabundance of pesticides, pathogens and volatile organic compounds.
The three-hour event also focused on poor leadership and stewardship of open spaces and the degradation of water resources. The Pinelands National Reserve, created by the U.S. Congress in 1978, encompasses the entire New Jersey Pine Barrens. In an attempt to revive the largest body of open space on the mid-Atlantic seaboard between Richmond and Boston, the Pinelands Preservation Alliance has teamed up with AmeriCorps and Fix Our Parks to protect and enhance the reserve for future generations.
Jason Howell, stewardship coordinator of the alliance, has done many years of research as a master naturalist, wilderness first responder, and volunteer with Mid-Atlantic Search and Rescue, which covers south Jersey and the reserve. After he and volunteers scoured the Pinelands for illegal dumping, Howell had some insight on the experience.
“We scoured the entire area of illegal dumping at Brendan T. State Forest,” he explained. “Fortunately, we had previously scoured locations, but this experience just highlighted how much of a known troublesome area this is and how much more work needs to be done.”
In 1979, New Jersey formed a partnership with the federal government to preserve, protect and enhance the natural and cultural resources of the Pinelands. Nearly 45 years later, the county is struggling to keep its isolated and massive 1.1-million-acres pristine with outreach and advocacy efforts..
The Pinelands Preservation Alliance was established in 1989 and is the leading voice for protecting the natural and historic resources of the area. According to its website at https://pinelandsalliance.org/oour-work, the alliance mission is “To preserve the Pine Barrens ecosystem, promote wide public awareness of the values of Pinelands resources and issues involved in their preservation, and advance permanent acquisition of land and development rights by private and public conservation agencies.”