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We've identified the problems and solutions

In 2021, Pinelands Preservation Alliance contracted with Michael Van Clef, Ph.D., of Ecological Solutions LLC., to conduct an assessment of New Jersey's public lands management. Dr. Van Clef earned his Ph.D. in ecology from Rutgers University and has over 25 years of experience in land stewardship, planning and research, working extensively in the evaluation and management of rare and invasive species and deer management. He has consulted with over 30 organizations in New Jersey including the NJ Invasive Species Council for which he prepared the New Jersey Strategic Management Plan for Invasive Species.

The result of Dr. Van Clef's work is The New Jersey State Lands Management Report published in April 2022, which provides a detailed look at the state's public lands and the resources allocated for management and protection of those lands. 


Some highlights of the report include:

The Problems and Challenge

  • The FY2018 Annual Report notes that Parks staff has been reduced by 28% from 2006, while there was a simultaneous increase in park acreage of 13%

  • The State Park Service Staff to Visitor Ratio is 1 to 35,947

  • The State Forest Service Staff to Acres Ratio is 1 to 5,457

  • One impact has been reduced public benefit due to nature centers staffed only seasonally or closed, and swim areas close earlier than in the past.

  • Park Superintendents have been reduced over time from 45 to 15 with management responsibility for 51 parks and forests, 6 marinas, etc. 

  • New Jersey operating budget is 1/3 of Pennsylvania, 1/6 of New York, and 2/3 of the National Average



Key Facts about NJ Parks & Forests as of 2018:

  • 450,000 acres

  • Day Visitors: 17 million per year

  • Number of Structures: 1,600+

  • Plant Species: 2,100 including over 800 rare species (four found nowhere else in the world)

  • Animal Species: Land Mammals – 62, Marine Mammals – 28, Reptiles – 44, Amphibians – 35, Freshwater Fish – 85, Marine Fish – 336, Dragonflies and Damselflies – 180, Butterflies – 151, Birds - 480

  • Home to a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve

Key Benefits of New Jersey's Natural Resources

  • Wetlands provide over $10 billion in economic value annually from flood protection.

  • Forests provide over $2 billion in economic value from habitat, water supply, and recreation.

  • Wildlife-related Tourism produces $3 billion in annual gross economic activity and creates 37,000 jobs.

  • There has been a 13% increase in acquired park acreage since 2008

Hope for the Future

  • NJDEP can establish ‘pre-accepted’ best management plans and guidelines to streamline installation of minor trail bridges, habitat restoration, and other land stewardship functions such as invasive species control to avoid lengthy project proposal review.

  • NJDEP can use existing personnel to issue fines for damage that is occurring in state parks and forest to offset growing costs.

  • Thousands of volunteers are waiting to help.

  • Dozens of non-profit organizations want to provide support.

  • Hundreds of projects are waiting for implementation.

  • NJDEP can have these resources at their fingertips by agreeing to work with a newly formed friends organization.

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