"It is against the law in New Jersey to run over a bobcat with your car, but it's ok to destroy its den with a bulldozer." This statement, paraphrased here, was made by one of the speakers at a September press conference at the State House organized by NJ Audubon and NJPIRG and attended by a number of municipal officials and representatives of environmental groups. The press conference focused attention on a campaign to urge Governor McGreevey to officially propose new critical habitat protections to preserve the state's most ecologically important open spaces. After the press conference, NJPIRG delivered 20,000 postcards to the Governor, urging his immediate action on the proposal. A proposal for critical habitat protection, supported by DEP Commissioner Bradley Campbell, has been languishing on the Governor's desk for some time.
Using the NJDEP Landscape Project and a Rutgers land use study, NJPIRG researchers determined that over 46,700 acres of NJ critical habitat were lost to development between 1995 and 2000-2% of the total for the entire state. Most of this was forest land-41,800 acres-or 2.5 percent of the state's entire forest habitat. In the last 30 years, the state has lost over 50% of its bog turtle habitat alone.
Currently, state-listed threatened and endangered species themselves are protected, but their habitats are not. For the critters, the end result is the same: destroy the place where they live, feed and rear their young and you've destroyed the critter.
The proposed critical habitat protections rely on the Landscape Project map created by DEP to delineate areas considered most important to species survival. Under the proposed rules, areas designated as Planning Areas 3 through 5 in the State Plan would require certification from the DEP that the development would not entirely destroy the habitat.
What You Can Do: There are two things you can do, and you need to do them before the Governor leaves office on November 15. First, call the mayor of your municipality and ask him or her to voice support for these proposed critical habitat protections by contacting the Governor and urging him to act on them. Second, contact the Governor yourself. Point out that wildlife-associated recreation, including wildlife-watching, fishing and hunting, is one of the state's most popular activities, contributing $2.2 billion dollars to the state economy in 2001. These activities rely on intact habitat to support healthy animal populations. Emphasize that we cannot secure the safety of our T&E species unless we protect their habitats-forests, wetlands, beaches, grasslands-that they rely upon for shelter and sustenance. Time is running out. Write to Governor James E. McGreevey, The State House, P.O. Box 001, Trenton, NJ 08625 or phone 609-292-6000.
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