Letters to the Editor 2019

To the Editor: 

In the public interest, to help protect Cape May County’s unique heritage of exceptional wildlife and plant life in coastal regions, residents of the county have formed The Wetland Preservation Alliance (WPA) (wetlandpreservationalliance.com).

The WPA was necessitated by what many community members consider a blatant disregard for the wetlands, wildlife and plant life in the environmentally sensitive areas of Cape May County by some developers and investors.

The indiscriminate over-development of environmentally sensitive areas is destructive to documented wetlands and endangered species of plant and wildlife. This indifference to the county’s resources erodes the quality of life for all residents, visitors, and tourists. Once these areas and its wildlife are destroyed, they are gone forever.

Government leaders are responsible for managing the balance between prudent development and preservation. Resources deemed valuable enough to be preserved are passed from generation to generation, such as those deemed a “Natural Heritage Priority Site” by the state Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), a “heritage” for future generations.

NJDEP states, "Natural Heritage Priority Sites," represent some of the best remaining habitats for rare species and rare ecological communities in the state … These areas should be considered top priorities for the preservation of biological diversity in New Jersey.

If these sites become degraded or destroyed, we may lose some of the unique components of our natural heritage, but some developers and investors apparently believe this priority for preservation and heritage does not apply to them, taking advantage of understaffed NJDEP Land Use and Enforcement offices and their local political connections.

With a short-sighted enthusiasm for ratables, some politicians ignore overreach by developers with devastating consequences to the wetlands, wildlife, and community. Some are simply misled or understandably confused by a truck-load of changes and modifications some developers make to their plans as if it were a shell game.

Sometimes the press is unable or unwilling to dedicate the time or resources necessary to investigate these matters properly. This may result in gross injustice to the truth and the denigrate individuals presenting facts in the community interest.

Some use their power to mock and scorn those that dare promote the truth. Hopefully, the WPA will help ensure the balance.

Intelligent development is wise; exploitation of the limited resources is unwise. The WPA has no political affiliation and discourages partisan commentary. Protecting wetlands and wildlife is certainly one issue all the people of Cape May County hold in common.

Currently, issues surrounding the Laguna Oaks high-density development outside of a town center in Court House, on the east side of the Garden State Parkway, is highlighted. Documents tell a story of the systematic decimation of an NJDEP Natural Heritage Priority Site with over a dozen NJDEP violations lodged against the developer.

These include “clearing/destruction of vegetation in a conservation restricted freshwater wetlands” in a “Coastal Zone/CAFRA without required CAFRA Permits”, “failure to obtain water allocation permits to divert water…” and many others. Despite the facts of degradation and destruction of the heritage site, the owner claims “no wrongdoing.”

Search the truth for yourself. Visit Wetlandpreservationalliance.com.

It will help residents understand issues warranting public input and oversight. The public is encouraged to post thoughtful comments, because, if it can happen in one place in the county, it can happen anywhere.