I'm a little embarrassed to admit that my wife - born and raised in West Virginia - deserves most of the credit for my appreciation of one of New Jersey's true treasures - the Pinelands. Without her interest in native plants, her planning, and her earnest education of this Jersey boy, it's likely the glory and history of the Pinelands would have stayed off my radar. Who in your life is responsible for bringing your attention to something you take for granted?
In my most recent experience in the Pinelands, I was again reminded of the power of the written word. The local historian who led our Pinelands Adventures tour opened the day by describing how the preservation of this critical ecosystem was a direct result of NJ Governor Brendan Byrne reading John McPhee's 1968 book "The Pine Barrens". Byrne was moved by McPhee's description of the rapacious over-development of the area that was occurring in the late 60's and subsequently issued an Executive Order halting that development so that his administration could explore ways to balance competing interests. Although the Executive Order was strongly opposed, Byrne prevailed and several years later the Pinelands Preservation Commission was established. McPhee's book, Byrne's growing environmental awareness, and later, Congressman Jim Florio's advocacy, each contributed to preserving this irreplaceable wonder.
If you're a New Jersey resident, visit this remarkable place. My recent tour was sponsored by a non-profit; their website opens this post. If you're from somewhere other than Jersey, put a visit to the Pinelands on your itinerary; you will not be disappointed.