by Bob Williams
Since 1978, when the U.S. Congress created The Pinelands National Reserve, the Pine Barrens of New Jersey have been under the regulatory jurisdiction of the New Jersey Pinelands Commission, which is charged with its protection. Spanning 1.1 million acres, the reserve is the largest open space on the eastern seaboard between Boston, Massachusetts, and Richmond, Virginia. It lies next to the most concentrated highway, rail, and air-traffi c corridors—and the most densely populated region—in America. But if you stand on Apple Pie Hill, the highest spot (209 feet) in the Pinelands, what will you see?
Not turnpikes, not trains, not airports, not people; only forests—a canopy of trees that stretches as far as the horizon.
The primary trees are pitch pine (Pinus rigida) and oak (Quercus sp.), along with Atlantic white-cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides) that trace forest streams. Cranberry bogs, teacolored rivers, a few meadows, and white sand roads punctuate this landscape. Pine and pine-oak forests are home to thousands of animals and plants, like the common yellowthroat warbler (Geothlypis trichas), turkey beard (Xerophyllum asphodeloides) with its striking white fl ower, and the blue Pine Barrens gentian (Gentiana autumnalis). While there are no natural lakes, wetlands (including streams, bogs, and cedar swamps) cover more than 385,000 acres, or 35 percent of the reserve. Historically, these natural resources gave rise to important industries.