Confirmed Bobcat Sighting Documented along Proposed PennEast Route

Bobcat near PennEast Pipeline route

State-Endangered Bobcat gets Short Shrift from PennEast and FERC

Groups Look to NJDEP to Vigilantly Uphold Laws Protecting Wild Cats

Far Hills, NJ (May 31, 2017)Several of New Jersey’s prominent environmental organizations today confirmed that a bobcat sighting has been documented by experts along the proposed PennEast pipeline route.

The bobcat is one of only three land-based mammals considered “endangered” by the State of New Jersey. The other endangered mammal species are the Allegheny woodrat and the Indiana bat. PennEast has stated that it has no intentions to survey for bobcat in order to avoid or minimize impacts on this endangered species.

The groups confirming endangered bobcat presence along the proposed route, which include New Jersey Conservation Foundation, ReThink Energy NJ, Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space, Washington Crossing Audubon Society and the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association, say that this is the latest example of why the federal PennEast review has little or no relevance to any New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) environmental review. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) failed to require PennEast to assess the environmental damage the project would cause to New Jersey’s irreplaceable natural resources, including threatened wildlife and their habitats. That assessment will be left to NJDEP.

The recent final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) issued by FERC for PennEast carelessly concluded that the pipeline would not cause significant adverse environmental impacts, rather than acknowledge that missing data and analysis precluded such a finding.

“Disappointingly, PennEast doesn’t even plan to survey for the bobcat, which is why we are calling on our state’s environmental regulatory agency to maintain vigilant protections for our endangered animals and their cherished habitats,” says Lisa Wolff, Executive Director, Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space. “This is especially critical in light of several reported sightings of bobcats along the proposed PennEast route.”

While several sightings of bobcat in the vicinity of the proposed pipeline have been reported, there is now recent documented photographic evidence confirming the presence of a bobcat near the proposed route.

“PennEast has proven itself to be a bad actor, willing to put New Jersey’s water, air and residents’ safety at risk without doing surveys, analysis, and real data collection,” said Tom Gilbert, campaign director, ReThink Energy NJ and New Jersey Conservation Foundation. “From the potential for arsenic contamination to our water, to safety risks and damage to preserved lands and wildlife, PennEast continues to give short shrift to the issues that will affect our environment and our families now and into the future. For a pipeline that has been proven to be unneeded, this is not acceptable.”

Since FERC left any real environmental review to other agencies, NJDEP will have to take a fresh look at adverse impacts PennEast would have on New Jersey’s special concern, threatened, and endangered species when assessing the proposed project’s need and alternatives.

The New Jersey Natural Heritage Program noted that bobcat habitats could occur within the PennEast route area in Hunterdon and Mercer counties, and their presence is now confirmed.

“The preserved lands that PennEast would traverse contain high-quality habitats with sensitive ecosystems,” said Sharyn Magee, President, Washington Crossing Audubon Society. “The presence of predators like bobcats indicates that these ecosystems support a wide range of species, including many that are rare in New Jersey. These areas were preserved because they are the best remaining undeveloped lands in an overpopulated and overbuilt state.  If NJDEP fails to enforce the state’s strong laws protecting water and habitat by allowing PennEast to fragment and degrade these habitats, we could lose these rare species forever.”

“This is further evidence of PennEast’s disregard for the state regulations that protect endangered species,” said Michael Pisauro, policy director, Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association. “The confirmed sighting of the endangered bobcat demonstrates the importance of NJDEP requiring PennEast to, among other things, complete all wildlife and plant surveys, once the company has the legal authority to apply to the NJDEP.”

Click to tweet: Confirmed bobcat near #PennEast route shows pipeline would threaten this #endangeredspecies http://ow.ly/gSo230caDGZ @theH2Oshed @FoHVOS

About New Jersey Conservation Foundation

New Jersey Conservation Foundation is a private nonprofit that preserves land and natural resources throughout New Jersey for the benefit of all. Since 1960, New Jersey Conservation has protected 125,000 acres of open space – from the Highlands to the Pine Barrens to the Delaware Bayshore, from farms to forests to urban and suburban parks. For more information about the Foundation’s programs and preserves, go to www.njconservation.org or call 1-888-LAND-SAVE (1-888-526-3728).

About ReThink Energy NJ

ReThink Energy NJ aims to inform and empower New Jersey citizens about the need for reduced use of fossil fuels and pipelines that threaten our preserved lands, water, environment, public health and communities; our goal is a swift transition to efficient, clean and renewable energy. ReThink Energy NJ is supported by New Jersey Conservation Foundation, Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association and Pinelands Preservation Alliance. For more information, visit rethinkenergynj.org and find ReThink Energy NJ on Facebook and Twitter @rethinkenergynj.

About Washington Crossing Audubon Society

Washington Crossing Audubon Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to the enjoyment and protection of birds, wildlife, and the environment through education, research, and conservation. WCAS is the local chapter of the National Audubon Society in central New Jersey, encompassing all of Mercer County and parts of Burlington, Hunterdon, and Somerset Counties. Since 1979 WCAS has been an active voice in conservation issues, speaking out for the protection and stewardship of our cherished preserved open spaces. For more information about our organization, go to www.washingtoncrossingaudubon.org.

About Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association

The Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association, a member-supported nonprofit conservation organization, works to keep water clean, safe and healthy. Since 1949, the Watershed Association has protected central New Jersey’s water and natural environment through conservation, advocacy, science and education. For more information about the Watershed and its programs please visit www.thewatershed.org or call 609-737-3735.

About Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space

Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space (FoHVOS) is a nonprofit land trust that is dedicated to preserving the Valley’s character though open space and farmland preservation, and natural resource protection. Since our inception in 1987, we have partnered with private landowners, government and nonprofit organizations to preserve over 7,500 acres of open space and lands throughout Hopewell Valley. To volunteer, donate, or learn more about FoHVOS preserves and programs, visit www.fohvos.org or call 609-730-1560.

Press Release Contact: Tom Gilbert, tom@njconservation.org, (267) 261-7325

Fact sheet on bobcats: www.nj.gov/dep/fgw/ensp/pdf/end-thrtened/bobcat.pdf

DEP podcast with Gretchen Fowles of the New Jersey Endangered and Nongame Species Program: http://nj.gov/dep/podcast/

More information on the Connecting Habitat Across New Jersey (CHANJ) program: www.chanj.nj.gov

The Nature Conservancy’s Bobcat Alley project and a video of bobcats:
www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates/newjersey/explore/new-jersey-bobcat-alley.xml

PennEast threatens to fragment and diminish suitable Bobcat habitat above the Delaware River

Bobcats prefer a contiguous mosaic of rocky bluffs, ravines, riparian corridors, forest, swamps, and bogs for successful roaming and hunting. PennEast’s proposed clearing of forests and leveling of slopes to construct a wide ROW through preserves above the Delaware threatens to degrade, diminish, and permanently sever documented and suitable habitat. 

Watch The Nature Conservancy’s
“BUILDING BOBCAT ALLEY”
in northwestern NJ

NJ BOBCAT FACTS
from The Nature Conservancy…

NJDEP STATEMENT ON BOBCATS

NJDEP’s Gretchen Fowles of the Endangered and Nongame Species Program with injured Bobcat. From NJDEP’s press release, March 29, 2017: 

“The bobcat is New Jersey’s only species of wild cat, and is listed as endangered in New Jersey. It was once nearly extirpated from the state but has been making a slow recovery following introduction of bobcats from Maine in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Population estimates are difficult because bobcats are wide-ranging and elusive. Biologists have been using a combination of radio-collar tracking, tracking of scat (or droppings) by a specially trained dog, carcasses of animals killed by vehicles, and reports of sightings by the public to better understand the status of the population.

The core of the population is in the northwestern part of the state, and data collected there has been encouraging. Bobcats historically were found across the state but there have been only a few reports of bobcats in the central and southern parts of the state.

Today, the biggest threats to the species are vehicle strikes and habitat fragmentation. Each year, seven to eight bobcats are reported killed by vehicles… While we still have incredible habitat in New Jersey that supports a wide diversity of species, the bobcat population has been severely affected by habitat fragmentation…

…Through its Connecting Habitat Across New Jersey (CHANJ) program, launched in 2012, the Division of Fish and Wildlife has been working to identify and preserve connected lands that provide habitat that is not fragmented by development and roads. This program also has been working to retrofit or install structures such as tunnels under roadways to provide safe passages between areas with good habitat.…

The Endangered and Nongame Species Program also depends on strong partnerships with local conservation groups, and recently awarded Conserve Wildlife Matching Grants – funded by sales of Conserve Wildlife license plates – to help nonprofit conservation organizations enhance public education, research and habitat management projects.…

The division’s relocations of 24 bobcats from Maine to northern New Jersey from 1978 to 1982 planted the seeds of recovery for the species. The recovery has been difficult to gauge, however, because bobcats require large tracts of land for their home ranges and are difficult to track in the wild because they are extremely reclusive and seldom seen.

The division launched a radio-collar tracking project in 1997 to help better understand the dispersal and range patterns of bobcat. In 2005, the Endangered and Nongame Species Program contracted with Working Dogs for Conservation to acquire a dog trained to locate bobcat scat to help better understand the species’ habitat needs and dispersal patterns, a program that evolved into the creation of a specialized dog team to aid in studying bobcat recovery.…

The division has also been working with The Nature Conservancy, a nonprofit that is working on preserving tracts of connected land in Sussex and Warren counties that it is calling its Bobcat Alley project.

An adult bobcat is larger than a typical housecat. The grow to about two feet tall. Females weigh between 18 and 25 pounds; males can weigh as much as 35 pounds. Because they are extremely shy, they are seldom seen, though sightings are increasing in the northern part of the state as the population grows.

Bobcats den in rock crevices, under fallen logs, in thick tangles of vegetation or under the root mass of a fallen tree. They generally breed between February and June, and have litters ranging from one to six kittens, with two to three being most typical. They prey on small animals such as rabbits, mice, squirrels, small birds and wild turkeys. They will occasionally prey on a sick deer. Bobcats can live to be about 13 years old in the wild.

The state’s once-abundant bobcat population began to show signs of stress during the Colonial period. They were hunted for fur and lost forest habitat to logging and farming. Large scale deforestation around the start of the 20th century and urbanization further eroded their habitat, until only scattered, isolated populations remained by the 1960s and 1970s.”—NJDEP Press Release: New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife Releases Bobcat Rehabilitated from Vehicle Strike into The Wild, March 29, 2017

http://www.nj.gov/dep/newsrel/2017/17_0026.htm