September 2017: Environmental Policy

2017 Perspectives from the Field, Part VI
Throughout the 2017 seminar year, the LNJ staff  will ask class members to reflect on their experiences following the monthly two-day seminars. The perspectives will change each month to include a wide spectrum of view points and expertise.

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Lead NJ Seminar on Environmental Policy
September 7-8, 2017
Burlington & Atlantic Counties, NJ
By: Kimberley Higgs

We were so very fortunate to have had ideal weather for this month’s Environmental Policy seminar – a perfect counterbalance to the snow and ice that greeted us in Trenton back in February.

As a life-long Jersey girl, I like to think that I’ve at least heard of or passed through most of the municipalities around the State.  Boy was I wrong!  Cruising west on Route 537, and then south on Route 206 towards Pinelands Preservation Alliance the little towns and hamlets I passed through were like a step back in time; Jobstown, Jacobstown, Chesterfield, Juliustown.  Each looked to be little more than a church, small store, aged homes and lots of farmland.   The vintage feel of the route easing us into the day’s focus of New Jersey’s history, ecology, preservation, partnership, challenges and dashes of politics.

Each month’s seminar brings a handful of “hmm, I didn’t know that.”  This month was no different.  The vastness of the aquifer, the variation of plant, bird, mammal, reptile and fish species (including the 43 that are endangered) of the million or so acres of the Pinelands drew wide-eyes and nods throughout.

Atsion Recreation Area and those cabins across the lake require a return trip, for sure.  With any luck, there won’t be snakes napping in the waterside trees on the next visit (I think it was an Eastern Hognose Snake, Kim Case!).

With the Pinelands making up so much of the State’s land area, the challenge of balancing its stewardship with the needs of our State’s infrastructure, economic, recreational and other needs is significant.  We saw snippets of those challenges amongst the morning’s presenters, Pinelands Commissioner Larry Liggett, and Pinelands Preservation Alliance Executive Director Carlton Montgomery during our Q&A, with class member Tom Churchelow sharing perspective, too.  For those who saw this week’s news about the Pinelands Commission vote approving another natural gas pipeline through the preservation area, no sign of the differing perspectives aligning any time soon.   And no reason to expect it to change.  Balancing our role as most populous State, while conserving this massive preserved area whose aquifer produces equal to half the water consumed across the US, while staying a great place to learn, live and do business, how can it not be a bit cantankerous!

And that seems to suit us just fine.

2017-09-07 14.27.52(Dale Rosselet, vice president for education, New Jersey Audubon, showing the class different species of plants at the Pinelands.)

Lead NJ Seminar on Environmental Policy
September 7-8, 2017
Burlington & Atlantic Counties, NJ
By: Ryan L. Tookes

No matter where you fall on the environmental debates that seem to penetrate our news cycles with increasing frequency; there are some environmental truths that a large percentage of the population accept as fact.  One such truth is the importance and value of recycling. That truth was reinforced for me during a recent experience.  I had the opportunity to visit the Atlantic County Utilities Authority (ACUA) – where recycling is done on another level, from the night time landfill work to the state of the art technology used to separate and organize our waste.  It left quite the impression. I was blown away by both the scale and sophistication of the operation. In addition, the ACUA operates both a solid waste and wastewater division, along with undertaking multiple “green” initiatives.

While the complexity and ambition of the ACUA’s varied programs are impressive – what I found most interesting was the landfill itself. Driving through the landfill – it was more clear to me than ever before that the space that we are using to put our garbage is finite.  Moreover, population growth (speculation – no scientific data) and the resulting waste appear to be growing at a more rapid rate than our landfills can accommodate.  Further, not only is landfill space at a premium – but the time between landfill closures, settlement and repurpose is being compressed by population growth (speculation – no scientific data). All of these thoughts raced through my brain as I toured the ACUA’s facilities. Intellectually understanding that a space is finite and observing how a space meant to hold our garbage is utilized provides perspective. Experiences that force you to examine and think about issues that you otherwise would not should be treasured.

Spending time at the ACUA was such an event.  As responsible citizens we are duty bound to recycle – to do our part to take up a little less space in landfills. This effort cannot be individual, limited to environmental groups, or corporations. We are all in this together!

2017-09-08 14.02.15.jpg
(Landfill at Atlantic County Utilities Authority)

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