For most of the past 50 years, New Jersey led the nation in preserving land and protecting clean water, clean air and wildlife.
Decade after decade, New Jersey voters came out strongly in favor of land preservation and environmental protections.
These critical issues are not partisan. Party politics have nothing to do with our need for clean water, clean air, parks, wildlife preserves, and farms for a fresh food supply.
Although New Jersey has often gone above and beyond federal requirements, our success has depended in large measure on federal laws, policies, funding, and programs. Since the 1960s — when rivers caught fire and air was thick with pollutants — the federal government passed key laws protecting land, water, air, and wildlife. The Environmental Protection Agency has been a reliable ally and partner, regardless of political leadership in Washington.
But that changed with the new Trump administration. We’re now facing unprecedented efforts to weaken and rescind environmental laws, programs, funding, and regulations. The administration’s budget would slash funding for the Environmental Protection Agency by over 30 percent and eliminate efforts to address climate change.
That’s why New Jersey Conservation Foundation sought the help of some of the state’s most effective leaders to promote a set of “Principles to Protect our Public Lands, Water, Air and Wildlife.”
This bipartisan group — former Governors Brendan Byrne (D), Thomas Kean (R), James Florio (D), and Christine Todd Whitman (R), along with former Congressman Rush Holt (D) and former Assemblywoman Maureen Ogden (R) — all agreed to lead the charge.
They have joined with New Jersey Conservation Foundation and partner organizations in asking New Jersey’s entire Congressional delegation to sign on to and defend these principles:
Support and defend environmental laws, including the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, Wilderness Act and Antiquities Act, which provide the basic underpinnings for the protection of our environment and the public good.
Protect and defend public lands and continued public funding for land preservation to celebrate our natural heritage, safeguard our drinking water and secure quality of life for future generations.
Promote renewable energy and energy conservation, knowing that such action will create millions of jobs without generating pollution or relying on fossil fuels. Renewable energy and energy conservation provide vast health and economic benefits while securing our energy independence.
Demand that all federal agencies, policies and laws be grounded in sound science.
Work to address the critical and impending threat of man-made climate change that faces our nation and our world.
“We must reject the false premise that protecting our environment is harmful to the economy, when in fact the opposite is true,” said Kean. “Undermining environmental protections will only cost us more down the road as we pay the price to clean up pollution and address public health impacts. Our country’s economic health and prosperity depend on maintaining our essential environmental laws and regulations.”
“New Jersey boasts a rich and diverse environment,” said Whitman. “We have some of the toughest parts of the Appalachian Trail, 127 miles of coastline, the biodiversity of the Pine Barrens, and the abundant farms of Salem and Burlington counties. We owe it to future generations to protect and deliver these treasures in the most pristine state possible. Our nation’s federal environmental laws and policies play a key role in this effort.”
Upholding environmental laws — and the EPA’s programs — are especially important considering that New Jersey has about 100 of Superfund sites still in need of remediation, noted Florio.
“Clean water is fundamental to the health of our citizenry and the functioning of our economy,” added Florio. “I urge our federal congressional delegation to maintain the integrity of the Clean Water Act and the regulations that safeguard the quality of our water for our children and grandchildren.”
“Sound science is the underpinning of sound environmental policy,” said Holt, who is now CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. “I urge New Jersey’s Congressional delegation to pay heed to what science tells us, resist special interests, don’t substitute hunches or wishful thinking, and follow scientific evidence. That is the best way to ensure the long-term good of millions of citizens.”
“At a time when the President and many in Congress seem to be backing away from a commitment to these values, we need our representatives in congress to be strong in their support of the gains we’ve made on the environment and help us continue critical preservation efforts going forward,” said Ogden.
“I view the protection of the Pine Barrens as the most significant achievement of my eight years as governor as Governor of New Jersey,” said Byrne. “Knowing that I prevented an airport and urban sprawl from obliterating that pristine wilderness is humbling and I will fight vigorously against any efforts to encroach on that important national treasure. I urge all of our representatives in Washington to staunchly defend our national lands and landmarks for current and future generations.”
You can help, too. Please join this bipartisan effort to defend our environment. Contact your Congressional representative and urge them to adopt the Principles to Protect our Public Lands, Water, Air and Wildlife. To send a message to your representative, go to http://act.njconservation.org/principles.
“It’s going to take the public to say, ‘We care about this issue.’ And people do,” said Whitman. “And you can relate it right back to them — because it’s their air, their water, their quality of life.”
Our elected officials listened then — and if you and your fellow New Jerseyans speak up now, they’ll listen again. Take action and make a difference.
To read more about the bipartisan effort to promote the Principles, go to www.njconservation.org/PressReleases/ShowPressRelease.cfm?prid=209. And if you have questions or comments, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michele S. Byers is executive director of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation.