The Fight for America's National Lands
Updated: Oct 26, 2022
By Madison Beucler In about a 45-minute drive, any student on Rider University’s campus can be in the Pinelands National Reserve, a United States Biosphere Reserve established in 1978. The New Jersey Pinelands, located in South Jersey, is an over 1 million-acre PineBarren forest housing many indicator species, endangered flora and fauna, as well as over 700,000 permanent residents. The forest itself is a Pine Barren, however, it was named the Pinelands as a political term. It is a biological marvel, under constant study and surveillance by biologists, environmentalists and ecologists. The Pinelands National Reserve was the first in the nation passed through the National Parks and Recreation Act of 1978. On a local level, the fight for the Pinelands has been going on since the 1870s, as Joseph Wharton of Philadelphia acquired 150 acres of the Pine Barrens. His plan for his newly-acquired land was to pump the Pine’s unique water from the forest into Philadelphia. This idea received immense backlash from the public, eventually being countered by the New Jersey government banning the exportation of water. His estate and land is now known as Wharton State Forest, giving new life to the Pinelands. Another major impact on the Pine Barrens was the writing of “The Pine Barrens,” a book by John McPhee. This book was rich with the region’s history, natural wonders and its people and cultures. McPhee accomplished many things with his book, but what he did not expect was the growth of love and support for this diverse region. Evan Newborg, a sophomore gaming design major and Pinelands native, said, “I don’t even need to step outside to see a group of deer walking by, and when you do step outside in the summer months, all you can hear is the sound of bugs chirping. There is something really nice about being so close to nature all the time, even when in the comfort of your own home.” The Pinelands Commission, established in 1979, was signed into law by Governor Brendan T. Byrne, protecting the region from development and distraction of the ecological wonder. Newborg added, “I think the Pine Barrens are important to protect because it is one of the last untouched pieces of nature in New Jersey, and there isn’t anything else like it. In a state between [New York City], Philadelphia and Washington D.C., I feel that it is important to make sure that there is still some nature left for people to explore and that the species that live in the Pine Barrens are still able to call it home.” The Lenni Lenape, a richly developed Native American tribe who inhabited the modern-day Pinelands were banished from the region in 1758. The English Government ordered all Native Americans living along the Raritan River to leave their homes and move to a reservation in Burlington County, then were once again ordered to leave in 1801. This destroyed the tribe, some leaving to move west, while others remained in the northeast. Many Lenape now live in Oklahoma; however, over 2000 Lenape remain in the Pinelands, calling themselves the Delaware Nation. Their lands were brutally ripped apart by Europeans and the crude United States government. This is, unfortunately, a trend still seen across the nation. If you are interested in learning more about these issues in the modern-day United States, and missed the Green Film series presentation of: ‘Public Trust,’ a film by Patagonia, you can still view the feature by going to the website: Patagonia.com.