216 Stelton Road
Piscataway NJ 08854
New Jersey is the most densely populated State in the Nation. New Jersey is also among the most rapidly urbanizing States as well. These two facts combined spell disaster for open spaces, and ecosystems across the State. It is conceivable that within a generation or two New Jersey will run out of undeveloped land, unless something is done to change these trends. There are many reasons why protecting open space is vital to the State.
Ecosystems are much more than a sum of all their parts. Biologists, ecologists and other scientists are still trying to map out all the interactions between the biotic and abiotic communities that we live in and around. As we use land for human use, it can no longer be used for ecological purposes, and we lose those ecosystem functions nature was providing for us. Forest soil can act as a filter for water, which befits everyone in the state. Forests also prevent erosion, provide shelter for animals, and act as a sink for carbon dioxide, a green house gas. Wetlands, marshes, and swamps provide many services. They can control flood waters, by acting as a reservoir for excess water. Wetlands help filter toxins out of the water, but at a slow rate. These marshy areas provide habitats for migratory birds, and many other endangered species. Because of inexact science, there may be other benefits from wetlands that we won't know about until they are all filled in and gone. Open space, or meadowlands, can provide aesthetic beauty to our State. By maintaining land in its natural state will help protect the native species of New Jersey. Paved roads and urban areas create environmental problems that natural spaces do not. Urban areas create heat pockets, which is a cause for concern in the age of global climate change. Paved roads increase run-off which can add to water pollution. Natural open spaces can mitigate the harm done by intensive urbanization. Wildlife need contiguous space for their habitats to survive. If we encroach on our last remaining open spaces, these wild species will either adapt, or become extinct. Pockets of land are better than nothing, but if we wish to ensure a diverse, beautiful State, we need to look at how our communities interact.
Proponents of development speak of economic gains, rather than environmental degradation. A rapidly growing population needs a place to live; development will bring economic growth to the State. Development in and of itself is not a bad thing. What is harmful is when we praise growth without limits. There is a finite amount to space in New Jersey, and how we grow and develop within that space requires special consideration. Preserving land is not about anti-development, it is about organizing communities and recognizing the value of land aside from its use-value to humans. What we need to focus on is "smart growth", a vague term used by many disciplines that focus on sustainability and living within the environment. Preserving open space does not have the signal the end of development in New Jersey. Instead, by preserving open spaces we can ensure that our State will thrive and grow together, rather than out.
Senator Smith has done much over the years to protect open spaces in New Jersey. He worked hard to preserve the Highlands, in an effort to ensure the State has clean water for generations to come. This bill also created rules for smart growth in the Highlands, to further protect the environment. Additionally, the Senator passed Public Law 2002, chapter 76 which designated flood-prone areas and water resources as high priorities for open space acquisitions.
The Senator has also worked hard to preserve farmland throughout the State. Preserving farmland does much more than help small farmers maintain a way of life. If small farms did not receive assistance, they might be forced to sell their land to developers, which would increase the urbanization in the State.