Community News

Defending the land they loved
11/3/2016 Volume XLIX, No. 43

Donald and Beverley Jones were among Hunterdon County’s most ardent conservationists. If not for them, landmarks like the Prallsville Mills, Green Sergeant’s Covered Bridge and Locktown Stone Church might not be standing today. And lands along the picturesque Wickecheoke Creek wouldn’t be available for public enjoyment.

In memory of Donald and Beverley, hundreds of community members come together every November to hike the fields and forests of this special place.

On Sunday, November 13, the 21st annual Donald and Beverley Jones Memorial Hike will again celebrate preserved land … and provide a stark picture of what could be lost if the proposed PennEast gas pipeline is built through Hunterdon and Mercer counties.

The pipeline would extend 118 miles from Luzerne County, Pa., to Mercer County, crossing the Delaware River in Hunterdon County. It would traverse more than 4,300 acres of taxpayer-preserved open space and farmland in New Jersey alone, threatening natural resources that include pristine streams like the Wickecheoke Creek, habitat for rare animals and plants, and spectacularly beautiful historic landscapes.

This past summer, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement on PennEast that was premature, incomplete and inaccurate.

New Jersey Conservation Foundation and many partners working to stop the pipeline responded with thousands of pages of documents refuting the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Among the documents are surveys of endangered, threatened, and special concern animals along sections of the pipeline route, conducted by a team of independent wildlife experts.

The team found 52 rare wildlife sightings, 39 vernal pools, and 24 distinct populations of 11 rare plant species within the corridor of the proposed pipeline. Habitats included at least seven high-quality, state designated “Category 1” streams with populations of the state-threatened long-tailed salamander, and five locations with probable occupation by the federally-endangered Indiana bat.

Surveys also found that nesting territories of red-headed woodpeckers and red-shouldered hawks - both state endangered species - would be damaged by construction of the pipeline. Northern copperhead snakes – a species of special concern declining rapidly and headed for the threatened list – were discovered where their critical habitat would be crisscrossed by more than four miles of pipeline.

On November 13, participants in the Jones Memorial Hike will see for themselves exactly what’s at stake if the pipeline is approved for construction.

Hikers will be joined by filmmakers from “Standing Ground,” a documentary about three American pipeline projects: PennEast, the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota, and the Trans Pecos Pipeline in Texas.  The North Dakota project has been in the news recently due to protests by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, who are concerned that the oil pipeline would threaten their drinking water and destroy sacred Native American burial and prayer sites.

The Standing Ground team includes actress Emma Bell, who grew up in Lambertville and Flemington, and whose acting credits include roles in the film Frozen and the television series Walking Dead. Bell learned about the PennEast project from her father, Rob, who lives in Lambertville and owns a video production company.

Bell is in charge of conducting on-camera interviews in the towns that would be impacted by PennEast. “What I’m planning to do is get as many stories as possible from people being affected,” she said. Across the country, she noted, “pipelines are going in faster than we can count.”

To register for the free Jones Memorial Hike, go to https://donate.njconservation.org/2016-jones-memorial-hike.

And please join NJ Conservation for a fun event right after the hike, Pints Not Pipelines. To sign up, go to http://njconservation.org/pintsnotpipelines.htm. Tickets are $50 and include drinks, food, music and a commemorative T-shirt.

To learn more about Standing Ground, go to https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/345639715/standing-ground-a-documentary-film?ref=discovery. If you’re impacted by PennEast and are would like to be interviewed for the documentary, email the producers at contact@standinggroundfilm.com.

And for more information about preserving the Garden State’s land and natural resources, visit the New Jersey Conservation website at www.njconservation.org or contact me at info@njconservation.org.

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